Speaking at the Global Entrepreneur of the Year awards held in Monte Carlo, Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, said that entrepreneurs have the power to help build a more economically just and politically stable world.
Annan, now the chairman of the Africa Progress Panel, said that healthy countries are built on peace and security, respect for the rule of law and human rights, and economic development.
He noted that global youth unemployment is set to continue growing over the next five years, adding to the already 1,2 billion unemployed youths worldwide, and that this raised the prospect of rampant political instability in the years ahead.
Encourage the youth
“That’s why we need to encourage young people to be creative in forming new businesses,” he said. “We also need to find ways to finance their new ventures without forcing them to give away 70% of their company in return.”
He noted that Africa was ready for growth. “Entrepreneurs will play an important role in driving the growth of emerging markets such as Africa, with business opportunities ranging from agriculture to manufacturing and mining.”
Manufacturing shift towards Africa
According to Annan, an estimated 700 million manufacturing jobs are expected to move from China to countries in Africa.
He cautioned, however, that African governments had to “manage their end of the business better” and to set up a multilateral tax system which ensures all Africans benefit from the exploitation of resources.
Transparency is key
He also emphasised the need for widespread changes to regulatory systems so that all governments can confirm how much money has been received and how it has been deployed to help citizens.
“Every agreement must be placed on the internet so people know what they are doing with their resources,” he added.
He also noted that it was time for a new type of leadership, with both business and government needing to explain to citizens what they are doing and why.
Added to this, he said, Africa needs to address two main barriers to economic development on the continent – energy and infrastructure