AFIF's key note speaker states it is time to invest in Africa
“Growth is back in Africa, and has so far been accelerating. But it remains insufficient in terms of fighting poverty, with growth remaining fragile and unevenly distributed. Deepening the SME tissue and increasing the manufacturing sector are important and relevant ways to speed up growth, reduce inequalities, and strengthen the society by increasing the middle class,” explains Jean-Michel Severino, Managing Director, I&P (Investisseur et Partenaire pour le Développement), former Managing Director AFD (French Development Agency).
Severino’s remarks come on the eve of the Africa Finance & Investment Forum 2012 (AFIF 2012), where as a key speaker he will give his expertise and insight into the future of Africa’s SMEs. The Forum, entitled “Financial inclusion through SMEs & Cooperatives”, is promoted by EMRC and held in partnership with Rabobank at the Rabobank Headquarters, the Netherlands, from 17-19 June 2012.
“Demography is Africa’s main strengths. The continent is entering the era of the “demographic dividend”, during which each year in the coming 80 years, the dependency ratio between the active and inactive parts of the population is going to improve. The growing population is also going to create huge markets, while the urbanization process will also improve the productivity of the economy,” Severino says.
Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P) is a social business dedicated to promoting African entrepreneurs and businesses, in order to accelerate African growth and make it more sustainable, currently running 30 SMEs in Sub Saharan Africa. I& P basis its strategic agenda with a view that Africa will have a lot to offer in the coming years: “Africa’s growth will be less dependent on external markets and build strongly on the nascent deep domestic markets which will emerge,” adds Severino.
This year’s AFIF Forum will gather leading global representatives from a variety of sectors to highlight the financial tools, solutions and growing policy trends to ensure economic growth for Africa’s SMEs. The discussions and proposals to be highlighted at the forum are essential for a cross section of African sectors to establish their full economic potential.
A growing number of organisations and businesses will be present at AFIF 2012, such as FMO - Rabo Development - Rabobank Foundation - IFC, World Bank - IFAD - AfDB (African Development Bank) - Centenary Bank - Shell Foundation – GIZ (German International Cooperation Organisation) - Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture & Innovations - Oikocredit - FARA - Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation - Clifford Chance - Wageningen University – Agriterra - HEINEKEN - I&P - Hivos – AFRACA - AMSCO - Rectory Foods, Ltd – AFRACA (African Rural & Agriculture Credit Association) - Global Development Co-operative - Centenary Bank - among many other from Africa, Europe, America and Asia.
AFIF 2012 will provide a platform for new and improved financial tools to be spotlighted, with a particular focus on mechanisms adapted and unique to the African business model. Business-to-business (B2B) meetings which are tailor-made to ensure maximum business partnership success will be organized on the 18th June at Rabobank Headquarters. Previous forums have seen over 1,000 of these meetings set up over a 2-day period. The international media will spotlight the various speakers and interview a select group of participants to highlight regional and local business ideas and trends.
The EMRC-Hivos-VC4Africa Project Incubator Award will be sponsored this year by the Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (Hivos), a leading Dutch organisation with a worldwide presence, and held in collaboration with Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A), a global platform connecting entrepreneurs and investors throughout Africa.
With two leading organisations associated to this year’s Award, the winner and nominees will receive increased international recognition and the opportunity to expand their global contacts. The award is presided by a panel of international experts, with the winner receiving a cash prize of US$15,000 and the much-needed international media spotlight.
The first two days of the Forum will be held in Utrecht and the third day will be held in partnership with Food First, which includes guided visits to one of the world’s biggest Horticultural Expo - Floriade 2012 (Venlo-Netherlands), organized once every ten years.
5 Minutes With PwC's Amanda Line on Digital Leadership
1. Define digital leadership, and what it means to be a digital leader?
Leadership has always required a specialised set of skills, such as curiosity, empathy, and decisive action. In today’s world, there is an urgent need for a new type of leader – one who has a digital mindset and has the skills to drive transformation. With the ever-expanding spectrum of new technologies, we need a new wave of digital leaders who not only understand the application of intelligent technologies in the workplace, but also know how to enable and empower their teams - and that comes from frequent upskilling. Digital leaders are represented across numerous sectors and industries, with a common goal to drive a culture of innovation and transformation.
2. What do you believe are the essential traits of a digital leader?
Knowledge of digital and data literacy is a given essential to have a strong command of the future economy. In my opinion, what’s even more important are human-centric skills. It is the soft skills such as communication, resilience, emotional intelligence, and entrepreneurial thinking that are pivotal in this new-age digital world.
Despite the demand for future skillsets, we’re currently facing the biggest skills shortage of our lifetime. PwC’s Middle East CEO survey highlighted that 80% of CEOs believe that a shortage of skills in the workforce is one of the key threats to their organisation’s growth prospects.
Part of our drive at PwC’s Academy Middle East in leading the upskilling revolution in the region is to facilitate lasting change. We deliver innovative and practical training, that includes both digital and soft skills components, for individuals and organisations across industries to create a truly future-ready workforce in the Middle East.
3. How have these traits changed since the outbreak of COVID-19, or have they remained the same but their significance has grown?
Prior to the pandemic, the World Economic Forum set an ambitious target to upskill one billion people by 2030. This was initiated to tackle the 75 million jobs expected to be displaced by automation and AI by 2022. Since Covid-19, the window of opportunity to reskill has become shorter in the newly constrained labour market.
The way we live, work and learn has changed drastically, placing digital technologies at the forefront. The pace of change has accelerated the need for upskilling and reskilling. In many organisations and economies, this crisis has highlighted the discrepancy between the skills people have and those needed for jobs in the digital world.
4. What was the role of a digital leader when the initial outbreak happened?
The need for digital leadership was brought to the forefront by the pandemic. With the huge transition to work from home (WFH), strong leadership has helped guide and steady employees, and ensure continued productivity. Leaders who understand the application of technologies in the workplace have been able to create new drivers for success, including streamlining operational systems, mindful connection of their employees and improved agility in the workplace.
5. How has that role evolved and what are the next steps for digital leaders going forward in 2021 and beyond?
Eighty-four percent of employers are set to rapidly digitalise working processes, including a significant expansion of remote work—with the potential to move 44% of their workforce to operate remotely. This is a very significant change towards a digital future. Technology is moving at a rapid pace, and having digital skills is no longer a ‘good to have’, it is critical to business success. Leaders and employees alike must adapt to a cycle of constant learning and upskilling to remain competitive.
6. How do these roles mentioned compare to pre-COVID?
Digital leaders were in demand before the pandemic, but now there is an additional urgency for a pipeline of talent with the skills to implement new technologies in the workplace. In order to create sustainable success, digital technologies must be adopted as a core business strategy – and upskilling is key. In 2020, PwC’s Academy introduced a number of qualifications in the region to support training for the digital economy, including the region’s first qualification for AI, the Certified Artificial Intelligence Practitioner (CAIP).
7. Whilst the initial strategy for digital leaders was to survive the outbreak, what is the strategy for digital leaders as they look to thrive going forward?
We will see more sophisticated technologies being integrated into the workplace, driven by digital leaders. To support these transformations, we will need to close the existing skills gap, and ensure that younger generations are prepared for the future workplace.
Young professionals will need huge investment in education and skills development. This requires a collaborative effort from governments, private organisations and education providers. In the Middle East for example, PwC’s Academy is working with the regional governments to upskill the national talent for future leadership roles. We also work with the private and public sector for upskilling solutions in finance, tax, HR, marketing, leadership and management, graduate development, digital transformation to name a few. It is this multi
faceted approach to upskilling that will help our region to thrive.