Picture: copyright World Economic Forum/Benedict von Loebell
Africa's prosperity can only be driven by inclusive growth strategies that create jobs and include all Africans.
Panellists in the opening plenary of the 24th World Economic Forum on Africa agreed that the opportunities are enormous, but many countries still need a conducive business environment, infrastructure and the right skills.
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of Nigeria, told participants that the need to create jobs is a global problem.
In Africa, the unemployment problem is compounded by its youthful population and pending demographic transition.
The President said: “An additional 112 million workers will enter Africa's labour force by 2020 … this is daunting and should be a wake-up call to all of us in Africa to work harder on job creation with a great sense of urgency.”
Job creation is the main focus of Nigeria's Transformation Agenda, the nation's plan to modernize and diversify the Nigerian economy by focusing on priority sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, housing and construction, and the services sectors.
“We are working to unlock the obstacles faced by businesses so they create jobs,” Jonathan added. “We must ensure there is a maximum inclusiveness through creating opportunities for people to create opportunities for themselves.”
In a special address, Li Keqiang, Premier of the People's Republic of China, pledged continuing cooperation and will prioritise infrastructure development.
“We will work with Africa to upgrade and build transport infrastructure to promote connectivity on the African continent.” This includes a high-speed railway, a network of expressways and an aviation network.
China also plans to “vigorously advance” the African Talents Program, providing 18,000 scholarships to African students and training 30,000 African professionals. Training schemes will also be offered by China's enterprises and Confucius Institutes in Africa.
“China will step up its investment and financing cooperation with Africa by providing an additional $10 billion in credit to make its pledged credit line a total of $30 billion,” Li said. "[We will add] another $2 billion to make the China-Africa Development Fund a total of $5 billion.”
The Chinese government will also provide Africa with $10 million to protect its wildlife and biodiversity and promote sustainable development across the continent.
Africa's corporate environment is conducive to doing business, argued Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Nigeria; Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum on Africa. “People talk only about the bad side, but there are lots of opportunities,” he said.
Dangote added that Nigeria and many other countries create opportunities for capital allowance, zero duty and valued-added tax on machinery, as well as tax holidays.
His company took the risk of investing in Nigeria. “The biggest challenge today is that some [Africans] would rather keep money abroad. You are not creating confidence. You must invest your own money to encourage foreign investors.”
Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, said Rwanda has flourished by encouraging the private sector to “do what they know the best” but, at the same time, make a difference in people's lives.
He said: “You can get impressive growth rates by a few companies, but it is not a zero-sum game where people grow at the expense of others … policies to encourage inclusive growth and create jobs must be driven by political will.”
Rwanda invested in universal healthcare, education and vocational and technical training. Investments in agriculture, for example, have lifted one million people out of poverty.
The 24th World Economic Forum on Africa is being held in Abuja, Nigeria, and the three day conference concludes today. The theme of the meeting is Forging Inclusive Growth, Creating Jobs.
The Co-Chairs of the meeting are Dominic Barton, Managing Director, McKinsey & Company, United Kingdom; Jean-François van Boxmeer, Chairman of the Executive Board and Chief Executive Officer, Heineken, Netherlands; Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Nigeria; Bineta Diop, President, Femmes Africa Solidarité, Switzerland; Jabu A. Mabuza, Chairman, Telkom Group, South Africa; Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman, Bharti Enterprises, India; John Rice, Vice-Chairman, GE, Hong Kong SAR
Video courtesy of World Economic Forum