On May 8, the annual World Economic Forum – Africa meeting kicked off in Cape Town South Africa. About a thousand government officials from across Africa, as well as senior officials from the United States and other Western nations were joined by hundreds of business leaders from Africa and representatives from major international corporations, international development agencies and NGOs.
On Thursday May 9th, the Africa Competitiveness Report 2013, was released by the World Bank in cooperation with the World Economic Forum and the African Development Bank. According to the report there is a growing international attention focused on Africa as an investment destination and mounting talk of an African economic renaissance. This increased optimism is being spurred on by a decade of historically strong growth, with many countries in Africa relatively unharmed by the global economic crisis, thanks to prudent macroeconomic management.
However, growth remains unevenly spread across the region and has not yet translated to a rise in living standards comparable to those observed in other rapidly growing developing regions in the world. The question of how sustainable and inclusive Africa’s growth will be going forward remains. Many efforts are still needed for African economies to diversify and enhance their competitiveness so that they can absorb the 10 million new entrants to the labour force every year.
The report notes that, on a continent-wide level, Africa’s competitiveness is lagging behind Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The areas in which the gap is most evident are those of quality institutions; infrastructure; education; and macro-economic stability. Then there is the competitiveness divide between African economies themselves. While the likes of South Africa and Mauritius are just below the Southeast Asian average, and above India (59) and Russia (67), 14 of the bottom 20 economies on the Global Competitiveness Index are African and the report calls for greater regional integration and trade.
On Friday May 10th three young global leaders gave short talks on how to adopt creative solutions for advancing African Economies. In these times of increased global complexity and economic uncertainty, the world needs to rely more than ever on innovation and creativity. Mandla Sibeko, WEF Young Global Leader, CEO of Icon South Africa and and Advisor to Bearing was one of the three speakers.