With violence against women top of the South African mind this week, it’s appropriate that one of the initiatives adopted by the World Economic Forum on Africa tackles this issue.

By Kathy Gibson

Borge Bunde, president of the World Economic Forum, told attendees at the closing session that the organisation has developed an action plan to tackle the crisis of gender-based violence.

The initiative is backed by the South African government and the UN in South Africa and has three core priorities.

The first is to engage with the technology industry for a free emergency response system that women under attack can use in all nine provinces.

The second is support for women entrepreneurs to promote the economic empowerment of women which will, in turn, help them escape economic abuse.

The final priority is to establish a fund to help support victims of gender-based violence.

“There should be zero tolerance for gender-based violence,” Bunde says. “It is unacceptable.”

Other notable outcomes from the meeting held this week in Cape Town are the establishment of the African Growth Platform, set up to help African start-ups grow and compete in international markets.

The AGP is a World Economic Forum initiative that has identified three ways of helping to grow SMEs.

The first is by securing commitments from governments to implement policy reforms aimed at stimulating and accelerating business growth.

Secondly, it aims to build a community of investors, whether private investors, foundations, multilateral institutions or corporate intrapreneurs to enable better coordination and pooling of resources that could facilitate larger subsequent rounds of funding.

Third, the platform will create and sustain a community of start-up businesses themselves, promoting collaboration and sharing best practices.

The need for an innovative approach to helping Africa’s start-ups reach the scale where they become sustainable is backed up by data. Two-thirds of Africa’s 420 million young people are currently unemployed which highlights a clear need for new solutions to drive employment growth.

At the same time, Africa’s young population is well-endowed with entrepreneurial spirit with early-stage entrepreneurial activity 13% higher than the global average.

However, due to insufficient support and infrastructure, the region’s start-ups are 14% more likely to fail than those elsewhere in the world.

Building risk resilience to climate change and disease is a major priority for Africa, which is being addressed by the Africa Public Health Foundation (APHF), set up by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in partnership with the African Union and World Economic Forum.

The foundation will facilitate public-private cooperation on supporting Africa CDC’s mission to strengthen health and economic security.

Disease outbreaks are serious health security threats and are increasingly an impediment to economic growth in Africa. The cost, for example, of the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak to three affected west African countries is estimated to be $53-billion.

Overall, the annual global cost of moderately severe to severe pandemics is about $570-billion, or 0,7% of global income – a cost in the same order of magnitude as climate change.

The APHF will align itself with the mission and vision of the Africa CDC to support member states build their capacity to better detect and respond to diseases outbreaks and emergencies. It will advance public-private cooperation to strengthen health systems, develop the healthcare workforce, support innovations for public health, and advocate for robust policies, regulations and partnerships for resource mobilisation.

Another achievement from this week’s meeting is the partnership between the WEF and International Trade Centre aimed to kick-start e-commerce on the continent – and potentially create 3-million jobs.

The African E-Commerce Agenda includes a call to action for Africa’s political leaders, the international trade community and the development community, and lays out an eight-point action plan that will allow African governments to realise the benefits that e-commerce offers the continent.

Each action item identifies challenges and sets goals to help policy-makers navigate the multi-dimension e-commerce landscape. It offers ways to address the challenges – including through public-private collaboration – and calls on the international development community to step up. It suggests how African economies may best use domestic, regional and international policy, given the borderless potential of e-commerce.

The eight action items are: refresh policies; expand connectivity; upgrade logistics; enable e-payments; manage data; grow the tech industry; coach small business; and join forces.

Africa is leading global innovation in drone technology, using the devices for applications that range from agriculture to medical delivery.

The World Economic Forum is partnering with the government of Rwanda with support from UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) on the African Drone Forum: Symposium, Expo and Flying Competitions, an international drone and unmanned traffic management event that will be hosted in Rwanda in February 2020.

The event will include a regulatory summit that brings together leading figures in drone technology from the private sector and airspace regulators to highlight and discuss what is possible for the future of drones in Africa.

Rwanda was selected as host for the event because it is currently one of the only countries that has policies in place that allow for the types of applications being demonstrated in the competition.

By hosting the African Drone Forum in Rwanda in February 2020, the World Bank, World Economic Forum and the Government of Rwanda hope to highlight the benefits Rwanda has created by expanding drone use in the country while encouraging other countries in the region to take a similar approach.

Plastic pollution is a major challenge around the world, and Ghana has  become the first country in Africa to sign up to the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP).

GPAP will fast-track progress on these fronts by working with Ghana’s public, private and civil society sectors to steer the transition towards a circular economy in which plastics are manufactured, used and re-used sustainably. It will also support and develop locally led initiatives by creating a platform to facilitate knowledge sharing, connect like-minded actors and scale up best practices to the national, regional and global level.