15 June 2007
The expertise of the African diaspora should be harnessed to provide the extra capacity Africa needs as it moves to its next stage of development, the vice-president of the Africa region of the World Bank said on Wednesday.
Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili was speaking at the World Economic Forum on Africa meeting in Cape Town in a session moderated by businessman Tokyo Sexwale, who is one of four co-chairs of this year’s forum.
Wednesday evening’s discussion included SA President Thabo Mbeki, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Cynthia Carroll, the CEO of mining giant Anglo-American.
“The [African] diaspora constitutes an amazing army of talent to develop the continent,” Ezekwesili said, adding that that Africa’s opportunity for rapid economic growth with all its accompanying benefits “is now”, and should not be missed.
The “amazing African brain lying outside of the continent” had the capacity to lift development on the continent to its next level, she said.
Her remarks come as the South African government is moving to consolidate African unity in a number of areas. Next year, South Africa is hosting a global summit with the proposed theme, “Towards the realisation of a united and integrated Africa and its diaspora”.
The summit will focus on unity between Africa and the African diaspora scattered around the world, from the Caribbean to Europe, with the aim of producing a shared vision of sustainable development for both the continent and the millions of people around the world who share an African heritage.
At the WEF-Africa this year, delegates are focusing on how the continent can build the capacity it needs to lift economic growth beyond the current African average of around 5.8%.
Speaking on Wednesday evening, President Mbeki said certain “critical interventions” were needed to lift the continent out of poverty.
While governments could lay the foundations for success, Mbeki said partnerships with the private sector were important to ensure that money for development was forthcoming.
Conversely, governments – whose planning was long-range – needed to listen to private sector concerns while convincing investors of the potential that existed, and to examine the prospects for value-addition of Africa’s commodities.
Another key issue, Mbeki said, was that of open markets for African agricultural products in Europe and the West as a whole, given that agriculture constituted a major component of African economic endeavour.
If developed countries agreed to open their markets to agricultural products, African farmers could export surplus production, he said.
Anglo-American’s Carroll said the key challenge for multinationals was to build local supply chains – a view that chimes with the SA government’s strategy of building capacity for competitive local suppliers of the capital goods needed for infrastructural development.
In his opening remarks to the conference, World Economic Forum executive chairman Klaus Schwab said he saw much greater all-round confidence from Africans this year as the continent began to reap the benefits of several years of positive economic growth.
Schwab said the global financial architecture needed to be restructured in line with changes in the world’s economic balance, adding that South Africa’s chairing of the G20 group of central bankers and finance ministers this year could perhaps be seen as a forerunner to more radical changes.