Opinion

Qatar Economic Forum: African Perspective

By Dolapo Aina

The Qatar Economic Forum had her inaugural three-day summit from Monday, 21st June 2021 to Wednesday, 23rd June 2021. The summit which was powered by Bloomberg was aptly titled: “Reimagining the World.” This mirrored and echoed the current realities of the world we live in today. The host Zain Verjee welcomed all and sundry to the hybrid event and which the welcoming address was delivered by Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg L.P. and Bloomberg Philanthropies, who was also a three-term Mayor of New York City. The opening address by the Emir of the State of Qatar, H.H. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani touched on the poignant and glaring fact that the Covid-19 pandemic has reposed pertinent questions concerning the relation of modern societies to nature and society’s expectations of global institutions and national governments regarding public health policies. The Presidents of South Africa and Rwanda; President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Paul Kagame, respectively, made their speeches.
Other leaders who made remarks later on were; President Macky Sall of the Republic of Senegal who spoke on Senegal, Africa and covid vaccination initiatives; President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Republic of Turkey; Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom; Prime Minister Patrick Achi of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the Republic of Bangladesh.

Also, Ethiopia’s Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization made a speech where he talked about the need for everyone to be vaccinated against COVID19.

The Future of Vaccines in Africa session had Dr. John Nkengasong, Director, Africa Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) and Reeta Roy, President and CEO, Mastercard Foundation who both elaborated amongst other points on Africa’s efforts against covid19.
During the Global Trade Revival session with Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organization, the Nigerian finance technocrat heading WTO pressed on the need for global trade post covid pandemic era.

Whilst in the African Trade Transformation session, Aliko Dangote, Founder and President/Chief Executive, Dangote Group highlighted the strides being made by his conglomerate and revealed that the exportation of fertiliser to Louisiana, USA would begin in July 2021 and Brazil would also commence soon.

The Back in the Air session with the Group CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar al-Baker; President and CEO of The Boeing Company, David Calhoun; and CEO of RwandAir, Yvonne Manzi Makolo, CEO, RwandAir revealed what Qatar Airways, Boeing and RwandAir have been up to since the covid pandemic set in and the innovations the three firms have deployed to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on their respective businesses handling of the changing government protocols with regards covid19 and travel.

A New Normal: The View from Qatar session was quite interesting as the former Prime Minister of Qatar was the sole panellist. The billionaire and global serial investor Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, had a lot to say about the global business forthcoming approach and drive from the Qatari perspective.

During the Covid19 and Governance in Africa session with Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the Sudanese-British business tycoon was of the view that vaccine inequality was at play with regards getting vaccines for the African Continent. And on the theme of good governance on the Continent, he concluded by stating that, “Africa needs strong statemen and not strong men.”
Talking cryptocurrencies, the Founder and CEO of Binance, Changpeng Zhao, stated the reasons why it is just a matter of time before Bitcoin becomes legal tender.

During the Islands in the Sun session, Foreign Affairs Minister Sylvestre Radegonde, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism of The Republic of Seychelles told Zain Verjee that climate change is a real issue for small islands but people don’t know and don’t realise it. He further stated that, “The Island of Seychelles sensitises the international community on the roles they need to play.” He stated that tourists flock to Seychelles and therefore, the government needs to protect the island in every way possible.

Dr. James Mwangi, Group Managing Director and CEO, Equity Group Holdings Plc in the African Recovery Plan session told Zain Verjee his thoughts on what the recovery plan should be; with a sprinkling from his firm’s context.

From Rwanda to the World session with Clare Akamanzi, CEO, Rwanda Development Board touched base on the impacts of the Visit Rwanda partnerships with Arsenal FC of England, Paris Saint Germain of France and the just concluded inaugural BAL (The Basketball Africa League) which took place in Kigali, Rwanda. And also spoke about the strategic aviation partnership with Qatar Airways. The CEO of Rwanda Development Board was of the view and stated that good recovery for the country would come from manufacturing and tourism sectors and most especially, sports tourism.

Tanzania’s Mohammed Dewji, who is the President of MeTL Group and the founder of Dewji Foundation in another session related to business trends in Africa, talked about the current business trends in Tanzania and possible navigations, post covid19.

There was a lot to unpack in the “A Bold Agenda for Female Leadership” session with H.E. Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO, Qatar Foundation; Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th Secretary of State, The United States of America; and Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Co-Founder and Chair, Seneca Women. Issues relating to female leadership and challenges faced by women pre, during and post covid19 were discussed with possible solutions proffered.

Being the First Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 conglomerate, Ursula M. Burns, Former Chairman and CEO, Xerox Corporation, and Former Chairman and CEO, VEON Ltd, had professional insights to reveal with seasoned wisdom nuggets during the Being the First session.
Some sports sessions included, The World Cup 2022 and Beyond session with H.E. Hassan al-Thawadi, Secretary General at Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Qatar, he discussed and revealed some World Cup preparations and also the hosting of the global mundial with all its ramifications within a post covid19 context.
Another sports session was The Transformational Power of Sport with David Beckham where the former skipper of England’s team, spoke about the impact of sports from a professional and personal level.

Other sports related sessions were The Big Game Player with Didier Drogba (former Ivorien footballer) and now Vice President, Peace and Sport and also, The Giants of Africa session with Masai Ujiri (the Nigerian Kenyan) President and General Manager, Toronto Raptors
The Test for Global Education with Baroness Valerie Amos, Master of University College, University of Oxford, and Louise Mushikiwabo, Secretary General, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie was a loaded session where both panellists covered several pertinent educational themes from the current global education levels amidst covid19 and the glaring inadequate digital access to educational tools for students.

During the concluding session titled “Empowering the Next Generation” with Graca Machel, Chair, Graca Machel Trust, she highlighted the issue of vaccine nationalism by several countries in the Western Hemisphere and posited that every life matter, and is important. She also stated that the young generation should be nurtured to grow and future generations should have the educational tools for the 21st Century to be able to compete.

One cannot but mention the Qatari composer, songwriter, singer, and symphonic artist Dana al-Fardan, who with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra serenaded the participants during the opening and closing ceremonies of the summit.

From the African perspective, one noteworthy takeaway is South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa’s statement on the estimated four hundred billion dollars needed for the economic recovery in African countries.

According to the organisers, about two thousand five hundred participants and hundred speakers including African Presidents, attended the hybrid Qatar Economic Forum event which convened global leaders to discuss on combating shared 21st century and emerging challenges together. Kenya’s veteran and world-renowned journalist Zain Verjee was the host of the inaugural Qatar Economic Forum.

Dolapo Aina writes from Kigali, Rwanda

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