African Leaders Gather to Measure Progress: Last Month's WEF Africa Economic Summit Was a Huge Success. Omar Ben Yedder Reports from Mozambique
Yedder, Omar Ben, African Business
Set in the welcoming and relaxing city of Maputo, the African Economic Summit (AES), as always, turned out to be a well attended and fascinating affair. This was despite the dominance of participants from Southern Africa and the shortage of delegates from North Africa and Francophone countries.
The African Economic summit attracted a large number of leaders from politics, art and business from more than 43 countries. Hosted for the first time in Maputo, the AES was a huge success. Except for the wait on arrival at Maputo for visas, the organisation was first class.
The conference centre, built to host last year's AU summit was ideal. It was close to town and there was an electronic networking system enabling participants to send instant messages to each other, as well as a high speed internet connection for all participants.
In last month's African Business cover story--Cut the Talk, Walk the Walk--we speculated on what would be achieved at the forum. These gatherings are not designed to produce concrete action plans but they provide ideal opportunities to gather top people and get them to exchange ideas. They also provide opportunities for small enterprises and entrepreneurs seeking new business opportunities.
One was also able to gauge the current state of play in Africa by the complexity and sophistication of the issues being discussed. President Chissano, for example, told African Business, "we have gone from asking 'why don't you do this and that' to 'how have you done this and that'".
Sir Mark Moody-Stewart, chairman of Anglo American and co-chair of the summit, described the forum to African Business thus: "It's a chance to get people together, ensure we are all communicating and that there is a general alignment in policies, schools of thought, ideas. It is an ideal place to measure progress and it is an enabling mechanism. There has been progress, for example Nepad and the APRM, even if it isn't as quick as some people would desire. Also Mozambique did a fantastic job hosting this event, and making it enjoyable for everyone."
The topics covered a variety of subjects ranging from water and Zimbabwe to supplying China's boom, as well as a number of on site trips to examine first hand some Mozambican success stories.
Nepad was mentioned at every session. This is the partnership geared to drive Africa forward and to link the private and the public sector. Nepad's APRM is being closely monitored as it is seen as a key tool to ensure governments act responsibly and provide the right environment for businesses and civil society to flourish. It is also key to improving Africa's image as an attractive place to do business and consequently attract FDI.
When asked what the sanctions of the APRM are, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki said that the APRM cannot work if we start by foreseeing sanctions. "The aim of the APRM is not to punish--it is a mechanism to support change," Mbeki asserted. "The aim is to help those who cannot see on their own what is wrong, and the cause of their shortcomings. The punishment will be self evident as investors shy away." He continued to say that with the APRM everyone comes under review--and the participation of everyone, including businesses and NGOs, is important. Hence the importance of everyone being involved in the partnership.
Thulani S Gcabashe, chief executive of the South African power company Eskom, added that one of the benefits of the WEF gatherings is that various role players can synergies. A prime example was a session that had shown that the private sector was not aware of what Nepad is doing in terms of short term infrastructure projects. The Nepad secretariat will now ensure a better flow of information so that businesses are aware of these opportunities.
The issue of trade was also omnipresent at the AES. Opinions may have differed over detail, but the facts are the same. …