Editor’s Note: In this piece, Mwangi Kimenyi discusses Africa’s integration following the session “Mapping the African Growth Landscape,” held at this year’s the World Economic Forum on Africa.
The session on Mapping the African Growth Landscape focused on the sectors that hold the greatest potential for economic growth in Africa. The session started with each of the participants voting for three sectors that they considered as having highest potential for growth. The sectors selected by most of the participants were: information communication technology and telecommunications; energy and engineering; entrepreneurship; education; manufacturing; and agriculture. The selection of these sectors was influenced not only by their potential to contribute to the growth of the economies, but also to creating jobs, especially for the youth.
Working in groups, participants identified opportunities and strategies for exploiting the economic growth potentials that the various sectors offer. Although many of the opportunities and strategies identified were specific to particular sectors, there were also some common themes. For example, innovation was identified as a source of potential growth in all sectors. This includes advances in the ICT sector, innovations in the delivery of education to ensure quality instruction or innovative approaches, developing entrepreneurship through entrepreneurship hubs and incubators or even innovations to improve governance using ICT. Innovation was also considered key to expanding the manufacturing sector and in agriculture, such as the introduction of genetically modified seeds. Participants were of the opinion that Africans must embrace innovations to fully exploit the growth opportunities of various sectors.
Participants focused on actions to exploit the growth potential afforded by the various sectors. The ICT sector was identified as having great potential for growth through expansion of mobile penetration with applications in health and industry. The sector was identified as presenting immense opportunity through the compilation of information on the population, which would assist in policies for the delivery of health services and in tax collection. Participants observed that the energy sector presents many opportunities for growth, but there is need to develop a forward-looking energy master plan for Africa, not just for individual countries. Many opportunities also exist for a diverse mix of energy sources including solar, hydro and thermal.
Africa is the world's breadbasket—or should be. It has vast arable land, grows a wide variety of crops and has vast irrigation potential with seven major rivers. Yet, Africa imported $43 billion worth of food items in 2019. Digital technologies ... are eliminating the traditional inefficiencies of smallholder food production and helping to close the yield gap.