Africa can turn economic upturn into lasting, broad-based development – Experts

African experts addressing a panel discussion organised on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Wednesday, May 9, 2012 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, agreed that the continent has great potential and there is a historic opportunity for turning the current economic upturn into lasting and broad-based development.

Participants at the discussion held under the theme: “Africa 2050: A Private Sector Perspective”, also agreed that Africa is the continent of the future, while the moderator, Jenerali Ulimwengu, a media practitioner from Tanzania, urged the youth in the meeting to take up the challenge of stopping the afro-pessimism that exists in various aspects of the society: the media, academia, and the perceptions of individuals.

Organised by the Economic Commission for Africa, the objective of the panel discussion which brought together eminent private sector personalities from the continent who share common concerns and expertise in the financial aspects of Africa’s development,  was to stimulate dialogue on the role of the private sector on Africa’s development goals.

Sharing her thoughts, Eleni Gabre-Madhin, CEO, Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, said agriculture is the sector where Africa has comparative advantage. She thus urged the youth present to find innovative ways to ensure that the continent meets the nutritional needs of all its citizens and break from the cycle of poverty.

For his part, Charles Soludo, former Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, stressed Africans should re-enter the debate and assume the leading role in defining the continent’s development agenda. “Africa has everything to develop itself. We must claim the 21st century and resist its second scramble”, he said.

Commending Soludo’s address, Ermyas Amelga, Chairman, Access Capital, said from the perspective of the corporate world, and a world that is increasingly becoming socially and environmentally conscious, investors are searching for business models that are both lucrative and socially rewarding. “We must find niches that have not been untapped such as the stock market”, he explained.

“Africa’s small but fast-growing companies are increasingly looking to do dual listings, particularly in London, to raise their profile among foreign investors. They are also keen to escape the constraints of their home markets”, James Mwangi, CEO and Managing Director, Equity Bank, Kenya added.

Also contributing to the discourse, Omari Issa, CEO, Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF), reiterated that Africa’s business climate is set for change. He added that it will be the young people brimming with talent and energy and hope who can claim the future that so many in previous generations never realised.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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