AFRICAN BUSINESS LEADERS FORUM 2006
Gender discrimination impedes growth
Mokgabudi will be one of the vibrant array of speakers at this year’s Fourth African Business Leaders Forum in Sandton from 18 to 19 October at the Sandton Convention Centre.
Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and Zambia’s former president Kenneth Kaunda, as well as Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa and some of the continent’s top business leaders will strategise new ways to revolutionise the old and advance the new.
Mokgabudi believes that in South Africa “large projects such as transport networks, the recommissioning of electricity plants and the 2010 World Cup have meant an unprecedented demand for skills.” She notes that “most of the skills in the finance, infrastructure engineering and construction sectors reside with males over the age of 50. This is the time for old stereotypes to be exploded. A new vision for a new millennium with women as engineers, women in finance, women in construction as artisans, electricians, plumbers and builders, women as entrepreneurs. Women can and must enter into professions and skills areas that were once the preserve of males only.”
But there is still a need for governments to talk less and do more. Mokgabudi argues too that South Africa’s educational system is failing its responsibilities to students and the economy, especially when it comes to maths and science education
And Mahadi Buthelezi of Women for Growth says that “the glass ceiling still exists in South Africa, less than 5% of directors of listed companies in this country are women. Only a quarter of those employed in management positions are women, and of these just 9% are African women. We need to encourage more equitable representation at decision making levels.”
Breaking through that glass ceiling can be achieved through many ways, but one significant area is tourism, one of the consistently highest growth areas in the global economy. Dan Kgagi CEO of the Tourism Trust Fund in Kenya says: “The new breed of leaders being advocated for must form their governments with a technocratic, visionary and risk-taking team of men and women who share in the leader’s vision and have an entrepreneurial drive”
But Yvonne Johnston of the International Marketing Council, argues that good leadership and branding influence tourism, Once a nation has a great leader it needs extraordinary marketing to help that nation grow in ways that assures consistent good positioning. “Unless people understand what really makes you different it is hard to market your country. When we started nation branding five years ago, no one was doing it. We are still, to our knowledge, the only country in the world that packages tourism and investment as part of its branding.”
But outside factors can impede growth and another area in which Kgagi believes women can contribute is in having less children. “With the rapid erosion of economic gains due to especially uncontrolled population growth, our leaders must be able to take bold and decisive measures to check population growth, irrespective of the cultural beliefs that may be affected.”
But entrepreneurial activity is an area in which women thrive. The African Business Leaders Forum has numerous break away sessions, which include political risk and economic growth, infrastructure development, sustainable good governance and business and poverty alleviation among others, six business leaders, of whom two are women, will lead discussion on entrepreneurs based on the premise that “entrepreneurs are the engines that get economic trains moving. Africa has few mechanisms to promote research, development and innovation. Is this an obstacle to create a new breed of entrepreneurs or has it become a business trait to follow trends and business opportunities developed abroad?”
At yet another, Gugu Moloi founder and chairperson of Imari South Africa will lead discussion on talent management in Africa. Her argument will begin from the premise that, “the talent density in Africa remains unknown and poorly utilized. Most of Africa’s talent is migrating to places where it is properly utilized, depleting the continent from its much needed human capital and making Africa poor in the process. Who really cares about African talent and who will make greater use of it for growth?” And how female entrepreneurial talent can be developed from subsistence livelihoods to businesses that will help spur continental economies will be a major theme.
The range of speakers at the African Business Leaders Forum has been selected to deliberately provoke debate and find solutions. Publisher of Business in Africa which has organised the conference, Everest Ekong says: “African leaders must act now to convert the economic transformation of the continent into tangible, sustainable gains.”
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