What follows are comments, ideas, suggestions, and thoughts on Africa’s development in all sectors, as well as the continent’s ability to manage through crises, such as the coronavirus pandemic. Most of these leaders are either living, working, or in some way, impacting Africa. Consider this our “Innovator and Leader Think Tank on Africa’s Development and Challenge Management.” The first comment, we want to share is actually from a US political leader whose love affair with Africa is no secret to the continent.
Senator Wayne King of the United States
“Africa promises to be one of the fastest-growing sectors of the international community and especially vulnerable without the institution of well-founded protocols for security.
I, in collaboration with Philip Knight Bates, Cyber Security guru at the University of California in Santa Barbara, are working to create an indigenous network of well-trained support teams to assist both businesses and the Civil Society Community in Africa to arm themselves with the knowledge and tools they need to assure the security of their networks and their financial systems.”
For reference: Senator Wayne Douglas King was the 1994 Democratic nominee for Governor of New Hampshire, United States. He founded The Electronic Community – social entrepreneurs working on social and development issues in Africa. He has empowered over 200 African NGOs and is today working assiduously on cyber vulnerability and security in Africa, focusing on social media, scams, and email threats, smartphones, and the internet of things. He’s the Publisher of Heart of NH Magazine, and, most recently, CEO and President of MOP Environmental Solutions, Inc. King and Bates are committed to creating a homegrown network of qualified support that offers African solutions to the unique challenges of the continent.
Pascal Finette, Co-Founder @ be radical. Singularity University‘s Chair for Entrepreneurship & Open Innovation. Venture Partner @ BOLD.
“I’m most interested in questions around what the future looks like; how it is being shaped by technology, and how one connects and stays relevant. Tech is growing fast in Africa and particularly vibrant in places like Kenya with software and hardware development. Singularity University (where I chair the entrepreneurship and open innovation track) has a growing and passionate presence across the continent with local chapters in many large cities, Summits happening throughout the year, and a country partner based in South Africa. To address the need for innovator training in places where learning opportunities are thin, there are platforms with amazing educational opportunities for startups without cost. The person just needs to speak English and have decent Internet connectivity. For example, Y Combinator, probably the best accelerator program in the world (headquartered in Silicon Valley), now has a startup school with free content. https://www.ycombinator.com/”
Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, CEO EpiAFRIC, Senior Fellow, Aspen New Voices Fellowship, Dir. of Policy & Advocacy, Nigeria Health Watch
“I wear several hats under public health, addressing those concerns from different angles. As the CEO of EpicAFRIC, we conduct research, promote and conduct health communication and training as critical components of public wellness and foster our Health Meets Tech agenda that focuses on indigenous tech solutions to health challenges across Africa. In my role as a Senior Fellow with the Aspen New Voices Fellowship at the Aspen Institute, we are working within a groundbreaking initiative designed to bring more expert voices from the developing world into a communications platform on global development. But, more specific to the impact in Nigeria, in my role as Director of Policy and Advocacy with Nigeria Health Watch, we are working to grow community interest in healthcare to prevent epidemics in Nigeria. We need to get government and NGOs to budget and appropriate more money to increase the interest in and action toward preparedness. We are working with governments and legislative bodies to get to that result. We have evidence from the ebola outbreak when the World Bank produced an assessment of losses suffered in West Africa from that epidemic. They concluded the loss to be $3 billion in GDP. They also assessed that another pandemic in Nigeria alone would create losses of about $3.5 billion in GDP annually. An epidemic doesn’t spare anyone! The coronavirus is on our heels. It’s far more cost-effective to educate to prevent loss now. We need telehealth solutions and to employ technology where it is possible. We need state action!”
Nikesh Patel, African Entrepreneur, International Business Developer, Honorary Consul, Republic of Rwanda
“Africa is an enormous continent with 54 very diverse countries and with a combined population of over 1.2 billion, mostly youthful people, that are rapidly urbanizing and getting wealthier. Each country has its own unique business and socio-economic environment. This makes business development in Africa enormously challenging as there is no one size fits all approach to this. However, if business development is done with a clear strategic approach, then the rewards are rich. Here are some sections to consider for business development:
Agricultural production & food security
Agriculture employs 60 percent of Africa’s labor force, while three-fifths of farmers work at a subsistence level. Efforts in many African countries to increase agricultural production have not guaranteed food security, and this represents a significant opportunity.
Action to boost manufacturing. With its plentiful raw materials, a youthful population providing an able workforce, and the growing urbanization driving higher incomes and a growing middle class, the conditions are ripe for industries — manufacturing, mining, and construction.
Providing access to safe drinking water
Around 340 million Africans have no access to safe drinking water. Uneven water distribution is one problem. The infrastructure capacity to provide safe water is an opportunity as is harvesting rainwater.
The rapid growth of urban areas adds to the discharge of wastes in water and other uncontrolled places. There is a case to support the transfer of knowledge and technology for environmentally sound management of wastes.
Enhancing the efficient use of energy resources. Africa, with 13 percent of the world’s population, produces 7 percent of global commercial energy but consumes only 3 percent of it. In sub-Saharan Africa, traditional fuels, such as firewood, constitute two-thirds of energy consumption. This is not sustainable so there needs to be a focus on sustainable consumption and production to enhance the efficient use of energy resources.
