Africa needs to address perceptions of risk on the continent to help investors understand what its markets have to offer, and develop success stories that highlight the capability of Africa’s people and institutions to deliver complex projects, quality local content and innovation.
Makhtar Diop, vice-president: Africa of the World Bank, says that this era of low commodity prices is “a wonderful opportunity” to invest in agriculture, a sector that has been neglected. Efforts need to be made to increase the proportion of land under irrigation, use technology to improve productivity and reduce farmers’ risk levels through insurance and other measures.
Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan notes that African countries need to focus on mobilising their own resources and implementing projects that will demonstrate Africans’ ability to deliver. This would give investors comfort and alert them to the benefits of investing on the continent and the good returns that are on offer there.
Fredrik Jejdling, president: sub-Saharan Africa Region at Ericsson, says the company has been in Africa for 120 years, which proves its commitment to the future of the continent. He adds that, current hurdles such as currency devaluation do not detract from the long-term attractiveness of the markets in Africa.
Claver Gatete, minister of finance and economic planning of Rwanda, emphasises that regional connectedness is key to enhancing economic growth. He cites several initiatives undertaken by the East African Community in this regard related to the mobility of labour, skills and visitors within the region, of technology, of capital markets and of goods from the port at Mombasa to countries inland. This has increased the region’s attractiveness as an investment destination and stimulated business activity and improved efficiency.
These initiatives, he explaine, are driven by leaders in the participating countries, showing what can be achieved with the right political will. “Leadership matters,” he says.
Diop also suggests improving regulation in Africa and considering establishing regional regulators to create common standards across countries and who are properly empowered to enforce regulation.
Bineta Diop, president of Femmes Africa Solidarité in Senegal, says that investing in women is not only important because they represent more than 50% of the population, but also because it makes sense to do so. Women are key to the development of agriculture as 70% of African women are farmers. And yet, they lack the fundamental tools they need to contribute to economic growth, such as land title and access to finance.
“If we don’t have women at the table, social inclusion won’t happen,” she says.
Gordhan says that Africa needs a “youth revolution” to create a different paradigm that will allow Africans to build more inclusive societies and improve the future of Africa. “We can demonstrate to the world that we can create a more equal society than anywhere else.”
The meeting saw progress across a number of workstreams linked to the Forum’s 10 global challenges:
* The Grow Africa initiative, co-led by the Forum, NEPAD and the African Union, announced that, to date, $2,3-billion of private-sector finance has been invested, benefitting 10-million smallholder farmers and creating 88 000 jobs.
* To tackle cybercrime, Busingye Johnston, minister of justice of Rwanda, signed up to the Forum’s Recommendations for Public-Private Partnership against Cybercrime, which was launched in Davos in January.
* The Sustainable Development Investment Partnership (SDIP), an initiative led by the Forum and the OECD, announced it is to establish a regional hub dedicated to facilitating investment in African infrastructure and development projects, initially targeting 16 projects with a combined value of over $20-billion.
* In the Forum’s Future of Health challenge, an initiative was launched in Kenya aimed at improving maternal and child health in Kenya. A second ongoing programme, the Araya health insurance that has been running in Ogun State was endorsed by a new local government, is a milestone that could see it providing coverage to more than 100 000 people by 2018.
* The Forum’s Africa Skills Initiative brought organisations including MMI, GE, Google, Agility, the Rockefeller Foundation, Yellowwoods and the University of Witswatersrand together to form a coalition committed to tackling Africa’s shortage of future-oriented STEM and ICT skills.
* Forty Chinese participants met for a special China Breakfast, marking the first China community session at a World Economic Forum on Africa. At the meeting, Chinese delegates, including the Vice-Minister of Cyberspace Administration of China, pledged to continuously support Africa on its digital development, with an agreement for Rwanda to launch a promotional campaign at the third Internet Forum this fall in China.
* The Rockefeller Foundation announced a $1 million Cassava Innovation Challenge, aimed at finding ways to improve the shelf life of this important staple crop.
* The Forum’s community of Global Shapers made sure the millennial generation’s voice was heard in all critical discussions affecting Africa’s future, including in the digital space, where leaders from their highly successful #internet4all campaign contributed to discussions on how to break down the region’s digital divide.