Editorial - Dr. Victor Oladokun, Director of Communication, African Development Bank
In 2018, the fictional country of Wakanda in the blockbuster movie Black Panther was ranked fourth as the most mentioned ‘country’ in Africa during TV broadcasts, according to a recent study by the University of Southern California. Coverage of Wakanda far exceeded mentions about African business, travel, health, sports, or development. While the finding is amusing, it is a reminder of the significant challenge an integrated Africa faces in showcasing opportunities and the many transformational changes taking place on the continent. Ultimately, effective and transparent communication will be key to regional integration, and the capacity to attract investor and partner interest.
At the heart of every civilisation is a human desire for game-changing solutions that transform nations and human lives. Vibranium, Wakanda’s equally fictional precious metal, was the key to making it the most technologically advanced nation on the planet. But in reality, critical to a regionally integrated ecosystem will be how Africa continues to innovatively use, manage and add value to its tremendous resources.
Tectonic global shifts are already changing every aspect of our economies and enterprises. Also affected are policies, education, research, ICT, finance and banking, trade, migration and the mobility of human capital, goods and services. The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, which was ratified in May, 2019, holds the tantalising prospect of a single market for goods, services and the free movement of people, with a total GDP of $2.5 trillion, and a combined population of one billion people.
Astounding and rapid technological developments are already under way in artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, quantum computing and Big Data. The African Development Bank and partners such as the Rockefeller Foundation, Microsoft, and Facebook, have launched a Coding for Employment Programme to create over 9 million jobs and reach 32 million youth and women across the region. With an eye on the future, the African Development Bank is also working to bring advanced drone technologies to African agriculture with a pilot project already under way in Tunisia, and plans for potential regional roll-outs.
The fact is that it’s no longer ‘business as usual.’ The ground beneath our feet is shifting at amazing speed. So, one thing is certain. The near future will be radically different from anything we might contemplate today. This is why the African Development Bank and its partners will continue to work toward integrating the best ideas, technologies, policies, systems and infrastructure.
Creating the regionally integrated Africa of our dreams will require political will, policy changes, and private and public sector partnerships. It will also require positive human agency and energy characterised by vision, great hope, trust, and a genuine love of humanity. Only then can we expect to bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number of Africans ever.
In 2019, as the African Development Bank commemorates its 55th anniversary, we are poised to play an even more strategic role, in conjunction with the African Union Commission and other partners, to help make Africa’s economic integration a concrete reality.
Together, we will irreversibly impact and transform the lives of millions of Africans.