Africa is the fastest-growing tourist destination in the world
About 7.7 million people are employed in Africa’s tourism and travel sector, according to the UN World Tourism Organization. Most African governments have tourism in their development strategies, including marketing, research and development, and codes of conduct for tourism. There are plans to invest in major projects likely to generate spin-offs and enhance Africa’s economic integration.
Education and health
A youthful population needs to be educated and to be kept healthy. There is a big opportunity in this.”
Andrew Rae is an expert in international relations and development with a focus on Africa and Europe’s interactions in the pursuit of development
“The question of where the communications of African leaders should be focussed is an interesting one that is multifaceted and steeped in history. In the first instance, the Continental leadership should be focussing on partnerships which are not existent only in name, but rather, are partnerships in the truest sense of the word. Thus, the old model of trade in resources on a pure consumption basis with developed countries of the Global North is unsustainable. The world is rapidly moving into the 4th Industrial Revolution and the Continent needs to move with it or risk falling behind to a point that it may never catch up with the rest of the pack. Thus, communications and partnerships have to be entered into with start-up incubator ecosystems throughout the world in order to provide training, resources, and market access. This access can be negotiated nationally, but more and more often, the key points of connection in this regard, are at provincial/state levels of governance and even, on many occasions, at a city/municipal level. Governments need to establish all international partnerships around the infrastructure and renewable energy necessary for the survival and growth of start-ups.
Africa has developed, to my knowledge, only 1 ‘unicorn.’ The Continent has the skills base to establish many more but requires access to expertise, knowledge, venture capital, and incubators which are only really available in the developed world. There are many gaps in government services that create prime opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs, but they can only access these gaps with the correct partnership frameworks in place at an international level.
The second area of partnerships and communication needs to be defined by the work of the African Union, and specifically, the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, towards the successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. It is only through realizing this ambitious plan that the unlocking of a 1.2 billion-person market will occur, including a rapidly growing middle class with a GDP of US $3.4 trillion. The power of this market as a tool to increase intra-continental trade from its currently very low levels could be the catalyst to spur the African Continent toward a growth trajectory similar to those of China and India. Intra-African partnerships are the only truly sustainable means to consecutive years of continuous growth necessary for Africa to fill in the gaps in services, and socio-economic advancement, as well as for employment to increase and government tax revenues alongside that.
The markets are there, the technology is there, and the desire is there. Intra-African trade is the key to sustained development and the advancement of the cause to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development objectives.
If the two focal points above could be achieved, then the Continent’s economic and social growth trajectory would be incredible. This said, Africa is currently on the periphery of a global viral outbreak. It will not be long before the Covid-19 Virus takes hold on the Continent. It is exactly at a time like this that the above points pick up relevance. People need to be able to report their status via mobile apps or remotely converse with doctors. Hospitals and government departments need to be able to communicate with the populous and with each other remotely. Companies need to be able to have employees working from home. Food deliveries could be undertaken via apps to individuals who are sick so they do not infect others in supermarkets. Space is there for initiatives such as these in a pandemic scenario. Yet, these do not exist. They do not exist because technology from abroad is designed to create markets for companies from abroad. As long as Africa is reliant on foreign tech from foreign companies it will never grow its own ecosystems. And without growing its own ecosystems it will only ever develop up to a certain point and no further. This is not to argue in the old manner of the 1980s and 1990s that the corporation is there to dominate all in its path; those arguments are outdated at best and fallacious at worst.
Africa’s development will be assisted from abroad but will only ever gain the necessary momentum when it is driven and sustained from within the billion-person 3-trillion-dollar market that is waiting to be tapped.”
David Watson Mwabilia, Co-Founder – Research and Development at Dytech Limited, Zambia
“Regarding the coronavirus, what we should know is that Africans are by nature very social people. We are more interactive than other cultures. That coupled with our health systems are not designed to mitigate something like this. So, there are three major critical issues that require close examination: 1) a broken healthcare system 2) people live in close quarters with little or no access to water and 3) high poverty levels, so soap and hand sanitizer are considered luxuries. The coronavirus pandemic makes our situation critical; we risk losing millions of lives and experience a severe economic recession.
Our culture is not built to handle this social distancing requirement. Health is not considered over the show of affection or respect. In Zambia, when someone extends their hand for a handshake, it is considered rude not to respond accordingly. We need a call for help – the government and other stakeholders must get involved. Private sector participation is limited, thereby limiting market-driven solutions that may be paramount for a crisis of this magnitude. It’s quite difficult for the government, not only in Zambia but across the region to adopt and employ new tech when we are challenged with technical disabilities and limited resources.
As an innovator and problem solver, I am constantly reminded of the fact that my people and I must prepare for the worst; simultaneously, we must meet the challenge of not losing what we already have. People must be sensitized to practice basic good hygiene and learn to avoid physical contact with others without removing what makes us special. This means that we all must play a critical role in working with local governments to provide World Health Organization-verified information to the public to reduce myths. But most importantly, there is a need to build each country’s capacity to respond to the pandemic. The improvement must follow a deliberate strategic plan that is, 1) country-specific in assessing, responding, and mitigating risks, 2) improve country’s preparedness and response to outbreaks 3) accelerate research and development, and 4) design mechanisms that will help to prevent economies from collapsing. “