Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has underscored the need for adequate education for Africans if the continent is to remain relevant. “For Africa to remain relevant, we need to adequately educate our people, as it is through education that we can unlock the potential of our youth to enable Africa to compete globally, and create jobs in the new knowledge economy,” the Nigerian leader said. President Jonathan’s comments come as Nigeria prepares to host the 24th World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja, Nigeria beginning Wednesday of this week.
This year’s forum will take place on the theme: Forging Inclusive Growth, Creating Jobs. It takes place just few weeks after the world announced Nigeria as Africa’s biggest economy. Nigeria, which has accumulated over US$70 billion in foreign reserves, is also Africa’s most popular country. More than 900 leaders from business, government, civil society and academia will participate in the meeting on 7-9 May.
The meeting convenes against a backdrop of significant economic growth, progress in reducing poverty in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, but also persistent inequality. This year’s program, according to organizers of the forum, is built on three pillars: Accelerating Society’s Transformation; Deepening Investment Partnerships; and Redesigning Growth Models.
In addition to President Jonathan and representatives from his government, other leaders that have confirmed their participation are: Mohamed Larbi Ould Khelifa, President, People’s National Assembly, Algeria; Thomas Yayi Boni, President of Benin; Li Keqiang, Premier of the People’s Republic of China; Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire; John Dramani Mahama, President of Ghana; Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya; Kolo Christophe Laurent Roger, Prime Minister of Madagascar; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Macky Sall, President of Senegal; Jakaya M. Kikwete, President of Tanzania; and Faure Gnassingbé, President of Togo.
“Africa’s continued progress depends fundamentally on the ability of its leaders to take the bold decisions necessary to transform the region’s economy and society. By bringing together leaders from politics, business and civil society, we hope the meeting will offer an environment where such decisions can be catalyzed, and where commitment and creativity can be drawn on to build a future fit for all Africans,” said Elsie Kanza, Director, Head of Africa, World Economic Forum.
From the broader perspective, Africa’s remarkable growth trajectory is projected to remain above 5 percent in 2014 with West Africa the fastest growing sub-region, representing the continent’s largest business opportunity.
Such momentum is a welcome and necessary boon to a region whose youthful population offers the prospects of a significant demographic dividend fuelled by growth in consumer industries, manufacturing and business process outsourcing.
Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation – with over 160 million inhabitants – already plays a crucial role in advancing the continent’s growth; yet it is also emblematic of the challenges of converting natural wealth into solutions that address persistent social challenges.
As the foremost gathering on the continent, the 24th World Economic Forum on Africa will bring together regional and global leaders to discuss innovative structural reforms and investments that can sustain the continent’s growth while creating jobs and prosperity for all its citizens.
According to the preliminary, Africa’s richest man, Nigerian billionaire and president and chief executive officer of Dangote Group, Mr. Aliko Dangote, will address a topic on redesigning growth models; while the chairman of the executive board and chief executive officer of Heineken Netherlands Jean-Francois Van Bomeer will address a televised session on deepening partnerships.