The issue of poverty eradication and leadership style on the continent took centre stage when the fifth edition of the annual African Business Leaders Forum opened in Accra yesterday.
The three-day forum, deliberating on the theme: 'Leadership through Partnership,' brings together hundreds of representatives of the business community and the public sector from Africa to discuss such issues as service delivery and infrastructure development, women's empowerment, economic growth, good governance and poverty alleviation.
The forum provides an interface for stakeholders in the public and private sectors to concentrate minds on finding solutions to challenging issues of leadership at various levels in Africa and to make viable contributions to address them. It is the first time the forum is being held outside its traditional home of South Africa.
The five panellists who spoke on leadership and poverty reduction were unanimous that aid and grants from donors would not help solve the continent's growing level of poverty, stressing that visionary leadership was critical in the fight against poverty.
Otumba Gbenga Daniel, Governor of Ogun State in Nigeria, said it was necessary for African leaders to look beyond donor handouts and concentrate on trade both within and without the continent.
'African leaders must build market niches to become competitive. We must not use the next 50 years to cry over the effects of colonisation. We must move forward,' he said.
According to him the citizenry were looking and desirous of a credible leadership that would provide the direction and solutions to poverty and not leaders whose interest was only on how to loot the resources.
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, Executive Chairman of Data Bank, said the continent at this time in her development needed competent and compassionate leaders that were above corruption.
He said while there was consensus that poverty could be eradicated through good governance, infrastructure and education, there was still uncertainty as to which one comes first.
Mr Ofori-Atta called for strengthening of the role of civil society and the creation of a competitive corporate sector.
Mr Everest Ekong, Publisher of the Business in Africa Magazine, said the aim of the forum was to create and spread information and knowledge.
In a related development, Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, former Public Sector Reform Minister, has opened a forum for young African leaders from Southern Africa, West Africa and East Africa, specially invited to participate in the leadership forum.
The objectives of the Young African Leaders Programme include exposing the youth to critical issues facing the continent and to interact with and influence experts in the business and public sectors who are working to address them and to create a pool of talented young Africans who can work collaboratively to promote the growth and development of their countries and the continent.
Dr Nduom urged the youth to pursue unity and break down the visible barriers that divided the continent by putting aside individual interest and instead work for the collective goal.
Foluso Phillips, West African Publisher of Business in Africa Magazine, said the future of the continent lay in the hands of the youth and urged the participants to take advantage to learn and acquire new skills in their work.