The prestiguous World Economic Forum 2010 in Davos has come and gone, and from an African perspective, it was very interesting to see the distinct themes presented by the African representatives. Instead of having African countries saying they are poor and need more and more aid, we saw a confident round of delegates, not downplaying the capacity and ability of Africa, but proudly announcing that the time has come for Africa to stand tall and progress. There were two that really caught my eyes and ears.
The first session was the ‘Rebuilding Critical Infrastructure’, that included the always impressive President of the African Development Bank (ADB), Donald Kaberuka. As well on the panel was Imad Fakhoury of the Aqaba Development Corporation of Jordan, Kamal Nath who is the Indian Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Liu Xiaoguang who is the head of Beijing Capital, and Rafael del Pino head of Spanish giants Ferrovial. The discussion opened up on the Private-Public Partnerships (PPP) in Infrastructure provision and building, these being especially prevalent in Europe and Asia. However from an African perspective, President Kaberuka illustrated many good points on infrastructure in Africa.
He mentions that at present, there is a US$97bn deficit in infrastructure in Africa, of which, the ADB aims at 60% of expenditure to close that gap. Basic infrastructure is still a big problem in Africa, common infrastructure in most other places of the world such as clean water, access to Information Technologies and power are still scarce and inaccessible in Africa. Kaberuka also mentions urbanization and the impacts it creates, both from a social and economic view. With high urbanization in Africa, which he states is 40%, leads to less access to infrastructure such as power, which costs up to US$1m to produce 1 mega-watt of electricity, meaning many of the poor cannot buy electricity. This is backed up by the Indian minister who states that India currently has the biggest PPP market in the world, and with a growing population, it places a big burden on existing infrastructure.
The second was the ‘Rethinking Africa’s Growth Strategy’, and this was a very interesting session as it had many of the continents figures that will spearhead wealth creation and poverty reduction. The President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, the President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, Li Ruogu who is the President of the Import and Export Bank of China, Kuseni Dlamini who is the CEO of Old Mutual South Africa, and finally Russell Loubser, the CEO of the JSE. This was all chaired by Maria Ramos, wife of Trevor Manuel.
This was a very interesting session, that brought up many interesting angles of debate, all triggered by Ramos stating that Africa was the second fastest growing continent in the last decade behind Asia, growing at 6% from 2004-2008, slowing to 1.7% from 2008-2009, but is expected to rebound at 4% per year from 2010. President Kikwete stated that Africa needs better management of macro-economic stability, better means of exploiting natural resources domestically, and also pushing towards increased access to secondary school education. President Kaberuka spoke on the dependence on commodities, and for that to change, but also the importance of economic integration, the ADB spending US$1bn each year on integration programmes. Dlamini wants to see Africa become more ‘stern’ in how they develop, especially after missing out on the Industrial Revolution in the 1800′s, the Green Revolution in the 1960′s, and the I.T age during the last 30 years. He sees this as an opportunity, even if some see it as a problem. Loubser was proudly South African, supporting his country in some of the scare tactics for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, but also that access to financial markets is key to development. This is a very good session to watch.
This two were not the only two, there were many others, listed below.