Thursday, May 10, 2012

World Economic Forum on Africa kicked off in Addis Ababa

World Economic Forum on Africa 2012
The World Economic Forum on Africa kicked off on Thursday in Addis Ababa with the launch of a new partnership to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the continent.

The partnership involved high-level representatives from the US Department of State, USAID, African Development Bank, Microsoft, Nokia, World Bank grant programme infoDev, and the World Economic Forum.

Africa has experienced the best decade of the past 50 years, but there are still challenges that need to be tackled, said Donald Kaberuka, President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Tunisia, in the Opening Plenary of the 22nd World Economic Forum in Africa in Addis Ababa on Thursday. "We should not confuse economic growth with economic transformation," he said.
The structure of African economies has not changed fast enough and countries remain vulnerable to external shocks. Public policy choices should target ways to leverage wealth from natural resources for broad-based, sustainable growth.

Kaberuka identified two key drivers for the future: the education of children of the poor as a tool to address generational change, and the development of small and medium enterprises to close the wealth gap.
With the support of the Government of Ethiopia, the World Economic Forum on Africa is being held for the first time in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 9 to 11 May. Over 700 participants from more than 70 countries are taking part.

Under the theme Shaping Africa's Transformation, the meeting's agenda will integrate three pillars: Strengthening Africa's Leadership; Accelerating Investment in Frontier Markets; and Scaling Innovation for Shared Opportunities.
Gao Xiqing, President and Vice-Chairman, China Investment Corporation (CIC), said Africa has a blank sheet of paper before it and is in a position to create a new template for its future.

However, it is important for African countries to ensure their growth is also as inclusive as possible, learning lessons from China, which has prioritized growth over development and is now facing challenges such as huge wealth inequality and environmental problems.

Kofi Annan, Chairman, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Africa Progress Panel (APP), said government policies need to create equal access to opportunities to avoid dissatisfaction in the future. "We cannot talk of growth when millions of people are left behind," he stated.
A lack of consensus and vision has led to a situation where each new government in Africa has a tendency to start afresh instead of building on the achievements of its predecessor. It is therefore important for more debate to take place to reach consensus on the direction countries need to take.

Annan emphasized the need to empower young people and to strengthen health and education to ensure Africa reaps a demographic dividend in the next decade. (ERTA)

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