African Leaders Tackle Education, Trade, and Agriculture at Harvard University

April 25, 2018

Africa's Leaders Speak Workshop Picture with Presidents

African Leaders Tackle Education, Trade, and Agriculture at Harvard University

“Africa’s Leaders Speak” brought former heads of state from Cape Verde, Nigeria, and Tanzania to Harvard for a closed workshop on Transforming Africa in the 21st Century with contributions from key representatives from the African Export Import Bank, the Africa-America Institute, the African Development Bank, private sector, and academics on April 25th, 2018.

H.E. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, former president of Tanzania; H.E. Carlos Veiga, former prime minister of Cape Verde, and H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria, spoke from their own experience about the challenges and opportunities in present-day Africa.

Former President Obasanjo conveyed with urgency the issues facing the agriculture sector in Africa. Up to 80% of Africans earn their livelihood from subsistence agriculture, while at the same time the continent is importing $50-60 billion worth of food annually; highlighting the need to develop commercial agriculture further. In existing commercial agriculture, 75% of global cocoa production comes from Africa, but the continent receives only 2% of the value of the world chocolate market. Adding value to raw materials and engaging more women and youth as “agripreneurs” constitute part of the solution, according to Obasanjo.

While the challenges facing the education sector are equally pressing, the 21st century also offers immense opportunities. Presently, only 5% of Africans have access to university. One of the solutions, as suggested by Kofi Appenteng, President of the Africa-America Institute, is not to think incrementally, but in terms of quantum leaps by creating socially relevant technology.

Former Prime Minister Veiga outlined some of the key economic trends that characterize the African continent; he asserted that “African countries should embrace the trend of the private sector driving growth.” 90% of jobs in Africa are located in the private sector, and significant tax revenues come from business. Even with the dominance of the export of natural resources, countries such as Rwanda and Ethiopia have experienced significant growth by creating peace and security and investing in agriculture.

The workshop acknowledged that while parts of Africa are making good use of technology and benefit from growing economics, there are also parts that vastly differ from their successful neighbors. In order for Africa to get on board with the “train of growth,” coined by a commentator, we need to work together, and collectively share ideas as we did at the workshop convened by the Harvard Center for African Studies.

Media note:

The Harvard University Center for African Studies is a globally recognized, interdisciplinary body committed to broadening knowledge about Africa and engagement with African perspectives through scholarship, collaboration, and dialogue.

This event was made possible through collaboration with the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies and the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School.

Follow us on Twitter: @AfricaHarvard, #AfricasLeadersSpeak