CAPE TOWN - Africa needed more nimble policy making to allow entrepreneurship to flourish and the continent to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, delegates at the World Economic Forum in Africa said on Wednesday.
"What you need is policy certainty, don't fiddle with policy forever," A.T. Kearney's managing director for Africa, Thebo Sibiya, said at a panel discussion of the Africa Growth Platform on the opening day of the WEF meeting in Cape Town.
"It can't take a year and a half with a white paper and a green paper and a yellow paper. By that time Uber has come and disrupted the taxi industry."
Sibiya was elaborating after earlier drawing laughs when he was asked what he considered a key factor to unlocking inclusive regional growth and replying: "It is about how you execute quickly ... One thing that would fundamentally move the needle: Let's remove politicians."
He quickly qualified that he meant an excess of policy strictures should be removed to give entrepreneurs the space to do what they want.
The remarks come after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told WEF delegates earlier on Wednesday the country was committed to removing impediments to desperately needed investment, among them remaining areas of policy uncertainty, to boost growth and job creation.
The panel dwelt on the regional dilemma of growth that had failed to absorb its growing labour force, with participants agreeing that small medium and macro enterprises were a critical driver of inclusive growth, along with regional integration.
Sibiya said SMMEs had a superior ability to bring youth into the workforce and should again be given the space to identify the technologies that are critical to flourish, with 3D printing and artificial intelligence driven technologies being growth areas.
James Mwangi, the executive director of Dalberg, said because African countries were relatively small the continent would only be able to "export our way to prosperity" if it were to achieve better regional integration with a unified set of rules applying to member countries.
It would allow investors to know exactly what to expect in each capital, whereas at the moment it was perplexing for foreign companies to find a streamlined process to register a business in Rwanda and to struggle for a year in another country to do the same.
WEF launched the Africa Growth Platform to help the continent's start-ups to grow and compete in international markets. One of its aims is to secure a commitment from governments to implement policy reforms to stimulate business growth.
Elsie Kanza, the head of Africa at the WEF, said both public and private sector players were still guilty of not paying SMMEs in time and putting them at risk.
- African News Agency (ANA)