Following from the main event at Davos earlier this year, the event focussing on Africa was held in Dar Es Salaam Tanzania, under the banner of ‘Rethinking Africa’s Growth Strategy’.
As is noted many times, the purpose of the WEF is not to decide and implement policy, instead it is to act as a forum for ideas to be shared and thoughts gathered on economic matters. Some have labelled the whole event as a talk shop, I personally would not go as far as that, but it does leave one to wonder how relevant these forums are.As the title of the event says, Rethinking Africa’s Growth Strategy, there was not much of a departure away from the current growth strategies in general that have been employed for the last 20-30 years, as seen from the events that were webcasted.
In the key session, Unlocking Africa’s Growth Potential: What Africa Needs, there was mentioning of Foreign Direct Investment, that Africa needs more FDI, or from Old Mutual chief, Douglas Kuseni Dlamini calling for increased investment in human capital, or from Prof Anna Tibaijuka that Africa had fallen behind because of deficient infrastructure, both physical and socio-economic.
These are all very true, but Africans have been talking about these very issues for over 30 years, the move to independence saw a need to educate local people to fill government posts and create a vibrant private sector, in many cases this has been going on for 50 years and yet there are still bottlenecks that mean that human capital is not employed efficiently, or they migrate abroad.
Infrastructure is a key component of economic growth in any region of the world, physical is always crucial,but with soft infrastructure such as telecommunications playing an even bigger role in economic activity, these are the things that African policy makers should be foreseeing and investing heavily in, as this will be the bedrock of future activity and growth.
There was also a lot of rhetoric of making Africa more globalised and integrated into the global economy, however many of the regions of Africa are not well integrated, the closest to doing it is the East African Community that is aggressively pursuing this goal, but you do not see such a vigourous drive in the other regions. How can Africa be more globalised, if it is not integrated locally first? Having integration locally, would allow that region to integrate cheaply and easily into the global markets, rather than trying to connect to the rest of the world one country on their own.
As always, there were things that were interesting to hear, but I do not think there was anything ground breaking, or anything that left a lasting impression, the problems are not new, and the solutions offered up are not new or original, and crucially, not for the next 50 years. Africa needs to see which sectors will be the future in economic activity, and gear themselves to those ones, the continent is the last to join the ICT revolution, it must be among the first for the next major breakthrough technology.