Africa Optimistic About the Future as Leaders Convene for World Economic Forum on Africa


Cape Town More than half (52%) of Africans are optimistic about the future, according to a Voice of the People poll released at the start of the World Economic Forum on Africa (May 31-June 02). Africans are more hopeful than the rest of the world (48%) that 2006 will be better than 2005. More than 700 leaders from business, government, civil society and academia, representing more than 40 countries, are convening at the 16th World Economic Forum on Africa meeting being held in Cape Town, South Africa, under the theme “Going for Growth”. Billed as the “Davos of Africa”, four heads of state, top ministers and senior business leaders of African companies and multinationals active in Africa will review Africa’s unprecedented growth path. Participants will roll up their sleeves and get to work in the “Davos WorkSpace”, engage in live television debates as well as interactive sessions on a range of issues designed to generate action plans for the coming year. The Gallup International survey was conducted towards the end of 2005 in 61 countries. More than 58 000 interviews were conducted and the findings are representative of the views of a sixth of the world’s population. The study included eight countries in Africa. In Africa, Nigerians are the most optimistic (61%), closely followed by South Africans and Senegalese (both at 60%). Likewise, almost six in every 10 people in Guinea were optimistic (57%). The scores for the other four countries were below 50%: Gabon 47%, Morocco 37%, Cameroon 31% and Kenya 26%. Large proportions also believed that there would be little difference between 2005 and 2006 and between two and three in every 10 said that things would be worse. It was only in Cameroon where a rather large proportion of four in every 10 (38%) stated that they expected 2006 to be worse. The regional economic situation and the scourge of joblessness definitely had a bearing on African views. Respondents were given a list of seven items, and asked to indicate the most important issue that global business and society face: – The emergence of China and India – Risks to the global economy – The need for new mindsets and changed attitudes – Regional identities and struggles – How to create enough jobs in the future – The erosion of trust in public and private institutions – The deficit in effective leadership It should come as no surprise that a third of Africans (34%) in the countries included thought that job creation should top this global list. Joblessness is the single most important issue hampering economic growth and wealth creation on the continent. This was followed at a wide margin by risks to the global economy (22%). However, job creation is a global concern, as worldwide 29 percent agreed that business and society should focus on how to create enough jobs in the future, followed by taking care of risks to the global economy at 27 percent. Focusing on Africa specifically, job creation was the main concern in South Africa (out of the eight African countries) where more than half (56%) wanted global leaders to address this issue. In fact, none of the other six concerns scored more than 11 percent in the view of South Africans. Later on in the interview “the most important regional challenge the world faces” was probed, and again Africans placed job creation at the top of their list. Almost half (47%) of Africans chose this issue out of a list of five; when the results of the rest of the world are added, joblessness received 54 percent support and citizens agreed that economic growth and job creation in poor countries warrant regional attention. The issues probed included: – Economic growth and job creation in poor countries – How developing countries compete in the global economy – The political direction in Europe – Continued instability in the Middle East – The future of Africa and Latin America However, Africans did not focus a lot of attention on the “outside world”: when asked about the significance of the emergence of China and India, more than a third indicated that they could not answer this question (35%). A quarter (25%) thought that the cheaper production costs in Asia would have an influence, but it is not clear whether this refers to the possibility of buying cheaper imported products or to the increased competition that cheap imports will hold for locally produced goods. In keeping with views in the rest of the world, Africans saw rising oil prices and the demand on natural resources (28%), as well as the global economic imbalances (23%), as the most important risks to the global economy. However, they are also worried about potential disruptions such as pandemics, natural disasters or political unrest (19%). In this regard, it is important to remember that a few of the African countries included export oil. On the other hand, the most important global challenge that the business environment must adapt to is seen – in the world as a whole and in Africa – as advances in technology. Although South Africans also see technological advances as a challenge, they thought that the business environment should focus much more on the expectations of the next generation. In Africa, this opinion was shared by Senegal.