Op-Ed: An Africa Agenda at Global Meetings – WEF in Davos 2018

PUBLISHED: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 17:15:34 GMT

By Mary-Jean Nleya *

With international meetings such as The World Economic Forum in Davos (held from 23 to 26 January 2018), under the theme “Improving the State of the World: Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”, one wonders how high the “Africa Agenda” is placed in the programme.

After all, not more than one month earlier, the leader of the free world, President of the United States (POTUS) Donald Trump was reported to have made denigrating comments about the continent, calling African countries “s***hole countries” – something he now denies. Instead, POTUS was reported to prefer immigrants into the US from countries such as Norway, a country recently ranked by the WEF as the best country to live in; while the US is ranked 23rd. No wonder why Norwegians may not have the interest to go and live in the US.

Instead, President Trump (as an anti-status quo crusader) should have called for better ways to engage with African leaders in the global political economy to improve their respective countries’ economies – rather than making demeaning comments about an entire continent. With such engagement, the long-term economic opportunities on the continent would be such that Africans would find no need or interest to go to the US –  just like the Norwegians.

On Friday, 26 January 2018 during a meeting with President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, President Trump “dodged” a question posed regarding his previous “s***hole countries” statement; POTUS did, however, praise the “great relationship” between Rwanda and the US.

The Africa Agenda is about taking the continent seriously

The “Africa Agenda” is about taking Africa, and its constituent countries, seriously. Seriously enough for investment to flow into the continent, and prevent its young people from fleeing to the point of risking their lives, across the Mediterranean or being sold as slaves in Libya, in an attempt to find better opportunities.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen during an interview in Davos mentioned the importance of looking at Africa as a place to invest in saying: “We are trying to establish a partnership with certain African countries because we need a ‘more for more’ attitude, where we invest more in Africa”. Africa should be viewed as an investment opportunity.

China has recognised this “investment opportunity” in Africa. During a side interview in Davos, Bill Gates remarked how China was taking active strides to engage with the continent on various fronts and the US should do the same, as the “America First” rhetoric could prove to be a danger to the US-Africa engagement.

On another note, China’s leader, President Xi Jinping made news headlines last year (2017) with his unprecedented WEF attendance and his speech; however, this year, Xi Jinping opted not to attend the event.

African leaders should step up and let the continent speak for itself

It is not all up to the leaders of richer countries to speak on behalf of African countries. African leaders ought to represent the continent as a place of business and not a place to be pitied. The World Economic Forum is the ideal place to advocate for an “African Agenda”.

The new President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa,  made that message clear when he tweeted: “The new Zimbabwe is open for business”. According to a press release issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa (then Deputy President) met with IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde in Davos and discussed “reforms needed to create an environment conducive (to) job creation and less inequality (in South Africa)”.

Rwanda is often heralded as one of Africa’s successes with respect to gender equality and economic growth prospects. This time in Davos, Rwanda reportedly show-cased drone technology after the adoption of drone regulations at the policy-level made possible by the country’s partnership with the World Economic Forum.

Africa is not only the future, but the present

Indeed, Africa is not only the future, but the present and global meetings should be places where this fact is buttressed. Africans being sold as slaves during the Atlantic Slave Trade should be confined to history books and should not be the subject of reports in the 21st century’s news media.

Instead, Africa should make a positive contribution, for example, to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Africa should now take the necessary steps in the direction of getting Africa to that place of influence, respect, and dignity. And this momentum starts at meetings such as those in Davos.

* Mary-Jean Nleya is the founder and editor of The Global Communiqué . She is also a One Young World Ambassador.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter Daily Update
Get the best of CNBC Africa sent straight to your inbox with breaking business news, insights and updates from experts across the continent.
Get this delivered to your inbox, and more info about about our products and services. By signing up for newsletters, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.