Delivering on Africa's Promise

By Elsie Kanza, Director, Head of Africa, World Economic Forum

Africa is forging ahead. Sustained growth – despite the global downturn – has strengthened its leaders’ resolve to stay on a path of reform, even if sometimes the pace is slower than one might wish.

Its businesses are beginning to build brands capable of competing internationally. Its consumers are spending more and creating opportunities for jobs. All that is needed now is for the right conditions to be created to enable these achievements to be sustained and accelerated.

So far, of course, most of the growth has been driven by the extractive industry. This has given the continent an immense kick-start and will continue to be vitally important for the region’s economic well-being. But it cannot be expected to do all the heavy lifting alone. Economic diversification must be accelerated.

Regional integration is also becoming a priority as Africa looks to bridge the development gap through trade, complementing foreign direct investment inflows and official development assistance. While improvements are happening, more progress is urgently needed to advance the hard infrastructure and solid policies that will help the region’s comparative advantage to be realised.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, 13 sub-Saharan African economies ranked among the top 100 most competitive in the world in 2012. However, the region also accounted for 14 of the bottom 20 in the league table. Boosting competitiveness is key. Now that Africa’s leaders can see that their macroeconomic policy and fiscal reforms are working, these initial steps need to be followed up with solid progress in the fields of infrastructure, education and institution-building.

Tackling these challenges effectively will create a bright future for sub-Saharan Africa and the 10 million Africans who are entering the workforce each year.

At the World Economic Forum on Africa taking place on 8-10 May in Cape Town, South Africa, we will focus on what we see as Africa’s top three priorities: driving economic diversification, unlocking skills and talent, and boosting strategic infrastructure.

At the meeting, we will be joined by many of the leaders that are at the forefront of enabling Africa to deliver on its promise, not to mention future leaders from our Global Shapers and Young Global Leaders communities. It is only through diverse groups of stakeholders coming together and forming dynamic partnerships that we will see increased transformation.

Bold new models of partnership that are tackling important challenges like food security, green growth and youth employment are beginning to have a profound impact on the lives and prospects of Africans.

I believe Africa can deliver on its promise. And it will.

Editor’s Note:

This article was first published on This is Africa, and is reproduced with permission.

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One Response

  1. Very laudable perspectives Elsie!

    One of the many vehicles that Africa has failed to embrace and hence keeps seeing opportunities pass by has been the business. The extractive industries that you rightly mention owned by business vehicles of people who create the impression that they provide the markets. Our policies have not identified vehicles for trade at intra-Africa or extra-Africa. We have left policy makers, who are definitely good in the macro-policy formulation to also create business vehicles that can guide our engagement. It is for this reason that our young people will continue being employed for next to nothing in terms of incomes, and when they demonstrate they have skills to the start-ups of some guys from the west come around, they are hired for a song.

    If we must address poverty, then the theme of this network-business fights poverty – or my own version that ‘business creates wealth’ should be given the opportunity to provide the shining light to the pathway to success.

    As an agricultural economist who focuses more on the micro-side of the value chain, I loathe the relationship between our producers/farmers and the upper layers in the various commodity chains. You can be sure I read the nice statements from such nice sounding forums like what you will attend in SA with a loads of doubt. For the questions I always want to as is: How can you tell governments to take a particular course of action when you do not create the business vehicles through which they are expected to achieve the same goals you talk so much about…

    The vehicle for linking the micro and macro thinking needs to be formulated…it is the value chain business, whichever value chain you choose to focus on.

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