Kampala is hosting the ‘Africa Now’ conference that officially opened Tuesday and will conclude on Thursday.
The conference which has attracted over a thousand participants at Kampala Serena Hotel is running under a theme; “Towards an intergrated, secure and Growing Africa”.
High profile delegates at the conference include the host President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Hassan Suluhu and Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto.
Organisers of this conference say it is aimed at broader conversations around economic transformation, inclusive growth opportunities, investment and trade.
In his remarks to the delegates, President Museveni projected that by 2050, Africa will be the engine of the World economy provided the continent’s leaders solve the existing bottlenecks.
Museveni outlined the major hinderances to Africa’s transformation including; ideological disorientation which he said emphasizes identity rather than interests and this ultimately leads to sectarianism.
He also said presence of a weak State that cannot guarantee security falls prey to the dangers of sectarianism- this weak state cannot therefore protect the private sector growth.
Lack of infrastructure, according to Museveni, especially electricity , railways leads to high cost of production in an economy that undermines the profitability of companies and therefore limits expansion.
Another bottleneck sited is the narrow internal market that cannot absorb products of large scale manufacture of goods and expansion of services.
Similarly African leaders will have to stop exporting raw materials where they only gain 10% of the exported product according to Museveni, this situation leads to loss of jobs to where the raw material is exported for further value addition.
Museveni also says Africa’s agriculture is still underdeveloped where a sizeable population is still engaged in non-money economy and produce for subsistence.
Other constraints that are preventing Africa from progressing like other continents include; absence of democracy, underdeveloped services sector, Health and Education for all.
President Museveni who dwelt on the Africa’s performance since 1960s challenged fellow leaders to create enablers that would address the above ten bottlenecks so that Africa can metamorphose.
“The problem not only in Africa but in human history is that the talk is wrong. If you don’t solve and the talk comes from the thinking. If the thinking is wrong, the talking will be wrong,” Museveni said.
Various speakers took turn after turn to address the conference presenting making interesting suggestions to ignite debate on Africa’s transformation.
Kenya’s Deputy President Ruto said noted that the African story is best told by the Africans (writers and academics). “If Africans don’t tell our own story, it will always feature in the ‘any other business’ section of the affairs of the world.”
For Tanzania’s Vice President, her argument was that inclusion of women in the economy makes good economic sense.
“We can’t transform Africa without bringing women to the forefront. There has to be a leadership ready to correct this historical injustice on women,” she said.
Meanwhile, according to Asue Ighodalo, Chairman Nigerian Economic Summit Group; “In a situation where we (Africa) carry 18% of the population of the world but involved in 3% of the economy of the world, we have a serious problem… We’ve got to talk and work.”
➡8 Heads of State invited
➡Over 20 African countries in attendance
➡Over 1000 Delegates
➡Over 30 adept speakers