A new world coming
How can Africa and its private sector
navigate the change?


The economic upheaval wrought by the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated pre-existing trends.

Global competition is undergoing key changes as global value chains are reshaped, Sino-American rivalry grows, tackling climate change becomes a top priority and digitalisation accelerates.

A new world is emerging, closing the chapter on a 70-year economic cycle dominated by globalisation, industrialisation and fossil fuels.

At a time when major economies of the North are starting to recover thanks to mass vaccination policies and ambitious stimulus plans, how should Africa and its business leaders prepare for the new environment taking shape?

To address this question, THE AFRICA CEO FORUM is mobilising its community of decision-makers from 28 to 30 September 2021 for a one-off digital edition.

For one time only, we will open this event to a large audience of several thousand participants, ACF 2021 will examine the challenges posed by the new global economic order and the strategic decisions the continent’s economies and businesses will need to make to keep pace with the changing times.


  • What solutions should Africa and the AfCFTA bring to the table as deglobalisation gains ground?
  • How can we rethink the business models of industries, such as oil, agriculture and construction, that must adapt amid the fight against climate change?
  • On what terms can Africa’s private sector effectively compensate for national governments’ shortcomings in healthcare and education?
  •  From technological disruptions to social and environmental responsibility to new ways of working, what lessons can be drawn from such shifts and how can African business leaders become more agile in an uncertain world?


This three-day conference will be focused on the continent’s future, and the strategic issues it faces. Private sector leaders, experts and policymakers will convene to find solutions to the challenges ushered in by this new world. Our in-person annual summit will return in 2022. THE AFRICA CEO FORUM is more determined than ever to carry out its mission statement of fostering both a thriving private sector and successful business champions in Africa.

  • Join the debate
  • PANEL | Climate change: How can Africa’s carbon-intensive industries adapt?

    Africa’s high emission industries are being pushed to transform amid SDG targets, subsidy reductions and carbon taxes. The UN Secretary-General has meanwhile called on lenders to stop financing major fossil fuel projects. Africa’s emissions are 4% of the global total, but are projected to climb 30% by 2030, putting African businesses further in the spotlight. Agricultural-driven land-use changes are Africa’s chief emission source, but energy and construction industries are also concerned. With the continent’s biggest emitter, coal-reliant South Africa, estimating it needs $8bn a year in international funding to meet CO2 reduction targets, how can the private sector finance its green transition? From low carbon intensive tech, agroforestry and diversifying into renewables, what will help cut GHGs and keep African businesses competitive?  

    Key points 

    • Incentives and capital – what instruments can finance the low carbon transition?      
    • Putting the money to use – what innovations and business strategies will be future-proof? 
    • Regulation and carbon taxes – what do high CO2 industries want and what will they get? 
  • Women Working for Change (WFC) | Social sectors: Can private investment be a game-changer?

    Annual shortfalls in Africa’s education and healthcare funding total $44bn and $66bn respectively. The COVID-19 crisis has added strain to the already limited resources of African states to address social-sector issues, highlighting the need for alternative financing. Private sector business opportunities exist: Africa’s healthcare market is expected to reach $259bn by 2030. But investing in social sectors requires specific expertise, an appropriate regulatory framework and suitable partnerships to reduce risk. As 70% of the global social and healthcare workforce is female, Women Working for Change (WFC) has chosen healthcare as a key topic. In this session, influential women will debate on ways in which the private sector can improve access to healthcare and training, particularly through win-win public-private partnerships. 

     Key points  

    • What are the best practices for the private sector when investing in social sectors? 
    • Regulation: What framework is needed to lower investment risk? 
    • How can companies reconcile social objectives with financial performance?   
  • PANEL | Future of trade: Africa in the age of the new trade wars

    The process of globalisation and trade liberalisation we have been experiencing since the post-war era is at an end, as evidenced by the shutdown of the WTO’s top court, Brexit, the expanded use of retaliatory economic measures, the battle for semiconductor supremacy and heightened tensions over digital security. What’s more, the trend towards isolationism has picked up pace, with the global public health crisis raising questions about vaccine access. Given Africa’s status as the world’s most trade-dependent continent – it conducts nearly 84% of its trade with international partners – and that it recently launched the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), what implications might the ongoing reconfiguration of global trade have for Africa?


    Key points  

    • Sino-American rivalry: Dangers and opportunities 
    • Mauritius-China, Morocco-EU, Kenya-EU: Do international bilateral agreements pose a threat to the AfCFTA? 
    • Comparative advantages: Finding an African strategy 
  • CEO Talk  | Resilience, transformation, innovation: Emerging challenges facing tomorrow’s African leaders

    Business leaders today are confronted with a much more unpredictable business climate than their predecessors. The hallmarks of good leadership have evolved with the advent of volatile economic cycles, continuous innovation, an explosion of communication channels and increasingly complex employee needs. The COVID-19 crisis has brought certain leadership qualities to the fore, from versatility and responsiveness to the ability to drive change, as well as ensuring early adoption of technological innovations. During this session, top-tier African and international CEOs will share the leadership lessons they have drawn from the crisis and how they think their roles will evolve in the coming years.       

    Key points  

    • Leadership lessons from the crisis  
    • Adapting to the business environment, mastering communication and meeting employee needs: How are leadership roles and qualities changing?  
    • What kind of leadership is needed to instil a culture of innovation and spur the early adoption of new technologies? 
  • FAMILY BUSINESS | Next-gen shakeup: How Africa’s future family business leaders will drive change

    More than 60% of Africa’s family companies are planning to hand over the governance, management or ownership of their business to the next generation within five years, representing a sharp rise from pre-Covid intentions*. A tech-savvy, environmentally and socially conscious younger generation will inherit fragile but optimistic businesses recovering from the pandemic and in need of diversification and digital transformation. How will these new leaders respect the foundations built by their ancestors while forging their own path and adapting to a much-changed business environment? 

    Key points 

    • Breaking family traditions – the strategies for post-pandemic governance and diversification   
    • Fresh ideas – the innovation pipeline for young leaders 
    • Prepping for the future – the hiring and upskilling priorities for the next gen
  • INVEST IN | Mauritania

    As the foremost annual meeting of the private sector on the continent, the AFRICA CEO FORUM is the leading platform for public-private dialogue. ‘Invest In’ sessions allow CEOs and investors to meet with high-level African government officials to gain deeper insight into their countries’ economic development strategies. 
    These sessions provide exposure to a variety of key sectors, business environments, and public and private investment opportunities. 

  • PANEL | Beyond industrialisation: Rethinking Africa's economic game plan 

    Africa was too slow to pursue Asia’s successful growth strategy of industrialisation and must look instead to alternatives, said Paul Kagame in his inaugural speech as AU chairperson in 2018. While the industry’s average contribution to continental GDP per capita remains flat at around $700 and global businesses are increasingly turn to automation, the Covid crisis and its disruptions have revealed new development opportunities: shortening of value chains through local production, a digital revolution and factory conversions to pharmaceutical manufacture. How can Africa take advantage of challenges to global value chains and create new comparative advantages?  

    Key points 

    • Industrial policy: Pinpointing new niche sectors for African countries and forming public-private partnerships 
    • A private sector view on the industries ripe for investment 
    • Digital revolution: What are the opportunities for industry?