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Brookings panel launches "Foresight Africa' Report

With decreasing aid from developed countries, Africa presents opportunities and challenges to sustain its recent growth. Brookings assembled key leaders in Africa forecasting to address a range of issues and innovations that have potential to impede or accelerate economic growth on the continent.  Key drivers highlighted by the panelists include ICT innovation and industries emerging from governments investing in telecomm infrastructure. The perception is that growth will evolve from a framework of social entrepreneurship to one that is more capitalistic in form with technology approaches 'leapfrogging' current paradigms, according to Bright Simons, president of the mPedigree Network--a company that facilitates determination of medicines as counterfeit products. He points to the growing Savannah 'Silicon Valley' corridor from Nairobi to Lagos to Accra as an example of innovation spreading from within the continent. He coins the term 'infrastructure hacking' as an approach to moving beyond traditional systems of business development in a sector to new approaches that are facile in an Africa context. To the question of gender empowerment in this visioning, very few answers were offered. Ambassador Renee Sanders did reply that current trainings seem inadequate to the task and new methodology is needed to address the critical role of women in economic growth. She proposed that SME/MME business growth is essential and providing the tools and training for substantive small business capacity building, especially as applied to the agriculture sector. A renewed emphasis is needed on the quality of higher education to prepare the youth bulge population for jobs and careers to contribute to this growth noted World Bank's VP for Africa, Makhtar Diop. The issue of growing conflict in fragile states can be shown to have links to climate change and crop failure in regions, especially the Sahel, offered John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project; peacemaking efforts of a 'regional integration' nature must grow to seek sustainable solutions to the sectoral conflict that continues to impede the economic growth potential of the continent.