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The 17-18th November 2015 brought together (in Dubai) some African Heads of State and Government, as well as the captains of industry that have operations in the African continent; the occasion was the third iteration of the Africa Global Business Forum (AGBF-2015). The forum (a brainchild of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry – DCCI) provides a platform for serious business discussion that addresses a number of current economic and business related issues. It also focuses on Africa-Gulf relations and how these relations could develop in the future.
The theme for the 2015 instalment was, ‘New Drivers – New Partners’, the forum explored the drivers of the continent’s development over the next five years. It also looked at the sources of growth and discussed the impact of low commodity prices.
I took an interest in the session that grappled with the big question, is Africa ready to drive the global growth agenda? This indeed is a pertinent question that we Africans need to ask ourselves whenever we are touted as the new growth point; is the continent ready?
Cognisant of the reality that there is a multiplicity of views on the subject matter; but the discussants in the session made invaluable points on the discourse. They acknowledged the development challenges that the continent is faced with including its minimal contribution to the real GDP growth of the world. However, they agreed with the assertion that Africa is indeed the new growth point but needs to position herself to ensure that the growth yields tangible results that will change the outlook of the continent.
The key things they stated were, among others, decisive leadership that will ensure that there is conducive policy framework for the private sector to drive the global growth narrative. There should be more focus on education and health in order to sustain the growth thus ensuring longevity; as such innovation should be encouraged. The role of small and medium enterprises (SME) should be acknowledged and supported through, among others, ensuring their access to financing through various models including venture capital. They identified ICT, agri-business, infrastructure and fast-moving consumer goods among the industries that will drive the growth narrative.
As an Afro—optimist myself, I see the possibilities in my continent and acknowledge that Africans need to bring the possibilities into reality. With the guns being silenced compared to the preceding decades, the continent is hard at work to catch-up with the development that has happened globally. For example, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Heads of State and Government agreed in July 2010 on the establishment of the Programme for Infrastructure Development for Africa (PIDA) which was adopted during the January 2012 AU Summit (to promote socio-economic development and poverty reduction in Africa through improved access to integrated regional and continental infrastructure networks and services). These are indicators and points of comfort that attest to the fact that Africa is preparing to play its part in the global growth narrative.
In an affirmative, I agree Africa is on the right track towards driving the global growth narrative.
Mr. Manabile Shogole is South Africa’s Consul-General in Dubai, he writes in his personal capacity.