Building capacity to help Africa trade better

World Economic Forum on Africa 2017: Achieving Inclusive Growth


World Economic Forum on Africa 2017: Achieving Inclusive Growth

World Economic Forum on Africa 2017: Achieving Inclusive Growth
Photo credit: AfDB

Achieving Inclusive Growth

Durban, South Africa, 3-5 May 2017

Africa is facing a mixed outlook for growth. The economic growth forecast for the continent over the coming year is expected to be lower than the 5% average of the past decade. This is largely due to the dip in commodity prices and the economic slowdown in China. That said, a number of countries are growing above 6% per annum and foreign direct investment inflows continue to rise. Overall, the divergence of Africa’s economies makes it imperative to address the challenges posed by a growing unemployed youth population and climate change, among others.

The impact of the headwinds for commodity-dependent countries has refocused attention on the urgency of economic diversification, revitalization of manufacturing and harnessing of human innovation in order to weather the economic storm. The Fourth Industrial Revolution offers new opportunities to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth by fast-tracking market integration in Africa through industrial corridors.

Events in Africa and across the world have demonstrated a need for leaders to be responsive to the demands of the people who have entrusted them to lead, and to also provide a vision and a way forward. In partnership with the Government of the Republic of South Africa, the World Economic Forum on Africa will be held in Durban, South Africa, on 3-5 May 2017. The meeting will convene regional and global leaders from business, government and civil society to agree priorities that will help Africa achieve inclusive growth.

The host country – the only African G20 economy – is championing reforms to eradicate extreme poverty and promote shared growth nationally, regionally and globally. The host city, Durban, which has the busiest industrial port in sub-Saharan Africa, offers insight into how trade in regionally manufactured goods can strengthen economic resilience and create jobs.

Programme overview

Under the theme Achieving Inclusive Growth, the meeting will convene regional and global leaders from business, government and civil society to explore solutions to create economic opportunities for all.

Participants will explore challenges and opportunities, deepen insights and foster coalitions around instruments that could be used to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth. For example, the Fourth Industrial Revolution offers new opportunities to fast-track market integration in Africa through industrial corridors by connecting markets, revitalizing manufacturing and integrating innovation. In this context, the 27th World Economic Forum on Africa will address the following topics that underpin the programme:

Connecting Markets

The increased prioritization of investment in infrastructure over the past decade has boosted trade in Africa. Transport corridors are an increasingly common approach to accelerating cross-border investments. Nonetheless, the infrastructure financing gap is daunting, particularly for transnational projects. Further, in order to boost the development impact, it is necessary to take a holistic approach that ensures that regional arteries connect rural communities and local industries to markets.

African nations have adopted sub-regional economic blocs as a stepping stone towards a unified continent, but levels of market integration vary significantly. Drawing lessons from other regional groups like the EU, the Pacific Alliance and ASEAN, how can alternative approaches fast-track economic unification in Africa?

According to the UNECA, transport costs for 12 landlocked countries in sub-Saharan Africa account for more than 70% of the value of goods exports. Transnational transport corridors have proven to be successful at lowering such costs, but funding remains a challenge. How can blended finance accelerate investments in transport corridors?

Africa’s expansive geography makes it challenging to reach scattered rural communities cost-effectively and affordably. How can broadband access by satellite close the continental digital divide?

According to the International Air Transport Association, if 12 African economies liberalize access to their skies for each other, an additional 155,000 jobs could be created and $1.3 billion added to GDP. How can the continent fast-track the establishment of a single African air transport market together with continental visa openness?

Almost 90% of Africa’s international trade is conducted by sea, yet port delays account for about 10% of import costs. How can investment in regional shipping hubs boost trade efficiency?

Investors cite the lack of harmonized regional rules and regulations as a barrier for deepening and expanding financial services. How can Africa advance regional financial integration?

Regional electricity markets have been cited as a means of attracting higher investment in generation by creating larger pools of demand. How can the continent fast-track the implementation of cross-border power pools?

The African e-commerce market is creating new opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses. Yet, according to the World Bank, varying trade requirements make intra-Africa trade costs almost 50% higher than in East Asia. How can African countries reduce payment, shipping and customs costs?

