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