Experts on Africa’s prospects under ‘Africa Rising’ concept
How can Africa consolidate its resources to reap the full benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)? This was the prominent theme during a recent panel discussion that was led by Dr Nthabiseng Moleko as part of the MBA module, Perspective on African Frontiers, where business leaders and academia met to deliberate on Africa’s contemporary and prospective opportunities.
It drew panellists such as Dr Louis van Pletsen (Founder and Director – InAfrica Holdings), Dr David Monyae (Co-Director – UJCI), Wilmot Magopeni (Executive Head & Business Development – Africa Insurance at FNB) and Andrew McLachlan (Managing Director Development – Hilton Group).
They also discussed strategies that the continent could pursue in order to strengthen its economic acumen including the value of leadership towards growth. China as a catalyst in African development was also discussed.
Dr Louis van Pletsen mentioned that Africa has a competitive advantage in its resource and capabilities. These include the youngest population (50% is younger than 25 years) and various mineral resources. Proper usage of these resources would enable Africa to make its economic mark in the world. However, Africa currently does not refine its raw materials and is also experiencing a brain drain of the younger innovative generation who have the capacity to increase the continent’s refining ability.
He also stated that Africa is more entrepreneurial than any other entrepreneurial society, arguing that there are millions of people involved in the informal sector. This signals a unique ability for entrepreneurship to thrive in Africa.
Dr David Monyae had strong views on trade barriers and argued that these barriers should be lifted completely. Andrew McLachlan’s view was that Africa needs connectors such as hard and soft infrastructure.
The overall view is that Africa must appeal to a broader set of commodities. Economic leaders need to open up to the global environment and African industry is underserved when it operates in isolation. There is a necessity for African economies to coordinate trade as a region so as to reap maximum benefits and for trade to be mutually beneficial. Coordination is critical towards the sharing of industry knowledge, technology, human resources and capital.
McLachlan was of the view that Africa needed to pull its resources strategically in order to usher in 4IR. Magopeni agreed with this sentiment and argued that Africa ought to consolidate capital, reliable trade partnerships as well as risk and rewards principles in order to facilitate unprecedented growth opportunities. McLachlan also highlighted that Africa has a potential to leapfrog technologies due to the lack or cost of infrastructure, meaning Africa is almost forced to leapfrog many barriers.
The panellists had a positive view that beyond COVID-19, Africa ought to take advantage on the usage of technology with Dr Moleko stating that “COVID-19 was an opportunity for us to rebuild, reconfigure and restructure Africa”.
The takeaway from the panel discussion was that economic growth in Africa was incumbent on leadership. Leadership in the 4IR need not only abide by democratic institutions of integrity and ethics but also with entrepreneurial vigour and strategisation. However, contemporary leadership on the continent is not promising on this front which means a new wave of leadership may be required to fill in this void.
USB’s MBA therefore become all the more relevant in this regards as the programme is earmarked to turn managers into entrepreneurs and 21st century leaders. These prospective leaders should be able to learn from the current mistakes and occupy the gaps that exist within the continent’s path towards harnessing the glory of 4IR.
*This article was written by MBA students as part of a group assignment for the module Perspectives on African Frontiers.