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Posted on Monday, 16 March 2015 17:37

Africa's development: How to get there, fast

By Prince Ofori-Atta

Donald Kaberuka, President of African Development BankAfrica needs quality education and a reliable power infrastructure to realise its growth potential, high profile panelists told more than 800 business and political leaders at The Africa CEO Forum in Geneva, Switzerland.

The continent is an attractive investment destination if its education and energy sectors are addressed to take advantage of the burgeoning technology industry.

Things are happening in small towns. What is missing is electricity to help a real take off of innovation

The minimum wage in Europe is between 20 and 30 euros compared to Algeria's 2.50 euros per hour. The amount is even less in the rest of Africa.

While the potential of technology transfer towards Africa holds an incalculable promise of wealth, the question of how the continent can tap into a highly productive, competitive and low cost human capital lingers.

Investments in the power and knowledge industries should be taken into serious consideration, Makhtar Diop, the World Bank's vice-president for Africa, argues.

On a recent visit in Guangzhou, China, Diop, observed that a technology company that specialised in hardware's staff was made up of about 20 people with secondary level education. "Their five supervisors, on the other hand, had tertiary level education".

This observation put the quality of China's educational system into perspective and has influenced Diop's advocacy for quality education, not only at tertiary level but at all levels across the continent.

Quality education is of the essence if the continent is to take advantage of the opportunities that technology, a new source of global wealth, brings to the fore.

A look at some of the world's richest countries today is enough to understand that wealth is not created by availability of resources and "that is where [we realise the importance of] the knowledge industry."

Energy

While Africa is expected to grow to a 30 trillion dollar economy in the next 20 years, "the question is not how we are going to get there, but how fast we get there."

The continent's current energy challenges have demonstrated how a deficit in this sector can prolong, or even impede, Africa's growth path.

According to Donald Kaberuka, president of the Africa Development Bank, apart from growing the continent's gross domestic product, we need to look at other developments to heave the poor out of poverty.

Energy is a critical issue now and addressing the shortfalls in Africa's energy infrastructure is crucial, especially because industrialisation is needed as the pool factor for its development.

"The sooner we fix the energy infrastructure, the faster we'll get to development", says Keberuka. "Things are happening in small towns. What is missing is electricity to help a real take off of innovation".



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