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No more free rides for Africa, says Barclays chief

Jun 04 2015 14:01
Carin Smith

Cape Town – There are no free rides for Africa any more, cautioned Antony Jenkins, group CEO of Barclays UK at the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF Africa) on Thursday.

“The challenge for Africa, as with every other part of the globe, is that it would have to compete. There are no free rides any more – only working hard will do the trick going forward,” said Jenkins, who is also a co-chair at WEF Africa this year.

There are two important points to raise at WEF Africa this year, said Jenkins. The first is the importance of creating financial inclusion on the continent and the second is the promotion of trade.

“We must facilitate and promote these issues. It won’t just happen by itself. We all have to work together to create growth in Africa,” said Jenkins.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever UK, agreed with Jenkins on the “no free ride” view.

“It is increasingly not any more about money just easily coming to Africa from overseas. Therefore, we will have to see local private sectors coming to the fore and it can only be done by means of education,” said Polman.

“You cannot just dig holes in Africa any more and ship things out and then reimport (them) at a high price again after value has been added. Rather look at local markets in Africa to add value by creating ecosystems for them.”

He said it is already cheaper to import things from Vietnam than to manufacture it in Nigeria.

Good governance is key in this regard, because otherwise it remains merely the poor who keep on suffering in the end.

“Get the right energy resources – especially green technology - and the right infrastructure by developing the human capital. Create local leaders to take the process forward and create enabling markets, because by creating a good business environment, one can harness the future of Africa,” said Polman.

“Africa can lead in innovation and to me this is a crucial year to address this issue. Climate change is affecting the poor and the cost of not acting is becoming greater than the cost of acting.”

He also pointed out that “the chaotic response” to the Ebola crisis affected the business community as well. Therefore, a better disaster response approach is needed on the continent.

Africa’s youth must be rallied to help shape the continent’s future, said Polman. He pointed out that this must also be the case in agriculture on the continent, because the current average age of farmers in Africa is 57 years.

Michael Rake, chair of BT Group UK and another co-chair at WEF Africa, considers intra-Africa trade the critical issue at hand.



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