Unlocking talent and accelerating economic diversification

A preview of the 23rd World Economic Forum on Africa by the event’s organisers.

With an expected annual growth of five percent in 2012 2013, sub-Saharan Africa continues its transformative journey from a developing continent to a hub of global growth. According to the World Bank, almost half of Africa’s countries have attained middle-income status. What’s more, Africa is home to six of the top-ten fastest growing economies in the world, and is set to represent the world’s largest workforce by 2040.

At the same time, however, the continent’s positive outlook is threatened by fluctuating commodity prices, rising inequality and youth unemployment.

To build on its achievements, Africa’s leaders need to strengthen the continent’s competitiveness, foster inclusive growth and build resilience in a volatile global environment. Accelerating economic diversification, boosting strategic infrastructure and unlocking talent are critical success factors in this new leadership context.

Under the theme Delivering on Africa’s Promise, the 23rd World Economic Forum on Africa will provide an important platform for regional and global leaders from business, government and civil society to deepen the continent’s integration agenda and renew commitment to a sustainable path of growth and development by addressing the themes Accelerating Economic Diversification, Boosting Strategic Infrastructure and Unlocking Africa’s Talent.

Africa’s fastest growing economies of Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Zambia bear testament that both resource-rich economies and agricultural economies are driving growth across the continent. With rapidly rising consumer spending, non-resource-intensive sectors – such as retail, energy and telecommunications – are attracting growing numbers of regional and global investors. The theme Accelerating Economic Diversification will consider what conditions are required to expand globally competitive local industries, which new growth models can deliver structural reform as well as inclusive growth, and how Africa’s new partners can unleash the potential of new markets.

The theme Boosting Strategic Infrastructure will examine how economic, social and soft infrastructure gaps remain critical constraints to economic growth, regional integration and social development. Investments in strategic infrastructure are expected to increase the productivity of businesses operating in the region by 40 percent. Without an adequate infrastructure endowment, Africa is at risk of sacrificing about two percent of GDP growth every year. Key questions will be how to speed up crucial infrastructure reforms, which new solutions are bridging the gaps in the provision of infrastructure financing and how cross-border legal and regulatory standards can be harmonised to increase intra-African trade.

Home to the world’s fastest growing youth population, the continent faces a demographic dividend if its human resources can be equipped with the capacity to manage and deliver growth effectively.

With an estimated job demand of over 10 million annually, efforts to promote innovation and entrepreneurship also need to be intensified. The third theme, Unlocking Africa’s Talent, raises the questions of how Africa’s entrepreneurs can be transformed into global champions, what new solutions can scale up job creation and enhance social resilience, and which technology innovations and best practices can reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.

Tackling these themes will be essential to unlocking Africa’s potential – and they cannot be tackled by any one group, organisation or government acting alone. The week’s meeting will bring together leaders from different parts of society who, by working together, can help to ensure that Africa is best positioned to capitalise on its recent gains.


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