The just concluded Africa Leadership Convention shed light on a number of critical issues that must be addressed by the continent’s political and business leadership to achieve sustainable development.
The convention held in Mombasa and officially opened by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Public Service Minister Dalmas Otieno on behalf of President Kibaki revolved around issues of good governance as a means to ensuring wealth and job creation. Other key issues included promotion to financial markets and making agriculture an attractive venture for the youth and taping of natural resources.
Perhaps, more importantly, the meeting stressed the need for nurturing democracy and developmental leadership – especially relevant for Kenya – coming at a time the country is facing double transition in terms of implementing a new Constitution as well as a transitional election where a sitting president would retire at the end of his term.
The strongest message coming from the convention is that Africa must entrench democratic and developmental leadership as an imperative prerequisite to sustainable wealth and job creation. Speakers said democratic governance must be reflected not just in regular free and fair elections, but in free, fair and equitable access to opportunities by all citizens – including access to free, fair, and just participation in wealth and job creation and benefits accruing therefrom.
In this regard, Africa must begin moving towards integrated approaches to education and training, recognising the commonality of the challenges confronting her people in diverse parts and countries, and the corresponding commonality of solutions.
Education and training should consciously seek to produce graduates that the labour market needs, while the labour market will work with educators and trainers to develop curricula that will produce graduates who are better attuned to the continent’s wealth creation and employment needs.
Education and training must also consciously seek to produce graduates who will contribute to sustainable wealth and job creation, without necessarily seeking to join a crowded job market.
Recognising that development hinges heavily in scientific research, it is imperative that the continent invests in research and development to enhance innovation. Focus on productive sectors, such as in agriculture and mining must be prioritised. The public and private sector on the continent must, moreover, seek to modernise agriculture and agri- business to make it appealing to the continent’s educated youth.
Development and expansion of roads, railways, airports, and ports to open up the continent to itself, is not an option: It is an imperative. It must be aggressively and consciously pursued so as to open up movement of goods and people everywhere within the continent. This goes side by side with sustained and concerted investment in the energy sector.
Intra-African trade must be prioritised, and in this regard begging the question why the operationalisation of East African Co-operation has dragged on for far too long. Planned and sustainable movement from regional markets to a common African market is a priority. Africa must tap its internal home population of more than one billion people as its primary common market. Beyond this, Africa must speak with one voice in all international trade forums.
African countries must develop policies that will expand and deepen access to capital markets to ease financial transactions and to free investment by Africa’s people on capital markets anywhere on the continent. Capital Market regulators must imbue investors with confidence on the continent’s capital markets through entrenchment of requisite discipline.
The media of mass communications must also play a constructive role in informing the people..