So say the co –chairs at the recently concluded World Economic Forum on Africa which was held in Kigali, Rwanda from May 11th -13th, 2016.
Rwanda, the land of many hills is as beautiful as ever as it welcomed 14 African heads of state and many leading African business persons who converged to discuss how to move the African continent forward.
Leading African businessman and philanthropist Tony O. Elumelu; Akin Adesina, President of the African Development Bank; Graca Machel, former first lady of Mozambique and widow of Nelson Mandela; Phillipe le Houerou, CEO of the International Finance Corporation and Tarek Sultan Al Esso, Vice Chairman of the Board Agility were co -chairs at the World Economic Forum on Africa to discuss the 4th industrial revolution and the impact it will have across the continent.
The numerous plenary sessions and discussions throughout the forum, some of which were opened by H.E President Kagame, centred on creating dynamic and effective strategies to encourage long term development and continued economic growth in light of the opportunities and challenges faced on the continent.
According to Elumelu, discussing at the forum on moving Africa forward, organized by NEPAD, “When people say Africa is on the move, it is truly on the move because we have an ecosystem that is supporting itself. Let us remember to keep passing the baton to others’ in reference to championing young African entrepreneurs across the continent. Elumelu who has endowed $100m through his Tony Elumelu Foundation in support of Young entrepreneurs with start up businesses stated that the only way the continent’s anticipated movement will happen is when private sector helps to create significant jobs and employment for youths thus addressing one of society’s most pressing needs and challenges.
On his part, Adesina emphasized that everything revolves around power in the 4th industrial revolution. “We must recognize that it(the 4th industrial revolution) is already on its way but everything revolves around access to power and electricity.” Creation of jobs is the second issue he added. The huge numbers of youths who do not have jobs on the continent heighten social and economic fragility in Africa, Adesina said at the meeting of the forum’s co chair on the second day.
Winnie Byanyima of Oxfam who herself was not a co chair reiterated that public education was one of the keys to the success of Africa rising just as Graca Machel did. For Nelson Mandela’s widow, education and gender equality were the two main issues that needed to be resolved in order for the continent to move forward. According to her, “We have not been able to anticipate the needs of skills. We can’t move as we should if we don’t take a look at how we reinvent our systems of education and private sector has a role to play here along with the public sector. So systems will prepare young people for the future”.
There was no doubt that the top three main issues for the continent as emerged from the World Economic Forum on Africa are: job creation, access to power and transportation.
On the issue of poor transportation networks on the continent, Dr. Mayaki acknowledged that “the competitiveness of our industries is largely affected by logistics problems in Africa.’ This was further buttressed by Elumelu who explained that “Africa is a continent rooted in its past. We have a transportation system conceived, designed and built centuries ago not for the purpose of intra trade nor for moving people around, but for goods to be moved to ports. Tareq Sultan Al Esso was in agreement and said “we need to focus on trade facilitation. We have to make it easier for everyone to do business. It’s low hanging fruit”.
So again we beg the question: Is Africa rising?
Elumelu sees the glass as half full. In spite of the decline in commodity prices in the world in the past 5 years, Africa has remained relatively resilient. For Elumelu “I would rather invest in Africa than elsewhere in the world because the return on my investment in Africa is much higher than elsewhere in the world. I see myself as an Africapitalist and everything I do is guided by this philosophy’. He enjoins Africans to develop Africa but is open to help from outside of Africa. His message to foreign Aid agencies and owners of the billions of capital worldwide looking for a home: ‘let other wealthy Africans, friends of Africa who want to help Africa truly develop, and organisations committed to youth empowerment and job creation take up the rest of the applications from our Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.’
As everyone leaves Rwanda, a once ravaged country transformed into a beautiful African haven, it is with hope that Africa also can become transformed in a truly sustainable way.
Africa is indeed rising. The continent is on the move.