The Legatum Institute has published a report that captures the core themes of its 2015 Africa Prosperity Summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (May 2015). The report reveals four catalysts for Africa's future prosperity: innovation, women, security and data.
The 2015 Africa Prosperity Summit held in Dar es Salaam on 20-21 May 2015 marked the culmination of a year’s work with African think tank leaders, business executives, government officials, academics and civil society representatives active on the ground. Our conversations with them challenged our views on development in Africa and showed us new trends spreading across the continent, such as innovation and the growing recognition of the importance of data.
These discussions confirmed some of our ideas about engaging citizens, and in particular women entrepreneurs and young people, while completely changing our thinking about security solutions. These themes became the core of the 2015 Africa Prosperity Summit. During panel discussions, workshop sessions, real experience pitches, lunchtime debates and rooftop receptions, our participants brainstormed about the real drivers of prosperity and drew inspiration for future partnerships, research proposals, policy recommendations and real actions.
Data crunchers usually love numbers but seldom have the occasion to look at what the numbers mean on the ground. Entrepreneurs and innovators are often too busy with business models and algorithms to reflect on their impact on a country’s prosperity. The discussions on security in academic circles and think tanks are often disconnected from diplomatic circles and civil society. The 2015 Africa Prosperity Summit broke down these invisible barriers to convene the widest possible range of experts.
The conference built on our work in the 2014 Africa Prosperity Report: putting individuals at the heart of Africa’s future prosperity and promoting experts from Africa and the diaspora. The Summit generated enthusiasm about the role of the individual as the driving force for a thriving “new Africa”. It cautioned awareness of the many obstacles that still hinder Africa’s flourishing, while discussing the means to overcome these.
The Summit would never have been possible without the invaluable support of the Ford Foundation. The insightful input of our speakers, the remarkable contribution of our local partners, and the active involvement of our attendees also proved key. We are truly grateful to all for turning this event into such a success and hope that the knowledge, optimism and energy that filled the 2015 Africa Prosperity Summit will reach far beyond Dar es Salaam.
Once inside the old-fashioned building off Bagamoyo Road, in central Dar es Salaam, visitors have to reach for their sunglasses. The bright yellow and bold orange walls in the open plan office dazzle, as do the T-shirts and shawls of the young men and women concentrating on their laptops. Welcome to “Buni Hub”, the first Tanzanian innovation hub. Jumanne Mtambalike, an entrepreneur and technology enthusiast, shows us two brand new 3D printers created from scratch by students from the University of Dar es Salaam under the supervision of Jacqueline Dismas, the Fabrication Lab Manager. The Hub is only a short taxi ride away from another tech space: Johnpaul Barretto’s ‘Kinu’ identifies the best ideas to emerge from innovation hubs and facilitates their development in profitable start-ups. He works closely with Eng. George Mulamula, CEO of Dar Teknohama Business Incubator, whose experts are studying how drones can solve flooding problems and how 3D printers can stop importing expensive intermediate pieces from China.
Tanzania is not alone in enjoying an innovation explosion. World Bank research has found 90 tech hubs across the continent, with more than half of Africa’s economies boasting at least one. South Africa, the African country with the largest expenditure in R&D, the lowest business start-up costs, and the best entrepreneurial environment, was the first to make it into double figures but other countries such as Senegal, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Kenya are not far behind. A McKinsey study shows that in Kenya, internet-facilitated businesses contributed to 2.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)— the second highest level for any African nation after Senegal (3.3 percent). Nairobi in particular has earned the name of Silicon Savannah for its tech-activities and is home to the first IBM Africa Research Centre.
This is the “new Africa”, as championed by Obiageli ‘Oby’ Ezekwesili, Senior Economic Advisor at Open Society Foundations, in her speech at our Summit: a continent whose future lies in its citizens’ ability to transform challenges and problems into opportunities; a continent that will prosper because of a development approach centred on human capital rather than extractive industries. Oby emphasised that “the policy-making process is too important to be left to the policy-makers themselves”: Africa’s citizens are key to prosperity. Oby called for better research to implement better solutions. For this, she said, think tanks, NGOs and civil society must provide robust empirical evidence to leaders in the private and public sector.
Oby’s message is ours—as articulated first in our 2014 Africa Prosperity Report, and further explored more recently by our contributors to the Summit in Dar es Salaam. The Legatum Institute places great emphasis on individuals as the drivers of a nation’s flourishing; in Africa this is all the more pertinent, as so many of its institutions and infrastructure are still fragile.
During the Summit we explored four key catalysts for “new Africa’s” prosperity: the contribution of women; the role of business values in leading the entrepreneurship revolution; the critical role of more and better data in decision-making; and the fundamental need to live in a safe environment. Together with a remarkable group of experts, we discussed the progress that countries have made on these critical issues and the obstacles and set backs they have encountered.