The World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa was established in Davos, Switzerland in 1990. Since then, the Forum has brought together thousands of world leaders, government officials, business executives and policy experts to discuss the various opportunities and challenges that Africa faces in pursuit of improving the continent’s economy and quality of life of her inhabitants. Broadly, the WEF on Africa has provided a platform for high-level debates and an exchange of ideas on economic and political issues affecting the continent. The primary objective of the WEF is to improve the state of the world by engaging political, business and policy leaders in shaping regional and industry agenda. Annual forums have dealt with different themes that reflect the realities of the day consistent to the objective of the WEF. Naturally, with the major changes that have taken place in Africa’s political and economic landscape over the past 23 years, the themes of the annual forums have also varied significantly.
This year, the WEF on Africa will be held on May 8-10 in Cape Town, South Africa. The theme of the Forum is “Delivering Africa’s Promise.” This theme is informed by the good economic performance that African countries have recorded over the past decade but with the realization that the benefits of growth have not reached many of the people and that there are many forces that could reverse the growth trends in the future. Although the recent growth has resulted in a large and growing middle class, the benefits of growth have not been shared by the majority of the population. Growth has occurred amidst increasing inequality and joblessness, especially among youth. In essence, the good economic growth has not really made a difference to the livelihoods of millions of Africans. Furthermore, although it is expected that Africa will continue to record decent rates of growth over the near future, there are many potential risks to sustained growth, such as the volatile global situation, the limited diversification of the continent’s productive structures and associated dependence on commodities, the many barriers to competitive economies—such as the large infrastructure deficit—and leadership and skills shortfalls.
The Cape Town forum will focus on issues that are key to unlocking Africa’s potential and sustaining high rates of economic growth that are also inclusive. These include strategies to accelerate investments in infrastructure and agriculture, building resilience, strengthening partnerships for growth through investments, enhancing technological innovation, managing natural wealth, nurturing leadership, and creating strategies to enhance jobs and skills, among many other pertinent topics. Special sessions by leaders and development experts including the Cape Verde President Emeritus Pedro Pires, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Sanusi Lamido Sanus, Founder and Group Chief Executive of the Abraaj Group Arif Naqvi, Professor Calestous Juma and Mo Ibrahim promise a rich offering of perspectives and insights on delivering Africa’s promise to her citizens.
I will be participating at the Forum and I am privileged to be the Rapporteur of one of the key plenary sessions, “Mapping the African Growth Landscape,” scheduled for May 9. This session will feature African cabinet ministers, business leaders and international policy experts. After the session, I will record a video that will be posted as part of the WEF’s Insight Reporting.
In addition to the public events, I am looking forward to participating in a session on the role of African think tanks in policymaking. This important session will seek to expound on how African think tanks can better support policymaking in finding solutions to the challenges that the continent faces.
Follow me on Twitter @mwangikimenyi as I provide insights from Cape Town.