Map of Trans African Highways

Image source: Rexparry sydney, CC BY-SA 3.0

Revitalizing Manufacturing

According to the African Development Bank, the continent’s manufacturing exports doubled between 2005 and 2014 to more than $100 billion, with the share of intra-African trade rising from 20% to 34% over the same period. However, Africa’s share of global manufacturing exports remains less than 1%, compared with over 16% for East Asia. Fortunately, regional demand is growing and has resulted in manufacturing production growth at 3.5% annually in real terms – faster than the global growth rate – over the past decade.

With the region lagging as the least-competitive globally, concerted steps need to be taken to boost productivity. Fortunately, there are regional clusters of global manufacturing excellence. How can regional value chains foster more African value addition in global supply chains?

Despite the growing potential of renewable energy to electrify Africa, currency mismatch is emerging as a barrier to investment in countries with underdeveloped financial markets. How can countries create regional investment risk-mitigation vehicles?

Infrastructure investments and growth in African retail markets are transforming the logistics industry in Africa. How can new technologies, like drones, drive high growth in the continent’s logistics industry?

Building on the success of mobile money and the emergence of new technologies like blockchain, fintech is fast banking the unbanked in Africa. How can regionalization accelerate the establishment of universal digital financial services?

In January 2016, the African Space Policy and Strategy was adopted in Addis Ababa as a stepping stone to the attainment of the African Outer Space Programme. How can Africa’s leaders fast-track the development of a globally competitive nano-satellite industry?

Pharmaceutical manufacturing is expanding rapidly across the continent, building on the continental Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa. How can regional safety and marketing regulations advance the industry?

It is estimated that Africa’s current net food-import bill is $35 billion per annum. With Africa’s fast-growing youth population, how can regional food manufacturing transform to meet rising consumer needs regionally and globally?

According to the African Development Bank, textile and clothing is the second-largest sector in the developing world after agriculture, and estimated to be worth $1.3 trillion in Africa. How can buyer-driven commodity chains upgrade the fashion and textile industries?

Integrating Innovation

Technological innovation is rapidly evolving under the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As such, significant investment is required to strengthen the continent’s skills base, particularly in applied sciences and engineering. Currently in Africa, the overall shortage of engineers is estimated at above 1 million. In addition, more efforts are required to reverse the widening gender digital divide.

Human-centred design is crucial in inspiring innovative solutions that are relevant to African consumers, the majority of whom are poor and engaged in the informal sector. How can Africa’s leaders scale the impact of social innovations on poverty?

Globally, efforts to strengthen intellectual property rights are gaining momentum. While patents can be filed in the Africa, global IP systems are difficult to enforce. How can regional IP regimes be strengthened to fast-track African innovators?

The continent currently contributes less than 1% of the world’s scientific papers. Dedicated long-term funding is needed to support the training of world-class scientists and researchers, and research environments. How can regional and global collaboration finance Africa’s science agenda?

Women are increasingly underrepresented in technology-based industries. This widening gap is due to a variety of reasons, ranging from cultural stigmas against girls learning mathematics and sciences to hostile work environments for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). How can Africa’s leaders reduce gender barriers while promoting the pursuit of careers in STEM for all?

To fully integrate into the global digital economy, Africa needs to significantly expand its e-skills agenda by closing the deficit of ICT skills. How can the continent’s educational institutions reinvent their systems to transform regional learning?

Establishing world-class training centres of excellence requires heavy investment and takes time. Artificial intelligence and gamification are rapidly transforming education delivery. How can Africa leverage education technology to deliver marketable skills regionally?

The World Bank estimates that there are 117 technology hubs across the continent, although the turnover rate is relatively high. These technology hubs face substantial challenges in transitioning from start-up to sustainable businesses. How can government and business leaders foster viable pan-African innovation ecosystems?

Several African start-ups are on the verge of attaining the global distinction of being “unicorns” with a $1 billion valuation mark. Accordingly, venture capital investments are taking off across the continent, particularly in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. How can Africa excel at commercializing innovation?


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