More than 1,500 participants from over 70 countries took part in the World Economic Forum on Africa that was concluded in Kigali, yesterday. The theme of the meeting was “Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation” but every participant had a special takeaway from the meeting. Below are some of the delegates’ views as shared with Saturday Times’ Eugene Kwibuka.
Patrick Buchana, CEO of AC Group, an IT company offering smart transport solutions in Rwanda.
‘There were a lot of insightful panels. We’ve heard from different companies that made it. I also feel that everyone at the meeting liked the services in Rwanda, including an organised fleet and the monitoring transport system that we provided as AC Group.
Andrew Mitchell, former British Development Secretary.
‘The forum was an excellent showcase for African opportunity and for the stunning progress that Rwanda has made in recent years. Many of my colleagues at WEF have been struck by Rwanda’s extraordinary progress and the pace of change and beauty that Kigali represents today.
The growing commercial relationship being driven by Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda will raise the living standards and promote stability across the region. The three countries have a single tourist visa, which is an example of how regional integration can help drive down barriers to trading.’
Robyn Christie, General Manager of Travelport Southern Africa.
‘I am inspired by Africa and its potential. I am a South African and I’m an African but I had never felt so much connected to the rest of the continent as I do today. I have to tell you that Rwanda is my new friend. At this meeting, I learned the value of public-private partnerships and how a strong leadership determines their successes.’
Aly Ramji, Managing Director and Chief Editor of The Exchange magazine, a financial and economics publication based in Tanzania.
‘I believe that the forum created an opportunity for international investors to seriously look at opportunities for expansion in East Africa and the continent. East Africa takes majority of investments made in Africa and Rwanda can be a hub for innovation that can be spread across East Africa.
The World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali is a good follow-up to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit hosted by US President Barack Obama in Nairobi, Kenya last year.’
Nomo Khumalo, Management Associate at Henry Schein, which provides dental supplies in South Africa.
‘It’s my first time in Rwanda and I love this country. It’s amazing how clean it is and its historical parallel with South Africa. The leadership we see in Rwanda is resolute; there is no ambiguity about what Rwanda wants.
From the forum the message was clear, that there is so much to learn from Rwanda, not only for South Africa but also other countries on the continent. The lessons include openness to trade and the development of ICT. From this conference we have a better understanding of the East African region and other partners in this market.’
Farida Bedwei, Co-Founder & Chief Technical Officer at Logiciel, a software company in Ghana.
‘I learned that there is so much we can achieve if we are focused and if we are not intimidated by external forces. I also think that regional integration is needed so that we can put our efforts together as Africans. At the meeting here I got a lot of contacts which I will use at my company to drive financial inclusion in the informal sector.’
Fredrik Jejdling, President and Head of Sub-Saharan Africa Region for Ericsson.
‘What is clear is that there is a lot of hard work to do in Africa but you just want to be optimistic that the future of the continent is bright.’
Keisuke Fujioka, Hitachi electronics Director of sub-Saharan Africa.
‘At WEF in Kigali, every session contained IT as a topic but IT is not perfect since it’s not the magic wand. How to connect each resource is important and I wanted to hear more about how to improve the economy and I couldn’t hear it enough. For example, I wanted to hear about NGO activities in healthcare and finance, among other sectors, because NGOs are good at connecting people to resources.’
Oliver Cann, Director of Public Engagement at WEF.
‘This year’s meeting brought a unique sense of optimism and urgency. Optimism because there has never been a greater time for Africa to seize control of its own future and urgency because there isn’t much time now as many economies are really under pressure to start acting good. I think what has come out of this meeting is that there is a renewed sense that the right conditions are in place to actually start talking the same language and, more importantly, acting together.’