MT Special: How Africa must change to profit from investment

Reporting exclusively for MT, Carole Stone says that leadership development and transparency were the hot topics at the World Economic Forum Africa.

by Carole Stone
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
On the flight home from the World Economic Forum Africa, held in Cape Town last week, I asked myself: ‘If I’d taken part in one of my YouGovStone surveys about the Forum, would I have ticked the box that said my time had been well spent?’  The answer has to be: ‘Yes’.

I think that profitable investment in Africa is more likely to help the poor than aid, so I was very interested to hear that charitable organisations like Oxfam are now collaborating with huge corporations such as Coca-Cola and the global beer company SABMiller in (for example) Zambia. The message to potential investors was: ‘To go fast, go alone; but to go far, go together'.

The chance for Africans to profit, as well as those investing, means that both are motivated to make a success of their enterprise - so it stimulates economic growth in a way that benefits the community as a whole.

But how to discover those Africans who can become the next generation of community-minded leaders and entrepreneurs? Aliko Dangote, president and chief executive of Nigeria's Dangote Group, Nigeria - said to be the richest black man in Africa - began his own career as a trader at 21 with a loan from his uncle. He went on to build a conglomerate which has gone from being a trading company to become Nigeria’s largest industrial group. Now Dangote is helping other young Africans by joining with WEF founder Professor Klaus Schwab to establish a fellowship programme that will enable more of Africa’s young people to join WEF’s Young Global Leaders programme. With the present deficit of leadership in Africa, I think this is affirmative action at its best.

The point is that in under-developed Africa, where education and training are often inadequate and where - even when they exist - good jobs are very hard to find, becoming an entrepreneur is often the only way to be successful and to contribute to society.

As Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, a young South African lucky enough to be studying Economics and Politics at Cape Town University, told me over a coffee: ‘In the short term, entrepreneurship is the only way we can create economic re-distribution of wealth between now and when the economy has time to restructure.’

Only by investing in the community, in people, will Africa progress. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General and now the chair of the Africa Progress Panel, entitled his annua report 'The Transformative Power of Partnerships'. But can this co-operation develop free from corruption? Good governance, transparency and accountability are the issues highlighted in Kofi’s Report. The spotlight is upon political leaders who, he says, must be kept under constant scrutiny. New media will help; this is beginning to strip away the power of Africa’s leaders to hide ill-gotten gains. But that process must go on absolutely relentlessly - otherwise corruption will fatally corrode the promising development of partnership and co-operation in Africa.

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