BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

As the world enters the Fourth Industrial Revolution – driven by emerging technologies and ubiquitous data – Africa is seeking to forge a new path towards societal and economic growth. At the WEF Africa Summit in Cape Town last week, some pertinent issues were discussed and solutions put forth as to how Africa can harness this new wave of technology and unite as a global player in business, innovation and excellence.

These are some of the highlights from the conference. 

1. The Africa Growth Platform was launched to help start-up businesses access finance, advice and better regulatory conditions. The platform will help Africa’s community of start-up enterprises grow and compete in international markets. The platform will do this by securing commitments from governments to implement policy reforms aimed at stimulating and accelerating business growth; building a community of investors comprising private investors, foundations, multilateral institutions and corporate intrapreneurs to better coordinate and pool resources that could facilitate larger subsequent rounds of funding; and creating and sustaining a community of start-up businesses to promote collaboration and share best practices.

2. The African Risk Resilience Platform was initiated. It will combine private-sector resources with those of governments to help countries prepare for climate- and disease-related disasters. 

3. The World Economic Forum teamed with the International Trade Centre to kick off an E-Commerce Action Agenda. The initiative is aimed at promoting cross-border data services in Africa, an industry that could create 3 million jobs across the region by 2025. Yet e-commerce start-ups face many obstacles, including low levels of consumer digital trust, poor infrastructure and low regional integration. Building on consultations with business leaders and experts, the Africa E-Commerce Agenda is a call to action for Africa’s political leaders, the international trade community and the development community. The agenda recognizes that, for e-commerce businesses to prosper, an ecosystem of digital technology and supporting companies must flourish, with a mix of local and global action needed to leverage cross-border opportunities. 

4.The African Union, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, launched a new foundation paving the way for the private sector to help build capacity and resources to strengthen health security across the continent. 

5.The World Bank and the Forum teamed up with African governments to launch an innovation challenge aimed at finding new ways of using drones across Africa. The competition, supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, is a precursor to the Africa Drone Forum, which will be held for the first time in 2020 in Rwanda.

6.The Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership signed a national partnership with the country of Ghana. The partnership aims to combine public- and private-sector resources to tackle plastic pollution and unmanaged waste. The partnership is the first signed with an African country, following an initial partnership signed with Indonesia earlier this year.

7. Call for action on violnec against women. Spiralling levels of violence against women in Africa require immediate action from governments and businesses, including tangible measures to create safe spaces. Namhla Mniki-Mangaliso, Director of African Monitor, urged tech companies to take a lead in delivering solutions. “It would take a click of a finger for a tech company to say we are going to deploy a software that can assist us with an emergency response system for poor women in South Africa free of charge.” The potential for technology to help in the fightback highlights the need for businesses to think creatively, given that cyberbullying can also contribute to discrimination. The business community should also step up to the plate by backing a gender-based fund to address the deep-rooted problems behind physical and sexual assaults. The failure to protect women is not just a moral issue; it also comes with a high economic cost. “Who drives African communities? It’s our women. Our women can drive Africa’s development, if given the chance, if protected, if their rights are respected,” said Hafsat Abiola-Costello, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Women in Africa Initiative. “Africa missed the first industrial revolution, we missed the second, we missed the third. If we don’t address this issue, we will miss the fourth.”