|The World Economic Forum on Africa in 2006 continued discussions that had taken place at last year's meeting in Cape Town and at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2006 in Davos, Switzerland. The workshops, which were extremely well attended, and other sessions were designed to sustain efforts to follow "the creative imperative" by shaping solutions to a range of global challenges – from hunger to healthcare, investment to infrastructure. More than 700 government, business and civil society leaders pooled their knowledge and enthusiasm and shared their experience to find innovative ways to keep Africa "going for growth".
South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel 'thinking on the box' in a WorkSpace brainstorming session on improving Africa's investment climate
The following is a selection of creative conclusions that came out of the workshops:
Global Risks: The proliferation of interconnected risks in the globalized age requires a more sophisticated approach to confronting them. Participants devised worst-case scenarios for risks salient to Africa including oil price shocks, terrorism, climate change and a pandemic – and then considered ways to mitigate the threats or prevent them from becoming reality. One common conclusion was that business must play a role in confronting global risks in partnership with government and civil society.
Infrastructure: Africa's infrastructure deficit can only be solved with strong leadership and pan-continental cooperation. Public-private partnerships are essential, given the limited resources and knowledge in the public sector. Other key elements for a successful infrastructure development programme include political will and stability, strategic planning, efficient logistics and bureaucracy, the capacity for dispute resolution and the availability of skills and talent.
Investment Climate: A crucial outcome of the World Economic Forum on Africa was the launch of the Investment Climate Facility (ICF) for Africa with more than US$ 100 million in initial commitments. This pioneering public-private partnership will run for seven years and will target the impediments to investment and aim to unblock them. Participants focused on the following priorities: crime and corruption, enforcement of property rights, expansion and reform of financial markets, tax and customs reform, promotion of efficient business registration and bureaucracy, encouragement of competition, the need for greater flexibility in labour markets, and the development of adequate "soft" and "hard" infrastructure. Progress in these areas, which are priorities of the ICF, should be measured against targets or benchmarks.
Hunger: The fight against hunger is not a simple matter of putting food in people's mouths. A comprehensive approach is needed to ensure a sustainable solution. This includes educating women and girls; providing microfinancing for small-scale farmers; assisting farmers with water, seed and fertilizer; help for small enterprises; promotion of effective business models; and the support of worldclass agricultural colleges. In each area, businesses are among the many stakeholders that have a role to play. The private sector, for example, can be instrumental in encouraging entrepreneurship at the village level.
Rebranding Africa: Perceptions of Africa must match the new reality of a confident, growing continent where peace, stability and democracy have spread in recent years. Africa has to promote itself as the world's "next big thing" as China and India have done. Business can play a role by highlighting corporate success stories and the more favourable investment climate, particularly achievements in democratization and deregulation. Success will come through cooperative efforts among Africans, not through the patronage of the Western media.
"In reality, we have to implement programmes to which we have already agreed. Basically our challenge is our capacity to implement those. The capacity to implement stands at the centre of our challenges." Thabo Mbeki President of South Africa