Leading African businessman and philanthropist, Tony O. Elumelu, and other co-chairs of the just-ended World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA), have insisted that the Africa rising story was not a myth but a true story which is here to stay.
Mr Elumelu and the other co-chairs- Akin Adesina, President of the African Development Bank; Graca Machel, former first lady of Mozambique and widow of Nelson Mandela; Phillipe le Houerou, CEO of the International Finance Corporation and Tarek Sultan Al Esso, Vice Chairman of the Board Agility, who discussed the 4th industrial revolution and the impact it will have across the continent argued African youths are embracing the African rising story.
Discussing at the forum on ‘moving Africa forward’ organized by NEPAD, Mr Elumelu, added: “When people say Africa is on the move, it is truly on the move because we have an ecosystem that is supporting itself. Let us remember to keep passing the baton to others’ in reference to championing young African entrepreneurs across the continent”.
Mr Elumelu who has endowed $100 million through his Tony Elumelu Foundation in support of Young entrepreneurs with start-up businesses stated that the only way the continent’s anticipated movement will happen is when private sector helps to create significant jobs and employment for youths thus addressing one of society’s most pressing needs and challenges.
On his part, Mr Adesina emphasized that everything revolves around power in the 4th industrial revolution, saying: “We must recognize that it (the 4th industrial revolution) is already on its way but everything revolves around access to power and electricity.”
Creation of jobs is the second issue he added. The huge numbers of youths who do not have jobs on the continent heighten social and economic fragility in Africa, Mr Adesina said at the meeting of the forum’s co-chair on the second day.
For Winnie Byanyima of Oxfam who herself was not a co-chair reiterated that public education is one of the keys to the success of Africa rising just as Graca Machel admitted.
For Nelson Mandela’s widow, education and gender equality are the two main issues that needed to be resolved in order for the continent to move forward.
According to her, “We have not been able to anticipate the needs of skills. We can’t move as we should if we don’t take a look at how we reinvent our systems of education and private sector has a role to play here along with the public sector. So systems will prepare young people for the future”.
On the issue of poor transportation networks on the continent, Dr. Mayaki acknowledged that “the competitiveness of our industries is largely affected by logistics problems in Africa”.
This was further buttressed by Mr Elumelu who explained that “Africa is a continent rooted in its past. We have a transportation system conceived, designed and built centuries ago not for the purpose of intra trade nor for moving people around, but for goods to be moved to ports. Tareq Sultan
Al Esso was in agreement and said “we need to focus on trade facilitation. We have to make it easier for everyone to do business. It’s low hanging fruit”.
On falling commodity prices, Mr Elumelu sees the glass as half full. In spite of the decline in commodity prices in the world in the past five years, Africa has remained relatively resilient.
Mr Elumelu maintained: “I would rather invest in Africa than elsewhere in the world because the return on my investment in Africa is much higher than elsewhere in the world. I see myself as an Africapitalist and everything I do is guided by this philosophy”.
He enjoins Africans to develop Africa but is open to help from outside of Africa. His message to foreign Aid agencies and owners of the billions of capital worldwide looking for a home: “let other wealthy Africans, friends of Africa who want to help Africa truly develop, and organisations committed to youth empowerment and job creation take up the rest of the applications from our Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.”
There was no doubt that the top three main issues for the continent as emerged from the World Economic Forum on Africa are: job creation, access to power and transportation.
The numerous plenary sessions and discussions throughout the forum, some of which were opened by H.E President Paul Kagame, centred on creating dynamic and effective strategies to encourage long term development and continued economic growth in light of the opportunities and challenges faced on the continent.
The World Economic Forum on Africa was held in Kigali, Rwanda from May 11-13, 2016.