Africa-OnTheRise was invited to participate in the High-Level Forum Africa-Europe hosted by the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The forum, themed “Taking Cooperation to the Digital Age” held in Vienna, Austria on December 18, 2018.
The High-Level Forum was organized to provide an avenue for European and African leaders, together with CEOs of major global companies, innovation champions, start-ups and other stakeholders, to reflect and act on what needs to be done to secure prosperity and competitiveness on both continents as well as to deepen the relationship in all its aspects with a specific focus on taking our cooperation to the digital age.
Premised on the need for Europe to take the extent and quality of its cooperation with Africa to a new level, and move beyond focusing on migration as a common challenge, this Forum hoped to contribute to this aim.
Here are key takeaways from the sessions we participated in:
Disrupt Collaboration: For a Different African-European Collaboration in the Digital Age
The forum began for us with this Side Event discussing the future of collaborations in the digital age. It was a highly interactive session with group discussions around a thesis being developed on the characteristics of doing business in the digital age namely, Empowerment, Income, Purpose and Co-Creation. It was also established that for Africa to effectively leverage an EU-Africa partnership for economic development, it first needs to address and solve it education challenge and infrastructure gap across the continent.
Opening of the High-Level Forum
“We share the same vision, so we must work together.”
Leaders from across Africa and Europe at the Forum all seemed to agree that Africa indeed has a lot of potential for growth and development, but several speeches couldn’t help but mention the migration issues still. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda specifically called on his European counterparts to not measure migration statistics, but rather look to the potential of Africa’s digital economy. According to Kagame, “Today’s forum is another step on the journey we have embarked on together…If Africa gains, Europe gains.” Europe and Africa need to ensure that its partnership has the right infrastructure and mechanisms, beyond the Forum, for it to succeed.
Investing in Start-ups: Innovative Business Solutions for Africa
With a presentation by Tomi Davies, Co-Founder of Lagos Angels Network and President of the African Business Angel Network, to set the stage for this Side Event, this was easily a favourite segment of the forum. According to Tomi Davies, “I come asking you to invest in Africa, not with a begging bowl or as a charity case, but because there is economic benefit for you in Africa.” With a population of 1.25 billion, Africa’s GDP as at 2017 sits at $2.19 Trillion and has a PPP of $6.36 Trillion, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Nora Wolloch, Project Manager at World Summit Awards also brilliantly conveyed the challenges and solutions as proffered by several African startups and entrepreneurs, you can find her full report in this LinkedIn Article she published.
The friendships forged with the other African Entrepreneurs supported to attend the High-Level Forum Africa-Europe is perhaps the main outcome from this event, as well as the new connections made with potential for collaborations at different levels.
The information and insight gained from the several panel discussions and side-events have also provided perspective on several discussions around the African start-up ecosystem, and the economic development of the African continent.
All in all, it was an enlightening forum, one that I reckon, has expanded the pathway to prosperity for Africa, especially for young entrepreneurs and businesses. As we continue to advocate for the advancement of an African single digital market, we recall that it can only be achieved by infusing African economies, through its businesses and communities, with technology, infrastructure and policies that will advance growth and opportunities.
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