The AFRICA CEO FORUM’s programme

African champions: Powering competitiveness

Despite the restrictions of a business climate that remains challenging, an organised and enterprising African private sector has emerged over the past two decades. Applying innovative methods and original strategies, it has shown its dynamism in the best of times, and its resilience in the worst. But the number and size of major African companies remains small when measured against other emerging regions. The time has come for today’s African champions to hoist themselves up to the level of global competitiveness, powering the way for the next generation!


Tech revolutions: widening gap or leapfrog opportunity?


For more than a century, development followed a similar pattern: consolidate political institutions, grow agricultural productivity, build a manufacturing fabric, and evolve towards heavy industry. This strategy made South Korea, Japan and China rich, and the United States and Western Europe before them. But this model is looking outdated. Robotization, artificial intelligence and digitalization disrupt industrialization policies, reducing their ability to provide employment while bringing profound changes to the business model in several sectors. In Africa, where job creation is urgently needed but many sectors are still underdeveloped, these new conditions offer both risks and opportunities. How can the continent’s CEOs and companies adapt in order to turn this historic shift into a catalyst for growth and transformation?

Key points:

  • What economic policies are needed to conform to the new global dynamic? How does technological disruption change the story in terms of job creation?
  • Education, infrastructure, governance: what structural changes must Africa make to adapt to this new era?

Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever


What does it take to become the head of a multinational with more than 170,000 employees in almost 190 countries? How do you run an enterprise on this scale? What business philosophy guides the choice of CEO for a global consumer goods giant when 2.5 million people are using one of its 400 brands every day? How do you reconcile growth and sustainable development in a highly competitive market? Dutch businessman Paul Polman has been the head of Unilever for more than a decade. He sets out his vision on the major global economic stakes, the current social and environmental challenges, and his strategy for driving change at the heart of a multinational company.

11:00 to 12:30


Women as tomorrow’s leaders


In Africa today, only 5% of the CEOs of major groups are women. And yet the positive impact of female leaders on financial performance is beyond doubt: businesses on the continent with the most women on their boards have an operating profit over 20% higher than industry averages. Why the discrepancy? How can we change the story and accelerate female leadership? The Africa CEO Forum’s “Women Initiative” invites five exceptional CEOs to give their take on the subject.

Key points:

  • Paths to the top: challenges and keys to success
  • How can African CEOs make their voice heard on the major issues confronting the continent and the world?
  • The importance of women leaders: have changes in attitude globally affected Africa?

Gas: a $2000 bn opportunity


Mozambique, Ghana, Tanzania, Egypt, Angola, Ethiopia, Senegal, Morocco: gas discoveries on the continent are on the increase, with five of the world’s ten largest discoveries in 2016 found in Africa. For the first time, the continent has a natural resource at its disposal that could have a direct effect on its development. If the gas can be liquefied offshore for export, like oil, it can also boost electricity production at home and even play a role in making fertilizer. What are the best models for exploiting these deposits to optimize the economic benefits?

Key points:

  • Investment decisions are not keeping pace with gas discoveries: why?
  • What is the role of government in creating favorable conditions for investment?
  • ‘Gas to power’ or ‘Gas for fertilizer’: what conditions are needed to successfully exploit gas resources in these ways, given that they require large infrastructure investment?
  • The necessity of building transnational gas pipelines

Financial inclusion: the digital revolution


Faced with the boom in smartphones around the world, the digital transformation of the global financial sector is well underway. But while mature banking sectors are weakened by this disruption, with the closure of 48,000 branches in eight years in Europe, and 7,000 in the United States, Africa has been handed a unique opportunity. It can radically increase the number of retail clients and target unbanked populations. Digital transformation is not just a matter of technology: it also calls for real changes in the culture and organization of the existing players, as well as evolutions in the regulatory sphere.

Key points:

  • How can we build organizations centered on their clients’ needs?
  • Preparing banks for the digital era and constructing a transformation agenda
  • How to adapt regulatory frameworks for the fintech revolution?
  • How best to use the potential of Big Data?

Infrastructure: catch-up time


The African Development Bank’s latest report, published at the beginning of 2018, pushes the annual infrastructure financing deficit further into the red, to the tune of an estimated $70bn-$110bn. Backers, governments, and the private sector all agree on the imperative to act, so why is there still a large gap between needs and provision? Investors and businesses with a proven track record of bringing major projects to fruition give their solutions for making the African infrastructure dream a reality.

Key points:

  • Eligibility, approval, implementation, financing: what is blocking African infrastructure projects and what will move them forward?
  • Legal framework and political stability: what is the role of government?
  • What are the drivers of success for infrastructure projects in Africa?

Health economy: finding a place for business


Health emergencies linked to Ebola and HIV, and the growing Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) burden caused by tobacco dependency, physical inactivity or unhealthy diets, have harmful consequences on Africa’s growth and development. While institutions and governments are engaging in universal health care provision, a considerable amount of work must be accomplished to develop high-quality health services that are both preventative and curative, and accessible to a broad spectrum of communities. What role can the private sector play in the face of these challenges? How can it help develop a dynamic health economy capable of generating jobs and investment?

Key points:

  • What are the opportunities for the private sector in the health economy?
  • ‘Universal health coverage’ in Africa: how to involve private businesses and entrepreneurs?
  • Health infrastructure, R&D, medical provisioning, e-health, technology: what role can the African private sector play?


In partnership with McKinsey & Company, the Women Initiative Workshop brings together 80 female CEOs for a brainstorming and networking session.
Work in progress. 

17:00 to 18:30


Backing tomorrow’s champions


Startups are the missing link in African innovation. While the number of young African companies is increasing, and incubators are springing up across the continent, venture capitalists are still few and far between. In 2016 only $366m was invested in African startups – a tenth of the figure for India. Will the recent creation of pan-African programs such as Boost Africa change the story? What will be the impact of the new Africa-centric funds? A look at how the future is shaping up for African startups…

Key points:

  • What are the results from 10 years of investment in African startups?
  • Can tech investment in Africa be profitable?
  • Are there opportunities beyond Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya?

Building an African footprint


In a session moderated by the Boston Consulting Group, the CEOs of Tsebo – the pan-African leader in corporate services – and of Attijariwafa Bank will explain in practice how they drew up and implemented their corporate strategies in ten or more African countries. And how they tackled the logistical, cultural and human challenges that accompany such expansion. With intra-African investment accounting for only 17% of total investment, the opportunities for growth within the continent are still very high, making this essential listening for all stakeholders in the private sector.

Agribusiness: rising to the competitiveness challenge


Private-sector investment in agriculture and agro-industry is rising in Africa. The figures speak for themselves: $3bn invested in palm oil production in Liberia, $2.3bn in eucalyptus plantations in Mozambique, $150bn in the Nigerian poultry industry. But international competitiveness still poses a challenge to the sector: the average cereal yield, for example, remains four times lower than in East Asia. Between rationalizing the cost of inputs, the use of new technology, seed improvement, and optimization of the cold chain, what are the winning strategies that will raise African agribusiness to international standards?

Key points:

  • How to reduce the cost of inputs, logistics, and energy?
  • Feed, varieties, seeds, mechanization, irrigation: strategies for improving yield
  • Intelligent agriculture and new technology: their role in raising competitiveness

26-27 March 2018

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