Africa is engaging more strategically and more proactively than ever before at the World Economic Forum, and this year’s outing was no exception.
African leaders in government, business, and media gathered in Davos, Switzerland January 21-24 to discuss the issues most pressing to Africa’s growth and to forge partnerships that will push the African agenda forward. Here’s a list of the ten most important moments for the African agenda, during Davos
1. Kofi Annan ‘Calls Out’ the World for Not Caring About Ebola Until it Landed in the West
During the Pandemics – Whose Problem? Panel, the former UN Secretary General said it was surprising that 40 years after its discovery, Ebola still has the power to ravage a region. He called out the global community for lacking the foresight to contain it and called on pharmaceutical companies to do more on diseases like Ebola; saying, “Those of us that come from poor countries sometimes feel that the diseases of the poor are ignored because the companies feel that if they [pharmaceutical companies] invest in it, [they] may not get your money back.”
2. United Nations Launches the African Energy Leaders Group
Energy access is one of the most pressing issues slowing the growth and development of the African continent. Representatives closed out the Forum on a strong note when the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4ALL) brought together Africa’s government and business leaders to form the African Energy Leaders Group (AELG). AELG will drive the reforms and investment needed to end energy poverty and sustainably fuel the continent’s economic future. The Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, Daniel Kablan Duncan, Nigerian businessman Tony O. Elumelu and President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka led a press conference that outlined their commitment to bringing power to the 625 million Africans that do not currently have access to power. Elumelu called it, “potentially the single most catalytic action of our time toward transforming Africa’s power sector.”
3. The Run Up to WEF Africa in South Africa Began
African leaders, including Alpha Condé, President of Guinea, and Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, gathered to discuss the Forum’s Africa Strategic Infrastructure Initiative. The two called for deliberate, transnational and cross-border solutions for infrastructure development in Africa. The conversations between the leaders created momentum for WEF Africa, with strong representation from governments and business leaders from Nigeria, Mali and South Africa. South Africa, in particular, had 51 people strong in attendance, 8 of them government officials.
4. Unlocking Global Institutional Capital for Africa
During a CEO roundtable hosted by two of Africa’s biggest names in business, Aliko Dangote and Tony O. Elumelu, 47 investment leaders from around the world — the Milken Institute, SIDA, USAID, Investec and more — and discussed how to bridge the divide between Africa and the rest of the world when it comes to investment at the institutional level.
During the discussion, African business leaders representing billions of dollars in institutional capital sat together and outlined their investment perspectives, demonstrating their collective belief in the economic future of Africa and their willingness to lead the execution of ambitious investment programs; a strong moment for Africa.
5. “Reimagining Africa’s Future” Dinner Urges Africans to Look Inward
At a dinner discussion around reimagining Africa’s future, leaders such as Guinean President Alpha Conde, UN Undersecretary General for SE4ALL Kandeh Yumkella, and business man Ashish J. Thakkar, spoke on the need for African self-sufficiency. “These are interesting times for people who care about Africa,” said Dr. Patrick Awuah, President of Ashesi University in Ghana. “Many African countries are seeing some progress, with support from a growing community of professionals across the world; if this progress is to last, then African citizens are going to have to drive much of this innovation for ourselves. This is why I am excited by the strength of voices representing Africa in Davos.”
6. Belgian Prince Uses WEF to Call Attention to Violence in Virunga, Congo
“We have to remember that we live more and more in a world that’s interlinked, and we’re also living in a world that’s become increasingly violent,” Belgian Prince Emmanuel de Merode, Director of the Virunga National Park told CNBC Africa at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. “It becomes very important now to put the effort into understanding the root cause of that violence and often it’s related to resource extraction.”
De Merode also pointed out that tragedies in Africa often go unnoticed. “The world’s attention is always drawn to western capitals when tragedies happen there. The horrors that happen, in Africa particularly, are so often forgotten,” he said.
7. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka Agitates for Gender Equality in Africa
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Deputy President in South Africa. She is now at the United Nations, driving the ‘gender equality agenda,’ and she’s also the Under Secretary of the U.N. — in short, she is a phenomenon. During a panel, Phumzile had a heated exchange with the Prime Minister of Norway, who said she didn’t really think it was necessary to have quotas anymore for the promotion of women. According to Phumzile, “that’s fine in Norway but in most countries in the world there is not gender parity, particularly in Africa.”
8. Rwandan President Kagame Proves Gender Equality in Africa is Possible
According to one writer’s Davos Diary, one of the bright spots for gender equality in Africa is Rwanda where Paul Kagame explained that after the genocide, Rwandans decided to write gender equity into their constitution, such that at least 30 percent of the cabinet have to be women. The results have been clear: 64 percent— nearly two-thirds — of the parliament in Rwanda is female. Still Phumzile said, “you cannot divorce Rwanda from the rest of Africa, so if it can happen there, it can happen everywhere. It is only a question of leadership.”
9. Ox-fam Head Winnie Byanyima Opens the Forum, Calls Out the Rich
In a report released the day before WEF was to begin, Oxfam released a report saying half of global wealth is now held by one percent of the population. The report caused a ripple ahead of Davos as the many super-wealthy prepared to address the claim. When Byanyima was announced as this year’s co-chair, she declared that she would, “be looking to business and political leaders to join in a conversation to find a way forward for the greater good.” Bynayima entered and left the conference a “Davos star.”
10. Al Gore Joins African Public & Private Sector Leaders to Close the Energy Gap in Africa
Energy access was a major topic on the African agenda at Davos, so it was no surprise when the Forum’s organizers brought together 3 Presidents and an African business luminary to discuss how to use innovative financing mechanisms, combined with regulatory and policy interventions, to provide sustainable energy in Africa. Nigerian businessman Tony O. Elumelu; William Ruto, Deputy President of Kenya; Daniel Duncan, Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire; and Boubacar Keita, President of Mali discussed the energy deficit in Africa alongside climate advocate and former US Vice President Al Gore, who spoke passionately on the need for sustainable solutions for Africa’s energy issues.