Concordia embarked on its Africa Initiative in 2018, with the 2018 Annual Summit marking the program’s official launch. Concordia Africa fosters a community of cross-sector leaders to share strategies for economic growth and lasting prosperity on the rapidly-changing and demographically-growing continent. The initiative strives to build momentum around African-led discussion for sustainable and scalable alliances among cross-sector stakeholders in line with Concordia’s broader mission.
While recognizing the complexities and challenges that exist on the African continent, Concordia has ensured that its model of driving action-oriented dialogue and facilitating cross-sector collaboration remains at the forefront. By organically cultivating a community-led initiative underscored by local, African stakeholders, Concordia’s primary focus is to enhance the scope for partnership development on the continent. With inclusivity remaining at the forefront of Concordia’s ethos, the need to incorporate all relevant individuals and groups in the dialogue — including the next generation of African leaders — is of critical importance. And at the initiative’s core is a focus on promoting African stakeholders to take ownership of the conversations and shape their direction.
Through a robust slate of programming relating to the continent, the 2018 Annual Summit served as the official launch of Concordia Africa, providing a foundation for action-oriented conversations that will move to the continent at the end of 2019. Featuring addresses from two major African heads of state, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and strategic dialogues focusing on youth employment and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa, and financial inclusion, technology, and data analysis across the continent, Concordia’s programming touched on an array of challenges and opportunities faced by the continent. Meanwhile, Concordia awarded its 2018 Leadership Award to two remarkable African leaders: Her Excellency Monica Geingos, First Lady of Namibia, and Strive Masiyiwa, Founder & Executive Chairman of Econet Wireless.
Another crucial milestone in the creation of Concordia Africa was the appointment of H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria, to its Leadership Council, in August 2018 (the full announcement can be found here). Serving as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, and Chairperson of the African Union from July 2004 to January 2006, President Obasanjo provides unparalleled insight into the political landscape both in Nigeria and West Africa as a whole. As the first Nigerian leader to hand power over to a democratically-elected president, he has played a critical, historic role in shaping the country’s political dynamics. His steadfast commitment to political activism is respected by leaders around the world, and provides tremendous value to the development of Concordia Africa’s convenings.
As the next step in this initiative, Concordia will host a day-long summit in London on February 28, 2019, which will build on the discussions that took place at the 2018 Annual Summit and seek to use the platform to strengthen and expand the community of stakeholders involved. Following this convening, Concordia will host its 2019 Annual Summit on September 30 – October 1 in New York, and aims to hold the first Concordia Africa Summit in Kigali, Rwanda in December 2019.
Building on the critical priorities and takeaways that came out of the Africa programming at the 2018 Annual Summit, Concordia has identified the following three distinct focus areas for 2019:
Youth Employment & Entrepreneurship
A continent of tremendous population growth and a burgeoning youth demographic, leaders across Africa face a complex challenge: how can they ensure the needs, agency, and dignity of young people are being prioritized and collaboratively supported by the private sector, public sector, and other organizations across the continent? Africans are grappling with difficult questions, such as how to technically train young professionals for rapidly-changing industries, how to create meaningful jobs, and how to lighten the obstacles toward paths in entrepreneurship and enterprise. Within this it is imperative to improve affordability and access to quality education and training. These challenges will require enabling disruptive solutions, supporting necessity-driven entrepreneurship, utilizing sound regulatory policy, and a willingness to question conventional models. Prioritizing youth employment and entrepreneurship will unlock major economic growth on the continent, but transcending siloes and promoting broader regional integration across organizational, sectoral, and national lines will be vital to success.
Financial Inclusion & Technology in Africa
With increasing digitalization of services, significant innovation from the telecommunications sector, and access to abundant resources, Africa is undergoing a technological transformation. From basic priorities like promoting greater internet access to complex challenges like pushing telecommunications companies, banks, infrastructure operators, and governments to work collaboratively to improve affordability, this transformation poses both challenges and opportunities for financial inclusion across the continent. Further, it raises the critical question of how regulatory frameworks across the continent can be improved and harmonized to better support the multiple dimensions of financial inclusion—such as payments, credit, savings, and insurance—and steer technological innovation in the right direction.
Asian-African Ties in Investment, Trade & Infrastructure
Over the last several decades, the economic rise of Asia has led to significant new trade and foreign investment opportunities for African countries. Longstanding sources of international development assistance remain important for the continent, but the emerging engagement from countries like China, Japan, India, South Korea, and Singapore has greatly altered the development environment in Africa. Across the continent, Asian countries and companies have made robust investments in infrastructure projects, skills and technological development, and trade with African countries. As foreign financing of African nations becomes increasingly more competitive with western multi-laterals, it’s important to document and assess best practices to ensure African development priorities align with sustainable economic development. This session will focus on trade, regulatory policy, project management & sustainability, and human capital.
Concordia is proud to have Union Maritime as the Founding Sponsor of Concordia Africa. A London-based owner and operator of chemical tankers focused on clean petroleum products in West Africa as well as internationally, a key focus area for Union Maritime is its educational maritime program with African seafaring nations, such as Nigeria. With Africa yielding vast potential in terms of partnerships for social impact, the collaboration between Concordia and Union Maritime is engaging African stakeholders across a wide range of industries, particularly financial services, in order to identify investment strategies that generate positive impact. Leveraging the insight and expertise of Union Maritime, Concordia will look to host a series of partnership-building events in East Africa in 2019. While aligned with Concordia’s global thematic pipelines, these events will be shaped and driven by local stakeholders in order to build sustainable and scalable alliances among the government, private sector, and civil society.
To learn more about Africa programming at the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit, read the Report here.