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10 thought-provoking quotes from the 2015 World Economic Forum on Africa

"When you look at the challenges and opportunities that Africa faces, it is very clear that these challenges cannot be addressed and resolved by any single entity or by any single organisation. What we have realised over the years is that partnerships between government, civil society, and the private sector are critical to addressing the many challenges that we face." 

– Nathan Kalumbu, president for Eurasia and Africa group of Coca-Cola Company

*All photos by the World Economic Forum
“The export of oil, the export of minerals, will for many decades continue to be a critical part for the growth of African economies. The emphasis is on diversification. We have for many years – not just in South Africa but in many parts of the continent – spoken about beneficiation. And I think part of the secret, in relation to beneficiation, is you have got to make it attractive, profitable for the private sector – and it will take off. You may have to look at mechanisms like tax concessions... You will not have to worry about beneficiation if it makes commercial sense.”

– Patrice Motsepe, founder of African Rainbow Minerals
“We also have to match the skills with the needs of the economy... I think we are losing the plot because we are continuing to produce the people that are not going to be the drivers of industrialisation. So that needs the discipline of both training institutions and policies that drive our people to industrialisation.”

– Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations undersecretary-general and executive director for UN WOMEN
“Infrastructure is a big issue... For example, to sell products in Nigeria, it is cheaper to have them come in from Vietnam now days than to have them come in from Ghana next door. So you have to make these markets function to be very efficient.”

– Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever
“I think that a mistake that we make is to assume that informality means illegitimate. These are legitimate activities that people are engaging in. What we have tried to do is just formalise them.”

– Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, vice-president of Ghana
"What is concerning is that work in the informal sector is characterised by vulnerability, low wages and no rights. So it is not the way that we lift people out of poverty in Africa."

– Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International
“The continent suffers from a severe deficit of infrastructure... It is also true that we have amongst the lowest investment to GDP ratios amongst all the regions, at about 22%, which suggests that there are huge opportunities to execute projects and investments that are developmental in nature, but give rise to returns that adequately remunerate those that are willing to take risk on those projects.”

– Sim Tshabalala, joint CEO of Standard Bank Group
“More companies fail on execution than on strategy.”

– Michael Rake, chairman of BT Group
"I would say the biggest opportunity for Africa on the sustainable business front is to leverage the digital revolution, and to align the digital revolution with this concept of shared-value and better outcomes for consumers and citizens on some of these challenging social governance and environmental issues. Because we are seeing extraordinary disruption and opportunities to reinvent business models, reinvent the way we deliver public services, reinvent so many industries. The real opportunity is to harness that for both commercial gain, but also the greater good." 

– Peter Lacy, global managing director of Accenture Strategy
“It should be possible for Africa to quadruple agriculture output in the next 30 years.”

– Donald Kaberuka, former president of the African Development Bank

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  • I attended World Economic Forum on Africa events through the 1990’s. It is amazing to see the enormous difference in the comments above and what “the experts” were saying in those days. It was all about South Africa’s march north and how they may dominate much of the business in SSA. My how things have changed. At the 1996 event in Cape Town a hotelier from Tanzania commented to one of the WEF organizers, from South Africa that the event should be held in Dar es Salaam some day. The official laughed. The changes have been dramatic. In 2010 the event was held in Dar es Salaam.
    http://www.WhyAfricaNow.com

    • Hi Patrick

      Good to read your feedback as a witness of how the World Economic Forum on Africa has progressed. The platform is largely one of hope, but in my view too little tangible support is given to ‘entrepreneurship’. African policy makers seem to be very concerned with the top of the pyramid (large corporations & investors, foreign governments) or with the bottom – as in rural development. But the real driving force for the continent is in my view the huge ‘missing middle’: The entrepreneurs, middle class, Diaspora etc.
      I had a look at your website and work – great stuff! I also operate a lot in the US in regards to doing business in Africa, would be great to get in touch and discuss. I will send you an e-mail if that’s OK!

      Dr. Harnet
      http://www.africajumpstart.com

      • Sorry for the delay. Contact me anytime!

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