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Education, Job Creation, Industrialization and Security Key to African Prosperity

Oliver Cann, Associate Director, Public Engagement, Tel.: +41 (0)79 799 3405, Email: oliver.cann@weforum.org
  • Inequality and pervasive poverty is undermining today’s achievements and compromising tomorrow’s.
  • Fifteen out of the 20 countries that have made the most progress are in Africa.
  • Security is paramount to accelerating Africa’s growth.
  • Learn more about the World Economic Forum on Africa: http://wef.ch/af14

Abuja, Nigeria, 9 May 2014 – A rising Africa is being propelled by a fast-track growth trajectory, but inequality and pervasive poverty is undermining the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and compromising the future, concluded panellists on post-2015 development at the 24th World Economic Forum on Africa. They agreed that education, job creation, infrastructure, industrialization and security are the pillars upon which to build prosperity.

“Where we are failing is that, as a rising continent, we haven’t focused on inequality with the laser beam we should have,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance of Nigeria. “The quality of growth we are delivering must be improved. We must look at sectors where we can include more people. Agriculture is three times more effective at lifting people out of poverty than any other sector.”

Côte d'Ivoire is recovering from the ravages of a civil war and looking to the future with ambitious education and modernization plans for its agriculture sector. Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire, noted that South-East Asia’s and Latin America’s success in the 1970s was driven by investment in education. “The gender question is important, as is education combined with health.” A five-year programme, in partnership with the private sector, is expected to create 2.4 million jobs. By 2040, Côte d'Ivoire should be an industrialized nation, he said.

Senegal is pursuing a path towards universal primary education, with a 95% enrolment rate, and will achieve the education MDG by 2015. “My country has invested a lot in this as it is a cross-cutting issue that goes beyond yield and productivity,” said Macky Sall, President of Senegal. The country is now industrializing its agriculture sector.

Panellists debated achievements to date and whether the MDGs can build traction for the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which envisions a prosperous and united Africa based on shared values and a common destiny. Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever, United Kingdom, pointed out that the MDG of halving poverty has been achieved and that 15 out of the 20 countries that have made the most progress on the targets are in Africa.

“Growth must be sustainable. We have the opportunity to design the growth here and not make the mistakes we made before,” Polman said “We need capability-building to get to this enormous future,” he added. Pan-African infrastructure will open intra-African trade, stimulate manufacturing and boost exports. “The bigger trade zones you have, the better off you are,” he said.

One of the MDGs was to build a global partnership for development that includes an open, rule-based trading and financial system, but this has not happened, according to Carlos Lopes, Undersecretary-General and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Addis Ababa. “When we discuss transformation and industrialization, we have to remember inclusiveness and that human capital is part of it,” he said.

The fight against poverty and starvation is the most important goal, according to Birama Konaré, Founder and Managing Director, Binthily Communication, Mali. Women and children are starving in the streets, he said. Microfinance could be the answer, as women typically use the benefits to support their families. He also pointed to “a new narrative under construction”, with Africa as a champion of innovations such as mobile cash and ICT solutions.

Security is a complex ecosystem, but is paramount to accelerating the continent’s growth. “Africa has come a long way to establish democratic means to express disaffection,” Okonjo-Iweala commented. “These are evil times,” she said. Okonjo-Iweala noted that both US President Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron recognize that terrorism is not about Nigeria. “We need to stand as one and say we will not allow this to undermine Africa’s progress.” Lopes pointed out that other countries are plagued by terrorism, but “no one mentions it”. The continent still has a branding problem, he said

The 24th World Economic Forum on Africa will be held in Abuja, Nigeria, on 7-9 May 2014. The theme of the meeting is Forging Inclusive Growth, Creating Jobs.

The Co-Chairs of the meeting are Dominic Barton, Managing Director, McKinsey & Company, United Kingdom; Jean-François van Boxmeer, Chairman of the Executive Board and Chief Executive Officer, Heineken, Netherlands; Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Nigeria; Bineta Diop, President, Femmes Africa Solidarité, Switzerland; Jabu A. Mabuza, Chairman, Telkom Group, South Africa; Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman, Bharti Enterprises, India; John Rice, Vice-Chairman, GE, Hong Kong SAR

Notes to Editors

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