When first class global economists, politicos, and business leaders gathered in Davos for the World Economic Forum, the last thing they want to do was to give an impression that Africa does not belong to the elite group of world who-is-who. Sprinkles of African elites were present and there was a discussion session at Davos that was set aside for the review of Africa’s political economy.
Of course few African leaders were invited to participate in the discussion and they probably convinced that they will be taken serious as the audience looked captivated as the discussion on African problem was being dissected by the political and business leaders from Africa.
The session was called “De-Risking Africa" and Presidents Jonathan of Nigeria and Zuma of South Africa were the principal speakers and analysts. How can we forget Graham Mackay, chairman of SABMiller, the largest growing brewing entity in Africa. To his credit, Mackay has managed to spread out his brewery empire around Africa.
By calling the session De-Risking Africa, World Economic Forum maybe trying to convey to the world that Africa is safe for business and investment. But the problem here is that African perception by the world cannot be easily altered by the session at Davos.
The western media and movie industry in the past have poorly projected and showcase Africa that it has become difficult to positively rebrand Africa as the global media is gearing up to do.
There is a new and emerging Africa, inasmuch that African contribution to the global GDP is quite minimal about or less than 2.7 percent, yet Africa has the fastest growing economy at the annual growth rate of at 5.2 percent in 2012 compared to the rest of the world that has experienced anemic growth of about 3.2 percent.
It is important that the world see Africa for what it is because investments and capital are needed to sustain the growth in Africa. The only way that Africa can succeed and alleviate her standard of living is to enshrine pro-growth policy but it cannot be doable without the necessary manpower and capital to move forward.
I do expect The World Economic Forum to do more for Africa not just by gathering some African leaders to speak on Africa but to create an environment where Africa is 'normalize' and the label of the 'other' bloated out. Instead of setting aside Africa for discussion, Africa should be integrated into the discussion just as Europe and Asia.
Mackay in the discussion emphasized that problem of Africa must be left for the private industry to be “fix” with economic growth. Mackay may be putting too much hope on the private sector as the panacea to the problems of Africa, for certain things are beyond the reach of the private sector. Peace and stability, responsible citizenry, law and order are needed to sustain economic growth and private sector have little role in them.
South African actress Charlize Theron was given 2013 World Economic Forum Crystal Award for humanitarian.
"Trust in economic growth to solve the problems of the continent, "Economic growth comes from the private sector: business will fix it, if it's allowed to. If you look at some of our operations in more rural parts of Africa and you see the conditions that have to be endured: these are heroic endeavors in many cases," Mackay said.
Africa needs both the private and public sectors to work together. Moreover, there are things that can be carried out by the private sector and there are things that government must do. Private sector should be the primary engine of Job creation and employments for the work force. The public sector should implement fiscal and monetary policies to promote wealth creation.
Both Presidents Jonatha and Zuma made an important point when it comes on the provision of infrastructures. They believed that Africa must developed modern infrastructures for sustainable economic growth. The private sector does not build roads, rails and provide power grids. This is the job of the public sector and that is where a functional government comes into play. Both private and public sectors have their unique roles to play in economic development and growth in anywhere including Africa.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda who was also in the audience said, “For me, the major problem I see is that Africa's story is written from somewhere else, and not by Africans themselves." But the point Kagame missed is that in the global economy, investors send their investments to places they deem fit, simultaneously commentators and analysts from all parts of the world will follow accordingly where the actions are brewing.
President Paul Kagame speaking at Davos
News reporting on Africa has somewhat improved to more positive and good reporting, but the reality is that Africa has some fundamental problems that she must tackled to better improve her image. There are problems in the continent that are seriously hampering economic growth. And no matter how much de-risking you attempted with words, it cannot make it go away.
Actions, they say, speak louder than words. Action-oriented leaders are needed to fight corruption, build modern infrastructures and inspire the continent to achieve the goals she set for herself. The words and discussions at Davos may be good but action and determination must belong to Africa.
Emeka Chiakwelu, Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol.