What should the WEF on Africa address? Business leaders share their thoughts

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Jacqueline Musiitwa, founder and managing partner of the Hoja Law Group

“I would like a renewed sense of vision by different countries about increasing development… I think until we solve poverty issues and figure out how to solve that sustainably, I am not sure that the progress we are making is as commendable as we are making it out to be.

“Secondly, the theme is Forging Inclusive Growth, Creating Jobs. I would like to see more concrete discourse on how we are going to create those jobs. Being a youth myself, we have all of these discussions and yes, the youth are Africa’s future. However, the question of harnessing comes in. And I am not seeing enough concrete initiatives to say by the end of this we will create x amount of jobs… I don’t think it’s enough to say ‘entrepreneurship’ and leave it at that. Firstly, how are we going to actually channel money into training people at the basic level in entrepreneurial skills? How are we going to teach them about markets? Both local markets and regional markets too, which kind of ties into regional integration which is another [discussion point] I would like to see.

“Thirdly, how are we going to make sure that as many people are involved in this Africa rising story [as possible]? It is not enough to say that we have this rising middle class that is able to buy three cokes a day and a TV. I think that until we are able to get to the point where we say that there are fewer children starving, there are people who can get some kind of employment or create some kind of employment to sustain whatever lifestyle they choose to have, and until we get to the point where we have medical systems that cater to as many people as possible… then I think that the Africa rising story will really be impressive. I don’t think it is only a numbers game. I think it’s a numbers and people game. And right now we seem to be focusing on the numbers and not enough on the people…”

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Dr Martyn Davies, CEO of Frontier Advisory

“I am hoping that we hear very frank assessments and very thoughtful – a key word here – views as well as action plans on how African states need to [firstly] address the security issues in their own countries and secondly how… governments need to work more to create nation states, without which the whole African rising narrative of economic progression and growth will be built on a house of sand if we do not create the necessary respected institutions, viable economies and ultimately nations within African countries…”

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Lyal White, director of the Centre for Dynamic Markets at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria

“I think the priority should be around driving structural changes in Africa and that is what the World Economic Forum has focused on in the past, but I would like them to actually set some real targets… [such as] provide running water to every individual on the African continent, very basic things around development imperatives.

“The real structural changes that I would suggest are that we need to improve our institutions… We need to improve our institutions to improve our competitive performance but some of the most exciting economies on the African continent haven’t done that, notably Nigeria and Kenya. They have not really contributed strongly towards institutional reform and improvement over the last eight years. We have seen this somewhat in Kenya with the constitutional changes but those still have to kick into place and Nigeria, through the commodity boom, did not address its institutional inefficiencies and it has not become a more competitive environment. Not only business wise or economically, but socio-politically as well… And I think political institutions need to catch up; they have been outpaced by the commercial developments across the continent. And I would like us to focus on some of those because the political institutions are very important to create some kind of multiplier to the commercial interests on the continent.

“So what I would really like from the forum is instead of them discussing what needs to be done and what the interpretations are of what needs to be done, I would like them to set real targets and suggest how they are going to be [achieved] and the real targets need to be met with some kind of accountability… And what is often lacking at the WEF is that there is a lot of talk, there is great networking, nice research that comes out, but I would like to see real results so that there can be a real contribution ultimately from the WEF in African markets.”


What would you like to see addressed at the WEF on Africa this year? Share your thoughts below.