The World Economic Forum on Africa opened in earnest yesterday in Kigali, with delegates discussing a wide range of issues, including a question on whether African economies were rising or falling in the context of a shrinking global economy, public-private partnerships, the future of production, income inequality, entrepreneurship, education and healthcare systems, among others.
All the speakers were in agreement that business-friendly and inclusive policies, diversification of economies, skills development, deeper regional integration, and enhanced intra-Africa trade could help make the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative a reality.
The WEF summit takes place at a time Africa is faced with challenges resulting from falling commodity prices on the global market, which has particularly affected countries that rely on agricultural, mineral and petroleum exports.
Africa has a choice to make: sit back and wallow or roll up her sleeves and find a solution.
The message from the WEF meeting in Kigali is that Africa can turn this situation around if it can seize the opportunity that lies therein. The challenges that are currently experienced in the global economy call for soul-searching on what exactly African countries need to do, both individually and collectively, to develop new drivers of growth, diversify their economies, build modern infrastructures to cut transport costs.
One of the major actions that African nations need to take is to develop economies that are built around human capital – their people. To achieve this, they need to invest in their people in terms of empowering them with the right skills so they can become competitive in a global labour market.
African governments need to invest more in inclusive quality education and to create an environment that encourages innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity.
A skilled workforce would also help Africa revolutionise farming, add value to its raw materials and export processed products which fetch far higher earnings.
It’s about time African countries invested in their people to make them the basis for national development as opposed to relying on natural resources and an undeveloped agriculture sector.
But African countries also need to work together to leverage economies of scale and address common threats.
They also need to create conditions that allow free movement of people and goods and services across their borders.
By doing this, Africa will take charge of its destiny.