Afro-optimism 'must become action'

African countries should now focus on converting optimism in the continent’s future into action, business and government leaders said during the closing session of the 21st World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town on Friday.

“The mood has changed from thinking of Africa as a forgotten continent to Africa as a continent that holds hope,” said Bank of Botswana governor Linah Mohohlo. “But we cannot afford to be complacent.”

Mohohlo called on African countries to be much more welcoming to investors and to “quickly learn how to manage the risks” that would inevitably increase as more international capital flowed into the continent’s economies.

“What we have to pursue with vigour is inclusive growth that will generate additional opportunities and contribute immensely towards poverty reduction.

“And we must include women,” Mohohlo added, “because when you educate a woman, you educate a village, a society, a country and, ultimately, the continent.”

Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Added Hailemariam Desalegn said the continent needed to build capacity at all levels in order “to deliver and discharge its policies and responsibilities”.

Nestlé board chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said the first question was “whether Africa’s economic boom will allow it to break the cycle of poverty”, while KPMG International chairman Timothy Flynn said the real challenge was “how do we accomplish the things [we have to do] and get people to come together.”

Flynn said that, in light of what he had learned about the increasing efforts to deepen African regionalisation, he would accelerate the integration of his company’s businesses across the continent.

Eskom Holdings chairman Mpho Makwana said African countries should focus on developing their skills and human resources, especially by harnessing the talents of Africans in the Diaspora. “We need to make the building of robust private sectors an urgent priority and promote true entrepreneurship, because that is how jobs are created,” Makwana said.

Oando Nigeria group chief executive Jubril Tinubu said it was also critical for African countries to improve their educational systems, in order to ensure that they had the skills they would need to pursue the opportunities that were emerging.