African govts urged to open up borders to spur creativity


L-R: Ashish J.Thakkar; Saran Kaba Jones, head, Face Africa; Marianee Eve Jamme, founder and chief executive Spot One Global Solutions UK; Tony Cole, co-founder and chief executive, Sahara Group; and Tracey Chambers, chief executive and co-founder, the Clothing Bank, South Africa at the World Economic World Forum meeting in Kigali yesterday. (Timothy Kisambira)

African governments must open up their borders to Africans if the continent is to realise its full potential, delegates attending the ongoing World Economic Forum on Africa, in Kigali, heard yesterday.

The call came from top economists and entrepreneurs who discussed the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative on Day I of the three-day gathering.

They said African governments need to lift travel restrictions to allow free flow of creative ideas and skills across Africa as the continent braces for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which some experts have described as disruptive.

They observed that the entrepreneurial capacity of the youth is often held back by such challenges as barriers to free movement of people, goods and services.

This often leaves numerous investment and market opportunities untapped or expensive to access, it was noted.

Donald Kaberuka, the former President of the African Development Bank, and currently Senior Advisor, TPG/Satya, said the easier movement of African youth across the continent would see them make significant contributions toward Africa’s growth.

This would see them tap into market and investment opportunities to expand the scope of their enterprises and create more job opportunities, added Kaberuaka, a former Rwandan finance minister.

Ashish Thakkar, the co-founder of Atlas Mara Group, praised Rwanda’s on-arrival visa policy which he said was delivering good returns in terms of investments.

Since 2014, all holders of African passports traveling to Rwanda obtain visa at the point of entry.

The panelists also called for the overhaul of the continent’s education systems to tailor them to the needs of the labour market, and help increase the competitiveness of Africa’s workforce.

“The future of emerging economies will not rely on natural resources but rather on the skills and talents of their young people. African governments need to see to it that their youth are competitive to be able to access opportunities all over the world,” Kaberuka said.

Higher learning institutions, in particular, came under criticism for failing to adjust their curricula to suite the ever-changing demands of the labour market.

Fred Swaniker, the founder of the African Leadership Group, which seeks to help transform higher learning, said it was high time tertiary institutions across the continent made the necessary adjustments to embrace digital transformation.

The experts said socio-economic progress through digital transformation will require African countries to chart their own paths and avoid the ‘copy-paste’ approach seen in other parts of the world.

Thakkar said African governments and corporations need to devise strategies that suit their contexts.

The forum, which is running under the theme, ‘Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation’, attracted at least 15,000 delegates from around the world.