Africa Embraces the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Kigali, Rwanda, Capital Markets in Africa: 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.

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