Picture: 123RF/nightman1965
Picture: 123RF/nightman1965

One of the most significant moments at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) was the launch of the new Africa regional stewardship board, whose initial agenda includes delivering on the Africa Growth Platform (AGP).

The AGP, a critical intervention to shape the future of our continent, brings together business, government and civil society in a common programme of action.

The regional stewardship board will function as a reference group and leadership forum for the AGP.

While we recognise the challenges we face, we now have an action-focused, achievable roadmap to take us to the AU’s vision for 2063. If we successfully navigate the developmental headwinds and take advantage of the lucrative tailwinds, we can make it work.

By bringing together corporates, investors, entrepreneurs and governments, the AGP aims to build scale among 100-million African small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups by 2025. It wants to secure commitment from governments to accelerate business growth through policy reforms. It will prioritise building a community of investors to ensure better co-ordination and pooling of resources. The aim is also to forge a community of start-ups, promoting collaboration and sharing of best practice.

The initiative has already generated significant interest and commitment from a number of countries, including Ghana, Botswana and Rwanda, and companies such as AngloGold Ashanti.

To overcome the challenges we face, we need to build purposeful partnerships

As a collective, we are committed to ensuring that the stewardship board’s programme will prioritise four key areas:

• Moving Africa from conflict to stability by focusing on institutional governance, risk resilience, and peace and reconciliation;

• Moving away from continental fragmentation by focusing on institutional governance, and shaping the future of integration and sustainable development;

• Shaping competitive industries, responsible businesses and digital transformation; and

• Maximising the opportunities presented by the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), including innovation, skills development and regional strategies.

What I find particularly encouraging is the AGP’s focus on youth unemployment and entrepreneurship, particularly as two-thirds of the more than 420-million youth in Africa are unemployed or have stopped looking for work.

We would waste this opportunity at our peril. By nurturing entrepreneurial skills, as well as those for the 4IR, we can accelerate the continent’s economic development.

In the build-up to the September WEF Africa 2020, we will be bringing stakeholders together to improve the ability of businesses within target sectors to grow and create jobs. The focus will be both on start-ups and the enabling environment — reducing red tape, increasing funding, and ensuring more rapid talent development.

This is the age of stakeholder capitalism. To overcome the challenges we face, we need to build purposeful partnerships. We can achieve a lot more if all of Africa’s stakeholders act in concert to unleash sustained and inclusive economic growth on the continent.

With President Cyril Ramaphosa chairing the AU this year — also the inaugural year of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement — corporates have an opportunity to be meaningful partners in Africa’s development.

For those of us doing business on the continent, it means we must define ourselves as more than just investors looking for high shareholder returns; we need to position ourselves as trustworthy and reliable partners for development.

Ambitious? Yes. Achievable? It has to be, if we are to secure a decent future for Africa and all who live here.

Pityana is the inaugural co-chair, along with Oby Ezekwesili, of the WEF’s Africa regional stewardship board and president of Business Unity SA