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Address by Minister Fast at Africa Day Event

May 30, 2012 - Ottawa, Ontario

Check Against Delivery

It’s a pleasure to be here on the day we celebrate Africa—a part of the world with a beauty and history that can only be described as magical.

And today it is also a region that is of great strategic importance to the global economy.

African countries are among the world’s fastest-growing economies.

GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa was 5.1 percent last year—a great accomplishment given the persistent economic challenges around the world.

Solid economic growth is expected to continue this year and next.

More and more African economies are embracing trade and investment as an engine for growth, job creation and poverty reduction.

Countries like South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Kenya are becoming regional hubs of trade and investment.

Canada applauds this.

These challenging economic times call for more trade and investment, not less.

Canada is proud to be part of Africa’s rising commercial success.

Canadian businesses are very excited about the potential there.

Last year, our bilateral merchandise trade with sub-Saharan Africa reached a record high of $10.3 billion—compared to $7.8 billion in 2010 and $5.3 billion in 2009.

But we can do so much more together in the years ahead.

Our trade commissioners posted across the continent are working hard to match African demand with Canadian products, expertise and investment.

For example, Canadian firms can help our African partners build the infrastructure they need.

Our world-leading mining companies can help African communities develop the rich resources in their own backyards.

We can also help our African partners in sectors like telecommunications, agriculture, energy, natural resources and education.

Our message is very clear.

In many areas, Canada can and will help Africa as its economies continue to develop and create jobs and prosperity for the future.

Another message is also very clear.

Canada is committed to deepening its trade and investment ties throughout Africa.

One way we are strengthening our investment ties is through foreign investment promotion and protection agreements with our African partners.

These agreements, known as FIPAs, help investors in African countries and here in Canada invest with greater confidence by providing a more transparent, stable and predictable investment environment.

For African countries, FIPAs also help to attract more prosperity-generating Canadian investment.

In addition to our existing FIPA with Egypt, we’ve concluded negotiations with Madagascar and Mali.

We’re also currently negotiating with Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Tanzania, Tunisia and Zambia.

When I met with the African heads of mission several months ago, many of whom are with us this evening, I promised that we would intensify our engagement with and commitment to Africa.

That is why I am very pleased to make an important announcement that demonstrates this commitment.

I am proud to announce the next steps we’ve taken to deepen our trade and investment ties with Africa.

Our government has officially launched FIPA negotiations with both Burkina Faso and Benin.

These FIPAs will help to attract more Canadian investment into those countries, while strengthening economic growth and opening new markets for Canadian businesses.

At the same time, we will provide new hope and opportunity for the people of Burkina Faso and Benin.

My friends, we’re accomplishing many things together, but there’s much more we can do, as you so ably reminded me the last time we met.

Africa Day is a perfect time to rededicate ourselves to a stronger, more prosperous Canada-Africa partnership in the years ahead.

I look forward to working with all of you to create the jobs, hope and prosperity that Canadians and Africans are looking for.

Thank you.