NewsEast & Horn AfricaWorld Economic Forum on Africa kicks off in Rwanda

Wed,23Aug2017

Posted on Wednesday, 11 May 2016 14:03

World Economic Forum on Africa kicks off in Rwanda

By Mark Anderson

President Paul Kagame. Photo©Michel Euler/AP/SIPARwanda's ambitions to become a global conference hub got a huge boost on Wednesday when President Paul Kagame opened the 26th annual World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa.

This year's conference is the biggest event ever to be held in Kigali, with more than 1,500 high ranking politicians, business executives and academics descending on the capital for three days of talks.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution presents a unique opportunity to build stronger, fairer, more prosperous societies

Rwanda is an obvious choice to host the conference because of this year's theme, which is 'connecting Africa's resources through digital transformation'.

The country has harnessed mobile technology to create one of Africa's fastest growing economies. Rwanda posted economic growth of 6.9 percent last year, according to the World Bank.

The country's ambitious development strategy seeks to make Rwanda a knowledge and services based economy by 2020.

Kagame's government has made strong progress, bringing the poverty rate down from 59 percent in 2001 to 45 percent in 2011.

The achievements are in stark contrast to the continent's projected gross domestic product growth of three percent, which has been hit by a commodities downturn, according to the International Monetary Fund's annual Africa Outlook.

Africa's biggest economies are expected to do poorly off the back of low oil prices. Nigeria's economy is projected to grow 2.3 percent, while South Africa is estimated to expand by just 0.6 percent.

But the East African region is a bright spot, with Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia projected to post strong growth.

The conference will build on discussions hosted by the WEF earlier this year in Davos, Switzerland, where world leaders discussed the fourth industrial revolution, a term coined by World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab.

"The Fourth Industrial Revolution presents a unique opportunity to build stronger, fairer, more prosperous societies, but this can only be achieved through strong institutions, greater regional integration and investment in key areas such as infrastructure, education and industries," said Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa for the World Economic Forum. "There is vast scope for public-private cooperation to help realize these goals."

The forum is being attended by several African heads of state including Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn and Senegal President Macky Sall.

Key African business leaders at the forum include Aliko Dangote of Dangote Industries, Patrice Motsepe of African Rainbow Minerals and Centum Investment chief executive officer James Mworia.

Integration, both regional and continental, is also expected to be one of the key issues at the forum.

Rwanda Development Board chief executive officer, Francis Gatare, told Rwanda's New Times: "The world is fast becoming globalised and interlinked. There are no markets that can work in isolation any longer."



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