African head of states and business leaders met on Monday to chart a way forward for the development of the African continent.
The event, Future Africa Forum, held in New York. It was organised by the Africa Centre, a not-for-profit institution focused on tackling historical stereotype around the African continent. It was staged to discuss pertinent issues concerning Africa and correct the negative perception about the continent.
Speaking at the event was the world’s second richest man, Bill Gates. The American billionaire raised the question about climate change as it affects Africa. He explained that while Africa contributes less to global warming, the continent experiences the hardest hit.
More than climate change, he stressed, there is need for Africa to move from being export-driven to being import focused.
“Why is the continent where the availability of labour is the highest, where the availability of land is the highest, where the production per hectare is the lowest,” Mr Gates asked, “why can’t it move not only to be self-sufficient but also to be a net exporter?”
In his address, Uzodinma Iweala, CEO of Africa Center, attributed the challenges bedevilling the continent to lack of foresight among the continent’s leadership.
“We are here right now facing a world on fire because some people could imagine how to function without fossil fuels, and we are here alone because a vast majority of us can’t imagine a life without mass consumption.
“We are here because, for the most part, we cannot imagine true equality in which we value the existence and visualise the potential of each individual and the societies they come from no matter how different they look or seem.”
Some eggheads who spoke at the event, however, think there is more to share about the continent than its down sides. One person who shared this belief is Mohammad Ibrahim, Sudanese-British billionaire and businessman.
“Let’s be frank, there is a lot of minds in the West here. People think Africa is a very corrupt place. Corruption is a problem, a global problem. I don’t think it is an African problem,” he said.
Mr Ibrahim, nonetheless, called for improving the continent’s educational sector.
“It’s not just about more seats, and more schools… or more whatever we are doing there. It is about the quality of that and what are we teaching our kids.”
On his part, Aliko Dangote, who was represented by Halima Aliko Dangote, Executive Director of the Dangote Group, explained that Africa is a large expanse of opportunities, and she believes this can be used to open a new narrative about the continent.
“Today, when you look at it, you are thinking about the five fastest-growing economies in the world, four are in Sub Saharan Africa.
“There is an opportunity to establish new narratives about Africa today, with its unrivaled mix of people, ideas, and resources, which are both its greatest strength and the basis for its tremendous, untapped promise. The connections The Africa Center will make between Africa, the United States, and the rest of the world, including members of the Diaspora, are needed more now than ever before.”
The Dangote Group, therefore, donated a sum of $20 million to the Centre.
In the light of this donation, Hadeel Ibrahim, Africa Center Trustee announced the renaming of the Centre’s hall to Aliko Dangote Hall.
Also keying into this vision, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new $5 million grant directed to the Centre’s capital campaign and for the development of its policy.