The sixth edition of the Global Business Forum (GBF) Africa concluded at Expo 2020 Dubai after two full days of thought-provoking sessions that explored the factors that are expected to boost Africa’s economic growth and development in the post-Covid era and beyond.
Human capital, infrastructure, logistics, entrepreneurship and the digital economy were among the key topics discussed during the high-level forum, which was organised by Dubai Chamber in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai.
Highlighting the fundamental role of education, Fred Swaniker, founder of the African Leadership Academy and the African Leadership Network, shared his thoughts in a session titled The Future Workforce, which explored the role of developing human capital as an essential foundation for growth.
“The role of governments in shaping employment must include several reforms, including developing infrastructure and making optimal use of human resources while facilitating access to technology such as the Internet, accelerating and reducing the cost of learning. Human beings are the real wealth of the African continent, which possesses young human capital and which needs to refine their skills and competencies,” he said.
Bringing together innovative minds from both regions was the session Bridging African and Emirati Entrepreneurs, which focused on helping African entrepreneurs develop and grow their businesses and discussed the ways to enhance the incubation environment for budding businesses.
Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, Chief Executive Officer, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Nigeria, said:” Through our robust network that is active in all 54 African countries, we are keen to empower entrepreneurs across our continent through our programmes, research, communities, advocacy, and convenings. We have been supporting over 10,000 African entrepreneurs over the past years. We believe that the new generation in Africa has an unlocked potential to thrive and grow.”
Dr Eleni Gabre-Madhin, Chief Innovation Officer, UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, Ethiopia, said: “UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa is on a mission to support the African entrepreneurs. We have partnered with different parties to continue investing in the youth. It is our responsibilities to invest in their potential, talent, energy and enthusiasm and create the opportunity for them to help them achieve their business goals and hence contributing to the economy of Africa.”
Mona Ataya, Chief Executive Officer, Mumzworld, UAE, commented: “We are working in 20 countries across the Middle East region, and we will continue to support entrepreneurs to follow their passion for growing their businesses. We believe that the UAE has one of the best environments to support startups, and the African business society can benefit from the Emirati experiment. We have witnessed that the government of the UAE is always supporting the business community in the country, and we hope our partners in Africa can benefit from it.”
In the session titled Connecting the Markets of Tomorrow, the panel which included the Minister of Industry and Trade of Mozambique, discussed the role of logistics and infrastructure to underpin Africa’s economic resurgence.
“We expect economic growth of 2.9% this year, as the government is focusing on sectors such as energy, infrastructure and tourism in its economic plan for the next five years. We value immensely the role of logistic and shipping services to enhance the trade flow in the country and supporting our regional trade,” said H.E. Carlos Alberto Fortes Mesquita, Minister of Industry and Trade, Mozambique.
“UPS is operating in 220 in countries and contributing 2% of the global GDP. We are excited about the opportunities that we are witnessing in Africa. The SMEs in Africa are looking for the means to sell their products around the world, especially in the countries like Rwanda and Ghana that have adapted the open market mechanisms and liberalised their cross border systems. We have started delivering goods using drones, as we believe that bringing advanced technologies to the African market is essential to boost trade flow, said” Laura Lane, Chief Corporate Affairs, Communications and Sustainability Officer, UPS USA.
“For the past years, DP World has been operating in Africa. We believe that Mozambique has rich natural resources that enable the country to build an excellent regional trade flow. Over the past four years, we have been investing $90 Million in Maputo. We are committed to continuing to invest $120 Million to expand Maputo’s port and increase its capacity, enabling Mozambique to be the trade gateway to the Sub-Saharan Africa region,” said Abdulla Bin Damithan, UAE Region CEO and Managing Director, DP World.
Drawing the second day to a close was the session The Smart Economy, which saw its panellists assert that Africa’s future economy will be smart, digital-first, outward-looking, and interconnected – all areas where Dubai excels.
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Angela Kyerematen-Jimoh shared IBM’s definition of a smart economy with the panel. “For us, a smart economy is instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent. Instrumented means being able to collect data unlike any data collection we were able to do before. Meanwhile, Interconnected means that data, society, and the people are able to share information like never before. And finally, an Intelligent economy is an economy that has been able to leverage all data collected to make informed decisions,” she said.
For her part, Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa said: “Dubai has a very digital-forward environment and that is what we aspire to. What we are witnessing in Africa right now is that a lot of tech businesses founded by Africans are moving back to the continent. We have had several ag-tech launches, but what we see most significantly on the African continent are fintech companies. There are now seven African fintech businesses with a valuation of one billion dollars. And there are more of them being developed on the continent, and helping people who had previously been unbanked to have access to advanced banking services.”
CAFU’s Alaa El-Huni outlined the three main bottlenecks his company anticipates in their growth plans for Africa, noting that these are challenges likely to arise in any part of the world the company may expand into:
“First, there are regulations, because we operate in a new field, and we need regulators to understand what we do, but also to understand that they are not ‘regulating the digital’, rather they are regulating in the digital age. The second challenge is capital flows, where there have to be clear and transparent ways for cash to flow. Third and perhaps most importantly, is talent. We are looking to create something in Africa and whatever it is we would like to launch or create, it has to be co-created with the local resource pool.”
GBF Africa 2021 was hosted at Dubai Exhibition Centre under the theme Transformation Through Trade, bringing the trade and investment community together to explore bilateral trade opportunities between Dubai and sub-Saharan Africa. The event is the first in Dubai Chamber’s programme of events that it is running as the Official Business Integration Partner for Expo 2020 Dubai, with other Global Business Forums taking place over the six months of the expo including GBF Latin America and – for the first time – GBF ASEAN.