Africans Rising: The Time For Action Is Now

The fundamental imperative for Africa is to pursue inclusive growth, which will transform it from the continent of potential to the continent of prosperity, said Cyril M. Ramaphosa, Deputy President of South Africa, in the closing address to the 2017 World Economic Forum on Africa on Friday.

Ramaphosa called on the continent’s leaders to think hard about “the type of Africa we are going to leave for future generations.” Will it be a place of ashes or of half-baked solutions, or will it be a product of leaders’ best efforts to be responsive and responsible to their citizens?

“We must lead with respect and dignity,” he continued, “We are trustees and guardians of the continent for future generations.” The scourges of wastage, mismanagement.

A comprehensive reform of the approach to education is one of the first calls to action, said Ramaphosa. Promotion of science and innovation must be central to learning, as must broadening access for all, but especially for girls and young women. And education cannot be the preserve of an emerging middle class, thus perpetuating inequality.

“There is a real sense of urgency in Africa,” noted Siyabonga Gama, Group Chief Executive Officer, Transnet, South Africa. He suggested that governments should be run as if they are large corporates – with constant monitoring of performance in hitting targets, bold decision-making and the removal of impediments that slow down growth.

For Gama, the priorities are to integrate Africa’s five economic zones into one giant economic marketplace. Integral to this is a major drive to build infrastructure and power-generation capacity.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International, United Kingdom, said she is “optimistic and hopeful” about Africa. She has seen people’s capacity to work together to improve their lives and, if they are given the right space to do so on a continental scale, they will seize the opportunity.

Byanyima called for the cliché phrase “African Rising” to be changed to “Africans Rising”.

Frédéric Lemoine, Chairman of the Executive Board, Wendel, France, referred to the infamous headline “Hopeless continent” and said it is no longer applicable to Africa. He said the continent’s massive challenges mean it is never going to be “a blue-sky scenario” but there is abundant cause for hope. He pointed out that Africa has been economically outperforming many parts of the world in recent times.

The energy and the strength of young people in Africa are a compelling cause for optimism, said Rich Lesser, Global Chief Executive Officer and President, The Boston Consulting Group, USA. He said accelerated reform agendas in all areas of society and a growing emphasis on “human-centricity” are clearly evident.

Ulrich Spiesshofer, President and Chief Executive Officer, ABB, Switzerland, summed up the mood at the end of the meeting: “The time for action is now.”

Outcomes of the meeting included:

  • Leaders of four African countries – Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Senegal – joined with private-sector executives and other stakeholders to recommit to mobilizing investment in agriculture through the Grow Africa partnership platform, which to date has mobilized $10.5 billion, of which $2.3 billion has been realized, reaching over 10 million smallholder farmers.
  • The Forum’s Global Shapers community hosted a morning of Community Conversations, bringing Davos-style discussions to an audience drawn from the people of KwaZulu-Natal.
  • The Solutions Summit brought together 200 members of the Forum’s Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, Young Global Leaders and Global Shaper communities to discuss ways of scaling their impact.
  • The South African government partnered with the World Economic Forum Internet for All project to accelerate the connection to the internet of 23 million additional South Africans by 2020.
  • The Africa Skills Initiative agreed to make business commitments in six vital areas: large-scale internships and apprenticeships at all skill levels; developing future-ready curricula; foundational education delivery; retraining for unemployed youth; research and development collaboration with universities; and expanding basic IT fluency to reach 1 million people by January 2018.
  • Business leaders from the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) and a number of African governments have agreed to create a pan-African network to carve out a strategic response to address corruption.
  • Siemens, a Strategic Partner of the World Economic Forum, entered into a partnership with Uganda, Ghana and Sudan to assist in the areas in power supply, transport and healthcare.


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