WEF Africa: it’s a wrap

Ramaphosa hails ‘fruitful’ WEF mission

Kigali – South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking at a press briefing held to conclude South Africa’s business at the World Economic Forum Africa meetings in Kigali on Friday, congratulated Rwanda on the “incredible strides” the country had taken.

RadebeRamaphosaCweleRamaphosa, flanked by Jeff Radebe, minister in the presidency, and Siyabonga Cwele, South African minister of telecommunications and postal services, said the forum had been a most fruitful one for the large delegation of South African politicians, business people and representatives from civil society.

The deputy president said he had already had good feedback from business people about contacts being made and deals being concluded.

He said the delegation, which had used the opportunity to showcase South Africa as an investment destination, would return home with renewed confidence that the country was very much part of a growing continent.

Commending President Paul Kagame for Rwanda’s “incredible strides” forward, Ramaphosa said South Africa had a lot to learn from what Rwanda was doing extremely well. He particularly noted the fact that free internet was widely available in Rwanda and that Kigali had been turned into an innovation hub.

On the slightly thorny subject raised by journalists of why a foreign investor would choose to invest in South Africa with Rwanda as an alternative option, Ramaphosa, an accomplished businessman and investor in his own right, did not miss a beat.

He admitted South Africa did not compare that favourably with Rwanda on certain issues, such as how easy or quick it is to set up a business, which he said, “Rwanda has perfected”. But, he said, regulatory blockages and hurdles in South Africa would soon be addressed by the ‘One-Stop Investment Shop’ that the government had agreed to set up in the country.

Radebe joined Ramaphosa in emphasising that there was the political will to make this facility a reality and a success.

In his congratulations of Rwanda and Kagame, Ramaphosa recounted an anecdote he had heard. A businessman is said to have commended Kagame on the fact that a business could be set up in Rwanda in just four hours. Kagame is said to have admonished the businessman, saying: “Where did you hear this? It takes three hours!”

Answering questions about the relationship between South Africa and Rwanda, which has not always been that happy, Ramaphosa said the countries had very cordial ties.

“The presence and size of the delegation means South Africa and Rwanda have embraced this notion of working together to achieve our 2063 objectives as a continent,” he said.

Where to next for WEF Africa?

In addition to the usual thanks and congratulations, South Africa’s minister of finance, Pravin Gordhan, used his closing statement at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa meetings on Friday to add a little mystery to next’s year’s WEF Africa event.

Gordhan confirmed that the event would be held in South Africa, as expected, but not in Cape Town, as it was last year. He said the name of the host city would be revealed at a later date. The word on the street, or at least on the tweet, was that it will be held in Durban next year.

We think it is a great choice. The convention centre is right in town and so close to the beachfront with all its fab hotels. The winter climate in Durban is fantastic and there are many great places to eat.

Rwandan-style ICT set to come to SA soon

Cwele
Siyabonga Cwele

South Africans can hope to benefit from efforts to replicate the Rwandan information and communication technology (ICT) model, which has been held up throughout the World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa meetings in the Rwandan capital this week, as the stand-out African leader.

At South Africa’s wrap session, Siyabonga Cwele, South African minister of telecommunications and postal services, talked about what he was taking away from the conference, which was dominated by debates around connectivity and embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

At the session chaired by South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, Cwele said he was going home with a renewed interest in the value of “roaming like home”, the dropping of extra charges for international mobile roaming within a region, which has been a great success in the countries that belong to the East African Community.

Cwele said the Southern African Development Community had previously agreed on a similar policy but implementation had been held up by opposition from the operators, who had argued that this policy would hit their revenues. In Cwele’s words, the operators had said they “might as well pack up and go” if this policy was enforced.

Now, he said, he could take back a concrete example from East Africa, where the growth in data and voice traffic had more than compensated the operators for the revenue they used to make charging high fees to people who were roaming.

Another case that the minister would be taking to the operators in South Africa was the fact that in Rwanda, all telecomms operators shared a single network, a system some have claimed was not viable. Reducing investment in parallel systems and duplicate infrastructure was another way that costs could be brought down, Cwele said.

Talking to the subject of Africa as a single market, a hot topic at the WEF meetings in Kigali, Cwele hinted that South Africa could become a manufacturer of telecomms hardware such as mobile devices. He said he knew the country was a relatively small market on its own, but noted that it was also a member of the African market of more than a billion people. He said this was particularly meaningful considering the strength of the SA manufacturing sector.

Cwele wrapped up by repeating his earlier comments that the challenges Africa faced created opportunity for innovation.

