Seven significant outcomes from the World Economic Federation’s (WEF) latest summit on Africa will be the main focuses of the continent for the next year, with all of them centered around the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Leaders and partners support a Pan-African approach to boost economies, create jobs and improve service delivery

The three-day conference, which was held in Cape Town last week, happened against the backdrop of mass protests against women and child abuse, and a wave of new xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Delegates, who included presidents, policymakers, and business leaders, had a front-row seat to South Africans fed up with gender-based violence. Protesters are desperate for the voices to be heard attempted to storm the summit. Instead of ignoring the concerns of people on the ground that is often a feature of high-level meetings, attendees addressed the issue head-on.

The first outcome of the summit is a plan to tackle the crisis. WEF President Borge Bunde told the closing session that a three-pronged strategy was given the green light and would be backed by the South African government through its Ministry of Women, Children, and People with Disabilities, and the United Nations in the country. It has been agreed the technology industry will be engaged to create a free emergency response system for women being attacked in the nine provinces. Also, a fund will be set up to help support South Africa’s gender-based action plans. This is good news as one of the main reasons the country has failed at tackling violence against women and children is due to a lack of solid, implementable programmes because of severe underfunding.

“(The second part of the initiative) is going support for women entrepreneurs to promote the economic empowerment of women… We have to walk the talk. There should be a zero-tolerance for gender-based violence. It is totally appalling and is unacceptable,” said Bunde.

South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni also mentioned the protests during the closing session, saying that young people must not be condemned for making their voices heard as it was how he and others had created change in the past. Another outcome of the meeting is a consensus to support the African Growth Platform (AGP). Its aimed at helping the continent establish start-ups and support them so that they can compete in the international space. This is line with comments from speakers and delegates, who believe that governments are paying too much attention to policy development, instead of at the same time focusing on supporting on entrepreneurs to help boost economic development and create jobs.

A goal of the AGP is to build a pool of investors, including private, corporate and foundations, so that resources can be better coordinated and this, in turn, will lead to more funding. It already has support from the Alibaba Group, Dalberg, A. T. Kearney, Export Trading Group, U.S. African Development Foundation, and the Zenith Bank. The Africa Risk Resilience Platform has also been given the nod. Climate change, disease control, and healthcare are major concerns throughout the continent, and new technologies are constantly being developed to mitigate the various difficulties associated with these challenges.

A second initiative focusing on the environment is the Global Plastic Action
Partnership (GPAP). Ghana is the first African country to sign up to the WEF
partnership. The demand for plastic has increased dramatically and is a worldwide challenge. According to data, in 2016 more than 320 million tons of plastic was produced, and this is set to double by 2034. GPAP will work with Ghana’s public, private and civil society sectors to ensure a transition towards a circular economy in which plastics are manufactured, used and
re-used in a sustainable manner. Local initiatives will also be supported and developed to scale-up best practices at a national, regional and international level.

“We should have no plastic pollution in the oceans surrounding Africa in the future,” Bunde implored.

Another coup of the summit is the Africa E-Commerce Agenda, which could see the creation of three million new jobs on the continent by 2020. It is a WEF initiated in partnership with the International Trade Centre and includes an eight-step action plan to help realise the benefits of e-commerce. Currently, e-commerce start-ups face many difficulties such as poor infrastructure and low regional integration. It is a call for action for Africa’s politicians and the international trade community to update policies, upgrade logistics, expand connectivity, enable e-payments, manage
data, grow the tech industry and small businesses.

Drones, which are being punted as Africa’s next opportunity to leapfrog the rest of the world by using them to improve government service delivery, were also widely discussed. Rwanda, which has become Africa’s hub to test and develop unmanned vehicles, will hold the African Drone Forum on February 2020. It will include a regulatory summit attended by leaders in drone technology from the private sector and airspace regulators who will discuss what is possible for the future of drones in Africa.

There will also be flying competitions to promote new industries, harness data for delivery and resilience, and explore technologies. It is a partnership between the Rwandan government, WEF, and the World Bank. Rwanda is the only country that has regulations in place to allow for the flying competitions. It is hoped that other countries which attend the forum will realise the benefits of introducing laws to
encourage drone use. The conference also saw the launch of the Africa Public Health Foundation by the African Union, which will support the continent’s centers for disease control and prevention. It will facilitate public-private cooperation to help build capacity and resources to strengthen health security.

Next year WEF Africa will be held in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia as the forum believes that country is “a huge silver lining”, according to Bunde.
Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, who was the last to address the closing ceremony, called on delegates to ensure that it was a fruitful year in their countries and that the agreed outcomes were realised.

“We all remain in the midst of an exceptionally difficult and challenging period against the background of the constant assault on multilateralism that we are witnessing elsewhere. Although I have been encouraged by the thoughtful interaction by leaders, partners as well as our… youth, I believe we must continue to develop mechanisms that are more impactful to resolving challenges,” she said.

“(We) need to think differently on inclusive growth, seek new partnerships as well as commit to deliver on new and previous commitments.” She ended her address with a call on attendees to help free the continent of gender-based violence and xenophobia which she warned would continue to obstruct the development of the continent and its people.

By: Amy Musgrave