Over 1,000 business and political leaders from 85 countries, including 12 African heads of state or government, are taking part in the 20th World Economic Forum on Africa. At the opening plenary in Dar es Salaam, on May 5, 2010, Jakaya M. Kikwete, President of Tanzania, called for partnerships at the local, bilateral and international level to help overcome the many obstacles faced by African nations. “Africa’s potential is immense in terms of human and natural resources. It is a contradiction that Africa remains poor,” he said in the session entitled "Unlocking Africa's Growth Potential". See also Africa Brainstorming: Turning Vision into Reality.
Partnership key to unlocking Africa’s immense growth potential
By Richard Elliott
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 5 May 2010 – The 20th World Economic Forum on Africa opened today in Dar es Salaam. Twelve African heads of state/government are taking part along with over 1,000 participants from 85 countries. Rethinking Africa’s Growth Strategy is the theme of the meeting.
Africa urgently needs to build partnerships if it is to unlock the continent’s immense growth potential, according to panellists at the opening plenary. Jakaya M. Kikwete, President of Tanzania, called for partnerships at local, bilateral and international level to help overcome the many obstacles faced by African nations.
“Africa’s potential is immense in terms of human and natural resources. It is a contradiction that Africa remains poor,” he said. “Poor as we are, our capacities are limited. We need partnerships with the private sector to invest in the development of the continent, we need ODA [Official Development Assistance], infrastructure and services. We badly need FDI [foreign direct investment].” The president reminded participants that East Africa gets “the least share of FDI flows in the world,” but cautioned that investments cannot be made without active participation of the local private sector.
Removing barriers to trade is critical, according to Kikwete. “Africa needs trade and market access. The biggest [barrier] is supply side constraints. We need partnership and investment to develop goods and services to sell to these markets. We have a comparative advantage on the agricultural side, but the trade distorting subsidies in developed countries are crippling Africa’s agriculture,” he added.
Ajai Chowdhry, Founder, HCL; Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, HCL Infosystems, India; and Pat Davies, Chief Executive, Sasol, South Africa, Co-Chairs of the meeting, pointed to Africa’s rich human capital and the need to make it more productive. Africa’s population of one billion is a “huge opportunity”. Said Davies: “You’ve got the people, the market and the resources. It is a huge opportunity for Africa to become an engine of growth globally.”
Kuseni Douglas Dlamini, Chief Executive Officer, Old Mutual, South Africa, noted that 60% of Africa’s population is young people who are resources, not problems. “If we can focus on harnessing the potential of young people, and the potential of women, it will have a powerful impact,” he said. Co-Chair Dlamini also pointed to Africa’s potential to become “the breadbasket of the world.”
Unlocking Africa’s potential in the agriculture sector involves addressing the challenges of infrastructure and red tape, as well as someone ready to take the risk to invest, according to Joergen Ole Haslestad, President and Chief Executive Officer, Yara International, Norway. “Success is generating successes and one has to do that in close partnership,” he said. “We see huge changes in most countries in the willingness to open up . . . This is the place to develop agriculture.”
Unleashing entrepreneurship is key, but will depend on quality education of Africa’s next generation of business and political leaders. “The future of our nation is in the hands of our youth. How can we empower them? By building their capacities, such as the investments we are making in education,” said President Kikwete.
Davies’ experience in a successful partnership with the governments of Mozambique and South Africa on a US$ 2 billion natural gas project showed that with political and business will, technology and innovation, barriers started disappearing. “Let’s focus on the successes and grow more successes instead of spending energy on the barriers. It is critical that we work together,” he said. Chowdhry added that highly successful public and private partnerships in India involving the ICT sector could serve as models for Africa.
Co-Chair Anna Tibaijuka, Undersecretary-General and Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), Nairobi, emphasized that within the framework of globalization, Africa needs a level playing field. “To realize Africa’s potential requires an environment within which that potential can be realized. This will require international solidarity, partnership and a level playing field,” she said.
Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, noted that this year’s meeting on Africa, the Forum’s 20th and its largest to date, is a demonstration of what multistakeholders can achieve together. “We will work hard to make sure that this meeting makes a concrete contribution to the economic and social development of this great continent,” he said.//WEForum Newsroom