Africa is not one country, but potentially one market

As a pendulum swings, so the global narrative about Africa changes wildly, memorably represented by covers of the Economist magazine, “The Hopeless Continent” in 2000 and “Africa Rising” in 2011. At the World Economic Forum Africa meetings in the Rwandan capital, which close on Friday, it has been striking how “Africa is not a country” has been replaced by “Africa should be one market”.

East Africa has frequently been held up as a good example of regional integration. The East African Community has been pointed to as a case to emulate, evidenced by examples of how small changes, such as removing mobile roaming fees for residents travelling in the region, have had big positive outcomes.

As Arancha Gonzalez Laya, the executive director of the International Trade Centre, told a session on Thursday evening titled Realising Africa as One Market the region has experienced an explosion of voice and data traffic since the charges were dropped.

More than 1,200 participants from at least 70 countries are taking part in the WEF Forum on Africa, being held under the theme Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation.

It has been noted more than once, especially by younger delegates, that the Fourth Industrial Revolution, makes some level of integration inevitable, since trying to make national borders apply in a fully wired world is a bit like having a smoking section in an enclosed room. Still the barriers exist in a continent where more people are not digitally connected than those who are.

Proponents have waxed lyrical about potential benefits, from self-sufficiency to the bargaining power of a combined market of more than a billion people.

Removing barriers to trade, lifting tariffs, enabling the free movement of people and goods between countries have been mooted as tools to dramatically improve the economy of the region. The potential to scale businesses and innovations within the whole of Africa has been mentioned over and over again.

Siyabonga Gama
Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama

But Siyabonga Gama, chief executive officer of South Africa’s Transnet, told the panel that one could dust off any number of studies on the topic, but little had been achieved.

“Ideas are not in short supply; what is in short supply is a bias for action, ” he said.

Liu Guijin, special representative of the Chinese government on African affairs, and Tarek Sultan Al Essa, chief executive officer and vice-chairman of Agility, both emphasised the size of the opportunity and repeated the call for less talk, more action.

Sultan Al Essa said the opportunities presented by an Africa-wide free trade area were tremendous, adding that what he would like to see was “an electronic superhighway for trade facilitation in Africa”.

The mood of the panel was summed up by Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative, when he referred to the classic quote credited to American inventor Thomas Edison, “Vision without action is hallucination.”

A revolution that it is forcing banks to go full circle

Digitisation is causing a revolution in banking in more ways than one: it is ushering in big changes as well as forcing the institutions to go full circle to old-fashioned values like trust, a senior South African banker said on Thursday.

Talking to the African News Agency on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Africa meetings in the Rwandan capital, Nedbank’s chief operating officer, Mfundo Nkuhlu, acknowledged that the Fourth Industrial Revolution had disrupted the industry in a way that was well known in business today.

“We are all challenged to revisit our business models,” he said, “and ask if the way of doing business yesterday is still good enough for today and tomorrow.”

moneyBut, he added, the digital revolution was also forcing banks to go back to the basic principles around knowledge and trust that, in his words, had always underpinned banking.

He mentioned Discovery Bank, which would be a digital bank from the outset, and would soon be coming to South Africa. As the financial services landscape changed and new players, including those from outside of the sector, entered the market, Nkuhlu said , “existing businesses can’t sit back and watch the drama playing out”.

“We have got to respond,” he said.

The question, he said, is what that response will be.

“Banks are looking for that competitive edge that gives them enduring relationships with their clients.”

And a key part of the response, he said, is to reclaim trust.

“We have to go back and win it.”

As many transactions shifted to mobile devices he said the challenge was to make people comfortable with transacting “with us and through this medium”.

He said customers needed to be assured that their money was safe and their data was secure. This would require the bank to get to know its customers better and to build trust with them.

Nkuhlu stressed that the Fourth Industrial Revolution opened up opportunities to solve the other big challenge facing banks, financial inclusion, which “historically we have not been able to solve with the existing models”.

Noting that financial inclusion was intrinsic to growing the economy sustainably, he said: “My own sense is that there is no silver bullet, but there is a revolution under way and this revolution certainly is a game changer.”

So did this revolution open up opportunities to solve the challenge of financial inclusion?

“I think so, it’s got to get us there,” he said.

Africa’s challenges are a blessing for innovation

Siyabonga Cwele, South African minister of telecommunications and postal services, told a session on Thursday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Africa meetings in the Rwandan capital that the challenges that Africa faced were a blessing for innovation.

Cwele was taking part in a panel discussion between African and global leaders from firms including IBM, General Electric and MasterCard, on the topic of Innovation as a New Driver of Growth in Africa. The panel was moderated by Dr Martyn Davies, managing director of Frontier Advisory Deloitte.

