Africa Embraces the Fourth Industrial Revolution

12 May 2016
 Awardees at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda
Awardees at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda
Image: Copyright by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell

Oliver Cann, Public Engagement, Tel.: +41 (0)79 799 3405; Email:

· Africa can use the Fourth Industrial Revolution to become a full player in the world economy, but it must be “impatient and ambitious” to achieve this goal

· Technology offers “transformative power”

· Education on the continent is in need of radical reform

· For more information about the meeting, please visit

Kigali, Rwanda, 12 May 2016 – Africa should use the opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution to transform itself into a full partner on the global stage, said Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, at the opening address of the 26th World Economic Forum on Africa. “Africa should not be still playing catch-up when the fifth revolution comes around, he added. Kagame called for “a continent free of pity and apprehension, a place of opportunity and partnership.”

The transformative power of technology lies at the core of the vision of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, as articulated by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, continued Kagame. However, it should be understood that technology is not a “magic bullet” in itself, but a tool for wisely tackling the challenges faced by Africa.

On a practical level, digital solutions in financial markets need to be significantly scaled up, said Kagame. Efficient, reliable and stable capital markets are key to providing access to funding for growth, and ICT makes such markets viable. At the same time, he added, development and growth are about more than machines – Africa’s people are an enormous resource – and can be achieved through “good politics and accountability”.

Kagame said it is a myth that there is only one acceptable way to build a just and equitable society. But, whatever path is followed, the key leadership requirement is “clear-headed realism”.

Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Abidjan, and a Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum on Africa, said that Africa has “no choice but to be ambitious” in embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He said that one of the greatest priorities for the continent is universal electrification to allow digital technology to play its role in transforming lives. “Africa is tired of being in the dark. This is why the African Development Bank will spend $12.5 billion in the next five years on its New Deal in Electricity,” added Adesina.

It is crucial that the Fourth Revolution “does not leave anyone behind,” said Graça Machel, Founder, Foundation for Community Development (FDC), Mozambique, and a Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum on Africa. The first three revolutions left Africans as a whole behind, with women in particular being abandoned.

It is not humanitarian to be inclusive towards women, said Machel. It makes business and common sense – as they make up half the population and bring different skills and perceptions to bear on challenges. She echoed Adesina’s call for urgency. “We need change now. We are very good at drawing up policies, but very weak at implementation,” she said.

Machel also urged a revolution in education, as did Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director, McKinsey & Company, USA, and a Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum on Africa, who said the four-year college qualification model is not serving Africa particularly well. Barton suggested fast-track, “four- to six-week” specialist courses to get young people into businesses and the real economy as soon as possible.

Elsie S. Kanza, Head of Africa, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum, said her vision for Africa as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is for the continent to send a team of women to Mars in a spacecraft designed and launched from its own soil.

Also during the plenary, three 2016 Africa Social Entrepreneurs of the Year received awards from Philipp Rösler, Head of the Centre for Regional Strategies and Member of the Managing Board at the World Economic Forum. The previous evening, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, in partnership with Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Motsepe Foundation, South Africa, honoured the 2016 Africa Social Entrepreneurs of the Year in the presence of Jeannette Kagame, First Lady of Rwanda; Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Abidjan; and 250 distinguished guests.

The awardees are:

· Tracey Chambers & Tracey Gilmore, The Clothing Bank, South Africa

The Clothing Bank provides unemployed mothers with a path out of poverty by training them to become self-employed business women. The Clothing Bank counts 1,240 women as graduates, with the capacity to have 800 women in the two-year programme. Since 2010, these women have collectively generated income for their families of more than $2.5 million.

· Luvuyo Rani, Silulo Ulutho Technologies, South Africa

Silulo operates 38 IT stores and training centres in townships and rural areas of South Africa providing job opportunities for unemployed youth. More than 50% of Silulo’s students have found regular employment. Silulo has successfully partnered with companies like Tsiba, Careers24 and Telkom in referring job seekers.

· Yasmina Filali, Fondation Orient Occident, Morocco

Foundation Orient Occident provides job training to underprivileged Moroccans, sub-Saharan migrants and refugees, and helps migrants and refugees integrate into Moroccan society. Ninety-five per cent of graduates from the IT courses and 60% of hospitality graduates find regular employment.

They are among 20 late-stage social entrepreneurs from around the world taking part in the World Economic Forum on Africa to provide expert perspectives on sustainability and social innovation. Learn more about the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship at

The Co-Chairs of the 26th World Economic on Africa are: Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Abidjan; Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director, McKinsey & Company; Tony O. Elumelu, Founder, The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Nigeria; Graça Machel, Founder, Graça Machel Trust (GMT), South Africa; and Tarek Sultan Al Essa, Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of the Board, Agility, Kuwait

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