Preparing for Africa’s growing global role

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Lukas Bester, Freelance Researcher and Writer – World Economic Forum, Sustainable Development Consultant in Emerging Markets


  • A panel of public and private sector leaders, including Patrick Achi, Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, met at Davos 2022 to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing Africa.
  • Discussions focused on the potential to harness Africa’s young population for economic development, technological growth, and the threat of climate change.

Leading a dynamic panel at Davos 2022, Nzinga Qunta of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, asked participants how they see Africa’s role on the global stage evolving in the 21st century.

With a strong focus on both the opportunities presented by the continent’s young population – and the threats posed by not harnessing the youth’s potential – Qunta engaged panellists to explore what lies ahead for the continent.

Patrick Achi, Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, insightfully laid out how efficiently employing human capital is a key building block in the development of a country: “If you analyze how certain countries, like Singapore, have leapfrogged developmentally in recent decades, you will come to the conclusion that the core strength is human capital. If you can educate your people and foster a culture of leadership, you will be able to accomplish great things. We have to properly educate our youth and prepare them for professional life.”

Agreeing with Achi, Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, CEO of internet giant Naspers South Africa, emphasized the role of the private sector in ensuring the development of human capital on the continent:

“One of Africa’s main geographical dividends is its youth. If we can leverage this globally, we can benefit many countries. As a technological business, we’ve been very focused on empowering young people. We are empowering young people with digital skills to realize their potential.”

How can digital technologies help deliver the climate goals?

Global net zero commitments from businesses and governments are projected to decrease GHG emissions by 7.5% by 2030 – we need 55% to meet global goals. Filling this gap will require rewiring high emitting sectors around efficiency, circularity, and sustainability.

Research from the World Economic Forum’s Digital Transformation Initiative and Accenture estimates that digital technologies, if scaled, can deliver up to 20% of the reductions we need by 2050 in three high emission industries: energy, materials, and mobility. Depending on how quickly digital technologies are adopted, these industries can realize between 4 and 10% emissions reduction by 2030.

Four different clusters of digital technologies can work together to decarbonize business operations and value chains:

1. Foundational technologies such as big data analytics

2. Decision-making technologies such as AI/Machine Learning and Digital twins

3. Enabling technologies such as cloud, 5G, Blockchain and Augmented Reality

4. Sensing and control technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Drones and Automation

To inspire more adoption and collaboration, the Forum is also curating an inventory of leading examples from partner companies that have implemented digital technologies to reduce their carbon footprint and deliver economic growth.

If your organization is interested in adopting digital technologies for climate action, Join the Forum’s cross-industry Digital Transformation community.

A key point of discussion was Africa’s vulnerability to climate change. The panel agreed that Africa’s developmental progress can be severely impeded by intense weather changes and natural disasters. Ambrosie Orjiako, Chairman of Seplat Energy Plc noted that: “Africa only contributes roughly 3% of all carbon emissions, but is severely affected by it. In the upstream energy market, we are deploying carbon capture technologies and have removed flaring. Africa must align to global priorities in fighting climate change, and, in its efforts, we see plentiful room for private and public partners to work together on finding solutions.”

The panellists were optimistic about the future of the continent, despite the challenges it faces. All agreed that true economic development can be realized through an empowered youth, built on entrepreneurship.

With Mahanyele-Dabengwa highlighting that: “Through a spirit of entrepreneurship, we’ll see our economies grow. Technology is offering entrepreneurs access to much larger markets and so, we are at a point where we can really unlock the continent’s immense potential.”

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