Kathy Gibson is at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town – The World Economic Forum meeting in Cape Town this week has heard a lot about Africa as a rising continent, and as a united region in a fractured world.

But what needs to be done to make the vision a reality? What are the next important steps that need to be taken to strengthen African unity?

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa says the continent has taken a number of positive steps, but many more still need to be taken.

On the plus side, he points out that the African Union has been substantially strengthened and refashioned.

Among the initiatives the AU is driving is the Agenda 2063 that sets out a vision for Africa, with a clear roadmap and buy-in from every country on the continent.

It is also taking action on the issue of peace, aiming to achieve this as soon as next year.

Economic development is on the agenda, with the aim of achieving it by 2023, with the most important development in this being the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.

“The launch of the free trade area agreement with be the greatest opportunity for us to generate growth through trade and manufacturing, and to provide employment through the burgeoning youth dividend,” Ramaphosa says.

“Together with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), this will catapult us to growth.”

Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, president of Botswana, says the next steps are going to be to build the capacity needed to apply and implement the requirements necessary to free trade.

This includes the financing of critical infrastructure like airports, harbours and railways; as well as a commitment to urgently retrain and re-orient the public servants converned with trade.

Manulo Ambrose Dlamini, prime minster of Eswatini, think Africa needs to quickly focus on the implementation and execution of the key frameworks approved by the heads of state at an AU level.

Unerlining this, countries need to embrace the technology that will drive the changes. “And we need to ensure we are preparing the youth and women for the future.”

Sahlework Zewde, president of Ethiopia, points out that the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, was formed in 1963 to drive integration and this has finally happened with the Free Trade Agreement.

“Now we need to have action on the ground. It cannot remain at AU level, at head of state level – it has to be cascaded out to all the countries.”

Global trends always Africa, she adds, and we need to discuss the international situation and how it will affect the continent.

Hage Geingob, president of Namibia, stresses that African countries need to strengthen their governance architectures that include transparency and accountability in order to foster trust.

“This cannot be about the big guys,” he says. “It is a question of processes, systems and institutions. So even if the leaders go, the system won’t fail.

“We must all go out now and implement what we decided on – implementation will be the key.”

Danny Faure, president of Seychelles. Comments: “I believe we need to deepen the reforms we are making to better reflect the need for Africa to have what is necessary in terms of good governance, transparency, accountability and the rule of law.”

There has to be the political will to carry through AU resolutions, says Emmerson Mnangagwa, president of Zimbabwe.

“Going forward, we need to give more attention to inter trade and inter development. Once we have do that I believe we will have done our best to average our economies in terms of development.”

Africa is on track for unification, believes Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations. “We have the tools, and the cohesion of the AU.”

The sticking point now seems to be implementation, she says.

In addition, there is a need for the international community to get behind African integration. “The resources will have to come from within, but the scale of the exercise requires more investment.

“We need to have an honest and robust conversation with the international financial industry. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is required, and we have to unlock it.”

To make ourselves attractive to investors there are a couple of issues that need to be addressed, says Ramaphosa.

“We need to strengthen governance; the institutions need to be strengthened. We need to rid our countries of corruption and maladministration, and reposition them as countries that can be attractive.

“Then we need to facilitate the ease of doing business. Investors must know they can come to any country on the continent and won’t be bogged down in red tape.”

Infrastructure needs to be built,  he adds, and partnerships are going to be crucial in this area.

“We must also diversify our economies and move away form resources,” Ramaphosa adds. “South Africa is still, to a large extent, based on mineral. But we have used that to develop a number of industries which we are seeking to revamp now.

“The rest of the continent needs to also do that. This will help to attract FDI, which is what we need most as we try to reskill young people and empower women.”

Possibly the most important part of this activity is stamping out corruption, he says. “We need to ensure there is accountability. For those found to have participates, there should be consequences – there should be jail time.”

Faure points out that, as much as Africa is one continent, it is not equal. “On our continent, we have 24 countries that are quantified as low income and 21 as low-middle income; eight are upper middle income, and only one is a high income country.

“This shows there is uneven economic development across the continent.

“What is important is for us to pursue a path of macro-economic consolidation.”

In Zimbabwe, the country is grappling with the issue of a collapsed economy and currency. “So we are building and reconstructing that collapsed economy,” says Mnangagwa.

“It is crucial that we have conversations with people who have capital; and we must create conditions where they can thrive – it must be easy to do business with us.”

Corruption in the government and the judiciary needs to be identified and stamped out, he adds.

The final word in the session was from Ramaphosa, offering his advice to young Africans.

“We are embarking on policies that are meant to make the world much brighter, making the future much brighter for young people.

“We have them most wonderful youth dividend on the continent; we must do everything we can to bequeath them a continent and countries that they can take forward.

“We were bequeathed freedom by those who came before us; and we need to bequeath additional freedom to those who come after.”