Cape Town is the laboratory for creating innovative solutions
The city of Cape Town is positioning itself to be a leading developing-world city. As such, we are especially proud to be playing host to the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa.
I had the great privilege of speaking with some of the remarkable leaders who are here in our city at the opening of the WEF this week. Heads of state, senior government officials, top business leaders, academics- people have come from far and wide to talk about one of the most exciting prospects in development history- exciting because I believe that the emergence of Africa will be one of the defining features of the 21st century.
It is an emergence long overdue.
In the years immediately following the end of the colonial era, there was an all too brief moment of hope and optimism that reigned, a sense that with formal independence Africans could once more be the makers of our own destiny.
While the results over the next few decades were not all doom and gloom, there is little doubt that the sense of possibility faded.
The ambitious human development programmes were over-taken by the imperatives of structural adjustment in many countries.
The ambitions of some nations were surpassed by the despair of war, both civil and international.
And yet still in some corners, such as our own, we would not know the taste of freedom until very recently.
There are many reasons for these setbacks.
Some were due to external factors.
But if we are truly honest, we cannot deny that some were of our own making.
In recent years, I have become fascinated with the study of leadership and its importance in keeping major enterprises, whether a business, a city, or a country on track.
And in my analysis of our history, I believe that we can point to some major failures in leadership.
And in some cases, this failure explains why the achievement of formal freedom was not enough.
You need institutions to back up your freedom and make it last.
Democratic government has to go beyond merely understanding the ballot box to understanding it as a way of life to be lived every day, with respect for processes, offices and those who hold them.
You need sacrifice to understand that sometimes the interests of the future outweigh the personal interests of the now.
And you need a willingness to say that the plans we put in place now may lead to short-term hardship but could make our countries durable for our children and their children.
I believe that we have reached that point in most of Africa today.
We understand it as a continent of diverse countries and markets.
We understand these countries and markets as looking forward, not backwards.
And we understand it in a context where the centre of the global economy is shifting.
According to the World Bank, where the world had 63 Low Income Countries in the year 2000, today we have 36.
Where we had 52 countries experiencing negative growth in the early 1990s, today we have 10.
Where only 20 developing countries achieved a growth rate of at least 2% per capita in the early 1990s, today there are 69.
And in Africa, the number of democracies has increased almost five-fold since 1960.
We are talking about a different world today.
We are talking about a different Africa.
We believe that we are seizing the opportunities that Africa and the rest of the world has to offer here in Cape Town.
Indeed, next year, when we are the World Design Capital for 2014, we will be exploring many cutting edge projects of governance, social and economic excellence to help model new solutions for the developing world as it reaches its true potential.
I hope that many of those leaders who are here with us this week will be able to join us over the coming year and treat Cape Town as the laboratory for creating innovative solutions to the challenges that will face the world in the years ahead.
We are working with all partners to face these issues head-on so that we can break down the final artificial barriers between the public and private sector. By combining our talents, we will map the way forward for Africa through the 21st century.
12 May 2013