Cwele agreed with fellow panelist Louis Otieno, director of corporate affairs for Africa and the Middle East for Microsoft’s 4Afrika unit, who said: “In Africa we are blessed with a lot of challenges and a population that doesn’t know otherwise, so what you have is people who solve problems.”

The difficulty, Otieno added, was in capturing those solutions.

Collaboration is key for a fully wired Africa

Session after session at the World Economic Forum Africa meeting confirmed the applicability of the African saying “If you want to go fast go alone; if you want to go far go together”.

The saying is relevant for a solution to Africa’s challenge of expanding access to the internet and making the most of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The WEF Africa sessions in Kigali which started Wednesday end on Friday.

RwandaBizA session on Wednesday afternoon, Transforming the Digital Marketplace, ended with consensus that lack of collaboration – between the various parties within countries, the countries themselves and the multinational players – was a major stumbling block to the challenge of hooking millions more Africans into the digital ecosystem.

Siyabonga Cwele, South African minister of telecommunications and postal services, told the session that a shared vision of ICT was crucial because, “basically, technology is changing everything, from industry to business to society”.

If we don’t partner and have a shared vision of the impact of ICT, he argued, no one would be able to reap the full potential of the fourth industrial revolution.

Cwele also noted that trust issues and concerns about privacy needed to be part of any discussion about a solution.

Elizabeth Migwalla, Qualcomm’s senior director for government affairs in South Africa, agreed that a workable solution required the involvement of all parties.

“It is going to take everybody to make this work,” she told the session that was chaired by Pascal Lamy, the French political consultant and businessman, who was the director-general of the World Trade Organisation for many years.

Migwalla noted that there were more Africans who were not connected than those who were connected. She added that what was required was discussion between all parties, including government, industry and consumers, followed by the creation of frameworks for action, and execution.

Tobias Becker, senior vice president and director Africa of ABB, mentioned Africa’s power supply problems as a hindrance, and Charles Muritu, Google’s head of African telco and strategic partnerships in Kenya, named education and lack of skills as significant problems.

The general consensus, however, seemed to be that to take advantage of the enormous potential for economic and social development, Africa would be much better served by a shared vision and larger scale integration.

Boost to fight against cancers that hit African women hardest

The fight against cancers that hit women in Africa especially hard because of late diagnosis received a significant boost with the launch of a new partnership between the World Health Organisation and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) on Wednesday.

A statement from the IFPMA said the new partnership, launched at the World Economic Forum’s Africa meeting being held in the Rwandan capital from May 11-13, will work to improve awareness and to help empower women and healthcare professionals to improve prevention, screening and treatment rates of breast and cervical cancers.

The IFPMA, which represents research-based pharmaceutical companies and associations across the globe, said cancer was an emerging public health problem throughout Africa. The association – which represents the industry whose 1.3 million employees research, develop and provide medicines and vaccines – added that late diagnosis was making its toll that much higher.

RwandaWomanIn sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the incidence of cervical cancer and breast cancer is no higher than in other parts of the world, but the risk of death among women with either disease is much higher than in high-income countries, eight times higher in the case of cervical cancer. This is because many African women are diagnosed late, which hampers effective treatment and care. In sub-Saharan Africa, 22.5 per 100,000 women die from cervical cancer, compared to 2.5 per 100,000 women in North America.

Dr Abdikamal Alisalad, acting director for non-communicable diseases at the WHO’s regional office for Africa, said many lives could be saved if public awareness about the importance of testing and early treatment was strengthened.

He added: “There are many obstacles to cervical cancer screening in resource-constrained countries, generally attributed to the lack of infrastructure as well as technical, medical and financial resources, and a lack of awareness and education on cervical cancer among women and healthcare providers.”

Supported by some funding and in-kind contributions from IFPMA, the partnership will implement cancer prevention and control activities in four countries with a high burden of cervical cancer – Cameroon, Uganda, Swaziland and Zambia – in collaboration with the respective ministries of health.

In addition, the partnership will work with healthcare providers to improve knowledge about screening strategies.

Eduardo Pisani, IFPMA’s director general, said: “Partnerships are the way forward when dealing with complex challenges such as those posed by non-communicable diseases. Working across sectors enables partners to generate health outcomes that are transformational, hence sustainable.”

Commenting on the need to strengthen public-private partnerships such as this one, Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Head of the Secretariat for the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of non-communicable diseases, said: “There is an urgent need to scale up the multiple contributions from the diverse range of private sector entities for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases at national level, while effectively safeguarding public health interests from undue influence by any form of real, perceived or potential conflict of interest.”

