WEF Africa 2016 to Focus on Digital Transformation

For the past 25 years, the World Economic Forum has made attempts to inform Africa’s socio-economic affairs by convening yearly gatherings to discuss key aspects of the continents transformation.

Like it does in other parts of the world, the forum organisers curate the agenda and topics for discussion according to the economic trends and the region’s ambitions.

This year, the 26th edition of the gathering comes to Kigali, convening the world’s rich, famous and powerful under the theme; ‘Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation’.

The forum will take place between May 11 and 13 at Camp Kigali grounds.

According to Rwanda Development Board chief executive officer, Francis Gatare, this year’s edition will attract an estimated participation of about 1,500 delegates, including about 10 heads of state.

The long trip to Africa

The African edition of the summit was first held in Davos, Switzerland, in 1990. It was not until 1993 that the summit was held on the African continent, South Africa.

In the following years, the conference has been held in multiple African countries with last year’s summit being held in Cape Town, South Africa.

The African edition of the forum comes after the main event held in Davos, Switzerland, which was themed around the fourth Industrial revolution which is characterised by disruptive technology such as 3D printing and artificial intelligence.

Organisers say the deliberations at the forum will essentially look at the fourth industrial revolution through African eyes and through Africa’s economic strength at the moment.

According to a concept note of the forum, Africa’s positive economic outlook is under pressure mainly due to major shifts in the global economy.

The urgency to address underlying issues organisers say is that the pressure comes at a time when countries are making efforts to improve their investment climate and undertake macroeconomic policy reforms and grow foreign direct investment flows.

“In this context, Africa’s leaders need to pursue new approaches to ignite structural transformation, particularly in the face of rapid technological changes that have the potential to create new industries and reduce inequality,” the note reads in part.

Translating devt paradigm

Noting that the continent’s structure and economy is much dependent on resources, organisers add that the forum will examine possibilities of translating the issue in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“That means developing its human resources and figuring out ways of diversifying so that resources and energy continue to be a major part but not the dominant driver of growth it has been in the past,” Oliver Cann, the director of media relations at WEF, told The New Times last week.

Cann said there will also be focus on trade with an aim of bringing together stakeholders from different levels to see governments and business rejuvenate efforts towards a trading environment that can unlock investments.

Previous forums have been seen to introduce impactful interventions that have shaped the continent’s economic trends.

Initiatives such as the Africa Strategic Infrastructure Initiative, a project aimed at supporting infrastructure development in Africa, African Energy Leaders Group, a multi-stakeholder advocacy group that aims to address Africa’s power deficiency and the Grow Africa fund were incepted at previous forums.

Beyond planned sessions, the forum also brings together business leaders with some informal sessions turning into regional enterprises.

Atlas Mara Group founded by Ashish Thakkar and Bob Diamond which has stakes in about 8 banks in seven countries came to be from such meetings.

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