The African Transformation Forum, described as the start of a process leading to the economic transformation of Africa, got off to an encouraging start in Kigali, Rwanda. The inaugural edition, African Transformation Forum, organised by the Accra-based think-tank African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) and the government of Rwanda, got off to a rousing start--despite a marked absence of African government ministers.
In hindsight, however, all this was perhaps a blessing in disguise as it allowed the new event to find its feet with a greater degree of comfort and also provided more space and time for some of the most pertinent issues on Africa's transformation to be discussed in some depth.
Furthermore, Nathan Kalumbu, one of Coca-Cola's five global presidents, represented Coke as one of the major sponsors of the event. The MasterCard Foundation and the Ford Foundation were co-convenors of the ATF. The staging and production was slick and moved on at an agreeable clip. For a first-time event of this scale, the ATF was up there with some of the best we have seen in Africa recently. No doubt, as word about the Forum spreads, many more ministers and captains of industry will want to attend next time.
Any lingering worries about the lack of "star quality" were dispelled when Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame took the stage. His brief address was both scalpel-sharp in getting to the root of the matter and yet sufficiently inspiring to convince most of us that a much better future for Africa was indeed possible. But Kagame is a man of action and he made it clear to the assembly that he expected more than words to emerge from this Forum. "A wish list is not a strategy for getting things done," he warned. "It is a recipe for an infinite loop of conferences and declarations."
Earlier, the former Commonwealth Secretary-General K.Y. Amoako, president of ACET, had also stressed that the ATF was not "just any other conference", but was designed to convene actors from various sectors around Africa as well as from outside the continent to work consistently to bring about Africa's economic transformation in one generation.
One important tool in this effort was The Coalition for the Transformation of Africa, which was launched during the event.
Rwanda's finance and planning minister Claver Gatete explained how various innovative measures, such as donating a calf to your poor neighbour, or working collectively on the last Saturday of each month to...