Economic liberationImproving infrastructure, creating the right investment environment & honest politicians were the key words that resonated at Convergence Africa held in Nairobi on December 8.“It’s time for us to introspect whether we are actually independent when 50% of our countries’ budgets are dependent on external aid,” said Fred Swanikar, CEO, African Leadership Academy in Nairobi on December 8.Addressing a keynote session at Convergence Africa organised as part of the Africa Awards 2011, Fred said most African countries suffered from terrible infrastructure & the investment climates were far from satisfactory. “Even 40 years after gaining political independence, we have not been able to provide decent health & education facilities to our youngsters. It’s not the government but entrepreneur leadership that can take African countries forward,” he said. “You are at the right place at the right time. It’s time we liberated ourselves economically to become self-reliant,” he said, calling upon youngsters to join the entrepreneurship revolution in the African continent. “African countries lack strong institutions. There’s a need to build strong institutions. One bad leader can destroy the country. We need leaders who have the courage to take action,” he said.

[sws_blue_box box_size=”550″]Africa needs strong leaders. Leaders who have the guts to take action when it’s needed.[/sws_blue_box] Fred said there was an urgent need to bridge the gaps in linkages. “We need to build an ecosystem that will help entrepreneurs flourish.”

Noted industrialist Richard Branson said African countries deserved better leadership. Addressing another keynote session, Richard Branson said African countries needed honest politicians. “When we have honest politicians, we will have honest bureaucrats. It’s perhaps time for a revolution on the lines of Africa Spring in the north of the continent,” he said.

Richard Branson at Africa Awards 2011 On running an organisation successfully, Branson said today one could look at providing flexible working hours & also provide for working from home if required. “Keeping employees happy & doing business ethically is important,” he said. Finding the right people to do the job was equally important for the success of a business organisation.

Earlier, opening the Convergence Africa sessions, Tony Elumelu, Chairperson of Heirs Holdings said African countries were still underdeveloped since most of the produce is processed elsewhere. “Our wealth is harnessed, shipped & processed elsewhere & brought back into Africa to be sold to us. This has to change,” Tony said. “Governments should create safer investment environments; create the necessary infrastructure. Only this will help entrepreneurs grow.”

Tony said corruption was one of the major hindrances to foreign investment and the economic growth in Kenya. The African Union needed to rethink on this to become economically independent. “The African Union should create an environment for the constituent countries to engage with economic giants like China in the areas of infrastructure,” he added.

Philip Vassiliou, Managing Director, Legatum said Africa Awards was one of the few fora that bring together investors & entrepreneurs on a common platform.

The day-long event also saw breakout sessions on understanding legal frameworks, executing big ideas, securing finance, capitalising on opportunity, magnetising African content & funding opportunities against the economic situation in Kenya. Indeed it calls for economic liberation in Africa.

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