She added: “This is a concrete example of how governments can work with the private sector to realise their commitments on non-communicable diseases as outlined and promised through high-level political declarations.”

‘Coding is the new language. Every child deserves to be fluent’

You know when you are witnessing something special when targets and goals are given as multiples of earlier figures: double this, quadruple that. So it was at the launch of Africa Code Week on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Africa meeting in the Rwandan capital on Tuesday night.

SAP, which is leading the project, announced that it expected to double the reach of the programme this year, from the 89,000 young people who were introduced to code last year.

Who knows what might happen to that multiplier since last year’s target had been to train 20,000 youngsters. In the event nearly four times as many were trained across 17 countries in 10 days.

Africa Code Week is supported by hundreds of partners including African governments, NPOs, NGOs, educational institutions and businesses including the Cape Town Science Centre, the Galways Education Centre, Google, Ampion, the King Baudouin Foundation and Atos.

With the tag line “Coding is a new language. Every child deserves to be fluent”, the programme’s aim is to foster digital literacy and equip the continent’s rising generation with job-relevant digital skills.

Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s minister for youth and information communication technology, said that literacy today should go beyond just knowing how to read and write, even beyond knowing how to use a computer and basic digital literacy.

“Basic literacy for the next generation should be about coding,” he said.

MiCasa&Me
Mi Casa and me

In addition to drop-ins from a number of government and business leaders gathered in Kigali for the WEF Africa meetings, the launch of Africa Code Week was attended by more than a few of Africa’s hottest young things in the world of coding. And who better to entertain Africans at the cutting edge than the popular South African band Mi Casa.

Word on the street is that the band does more for the programme than provide entertainment, with band members playing a role in training too.

In a statement, SAP said the long-term goal of Africa Code Week was to “empower more than 200,000 teachers and positively impact the lives of five million children and youth over the next 10 years”.

Africa has the fastest growing digital consumer market in the world and the largest working age population. Yet, according to SAP, a market leader in enterprise application software, African companies are scrambling to fill positions with people with the right digital skills.

It is estimated that less than one percent of African children leave school with basic coding skills.

The company noted that Rwanda is an excellent illustration of how investing in ICT skills can transform an economy.

The country is overcoming its difficult past and emerging as a regional hi-tech hub, which is creating enormous opportunities for its rapidly growing young population.

Africa Code Week workshops for younger age groups (12-17 years) will be based on Scratch, a learning platform developed by the MIT Media Lab to simplify coding. Students will learn coding basics and programme their own animations, quizzes and games.

Older students will be taught an introduction to web technologies, giving them a basic understanding of web architecture and how to build a fully operational mobile-friendly website.

Broad approach needed to achieve internet for all

Efforts to extend the reach of the internet to the 4 billion people worldwide not yet connected will succeed only if equal attention is given to all four pillars of the digital ecosystem, namely access, affordability, skills and content, according to a report released by the World Economic Forum on Tuesday.

WEF put further weight behind the so-called digital ecosystem approach as it released key lessons and best practices from Internet For All, a global initiative to develop models for large-scale public private collaboration to accelerate the widening of internet access.

The report, a collection of best practices from around the world on how public-private collaboration has enabled internet access and adoption, was released as delegates began to gather in Kigali, Rwanda, for WEF’s annual Africa meetings, scheduled to take place from May 11-13.

RwandaICTMore than 1,200 participants from at least 70 countries are taking part in the WEF Forum on Africa, being held under the theme Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation.

The new report, titled Internet for All: A Framework for Accelerating Internet Access and Adoption, forms the basis of the Internet For All initiative’s first phase and concludes with a framework for governments and businesses to accelerate large-scale internet adoption.

The framework will be implemented in an initial project in the Northern Corridor countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.

The first phase, which has the full endorsement of the various governments, will target the 75 million people in these countries who do not have access to the internet.

Alex Wong, head of WEF global challenge partnerships and member of the executive committee, said low internet penetration significantly impacted a country’s ability to participate in the digital economy, which was becoming an increasingly important priority for development.

“We know it is possible to break down the digital divide for the 55 percent of the world’s population that is still not connected. Now it’s time for governments, businesses and civil society to make it happen,” Wong added.

Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s minister for youth and information communication technology, said the first phase of the project aimed to help bring 25 million more people in the Northern Corridor of East Africa online by 2019.

He added: “Achieving Internet for all is a critical priority for Africa to take full advantage of enormous current and future digital opportunities.” – African News Agency

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Siobhan Cassidy

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