Africa Update: Perspectives From International CEOs

Monday, October 17, 2016
Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters
Strive Masiyiwa

Founder and Executive Chairman, Econet Wireless

Mo Ibrahim

Chairman, Mo Ibrahim Foundation


Adjunct Senior Fellow for Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs 

Introductory Remarks

President, Council on Foreign Relations

Mo Ibrahim, chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet Wireless, join CFR Fellow Jendayi E. Frazer to discuss the geopolitical and geoeconomic issues facing Africa today. The panelists discuss issues in technology, infrastructure, and agriculture as well as the possibility of creating a common market in Africa.

The Darryl G. Behrman Lecture on Africa Policy is held in memory of Darryl G. Behrman, who was originally from South Africa and had an abiding passion for Africa and international peace. The annual lecture is funded by members of the Behrman family.

HAASS: Well, good afternoon, and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations. And welcome, somewhat more specifically, to the 2016 Darryl Behrman Lecture on Africa Policy. My name is Richard Haass. And I am fortunate enough to be the president here at the Council on Foreign Relations. And we are excited because this is one of the important events to us of our program year.

The Darryl G. Behrman Lecture on Africa Policy was established by the Behrman family in memory of Darryl, who was the founder and co-managing partner of Behrman Capital. He was actually born in Johannesburg, and he was obviously intimately involved with the continent of his birth and was busy working there and with Africa when he passed away so unexpectedly now, what, 13, 14 years ago. And this lecture honors his memory and work and is designed to bring African policy issues to greater prominence here in this country.

I’m delighted that this year the lecture features two of the founding members of our Global Board of Advisors: Mo Ibrahim, originally from Sudan, is the chairman of the coincidentally named Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Working on the material here. And Strive Masiyiwa is originally from Zimbabwe, and he’s the founder and executive chairman of Econet Wireless. And you’ll find their extensive and equally impressive bios in your program.

Just for those of you who don’t know, the Global Board of Advisors is a truly prestigious group of international business leaders, former senior government officials, is chaired by our vice chairman, David Rubenstein. It is now in its fifth year. Members of the Global Board of Advisors provide the Council on Foreign Relations community with insight about their respective countries and regions and through meetings such as this one and the upcoming annual meeting. They’re involved in discussions here on international relations and the U.S. role in the world. We’re thrilled to welcome both Mo and Strive back to the Council today.

And beyond today’s lecture, let me just sort of say our Africa program here is anchored by two senior fellows, on one the stage, Jendayi Frazer, who has extensive experience as a U.S. government official and also as an ambassador, and John Campbell, and the same could be said about John who also an extensive career on the continent. Both publish on their blog, our website, and are our principal thought leaders this year about issues facing Africa and U.S. policy toward it.

So we are excited to have these three individuals up here today. We’re excited that so many of you could come here in person, many more watching it thanks to the wonders of modern technology, in part championed by the gentleman at the far end of the stage.

So, Jendayi, over to you.

FRAZER: Thank you very much, Richard.

And welcome to all of you to today’s Council on Foreign Relations Darryl G. Behrman Lecture on Africa Policy. It’s my pleasure to preside over this meeting. And what I’ll do is I’ll start, although Richard has already briefly introduced our speakers, I’ll start with a bit more of an introduction, and then we’ll engage the three of us in about 25 minutes of conversation, and then I’ll go back to the members and allow you to have a Q&A session with them for the 50 minutes. And then we’ll conclude promptly at 2 p.m.

So with that, let me start with Dr. Mo Ibrahim who, as you heard, was born in Sudan of Nubian descent. I think that’s important for Egyptologists. He is, of course, famous as a mobile communications entrepreneur who founded and built MSI and Celtel, which really pioneered mobile phones and services across Africa.

Mo took his great fortune from his business and put it into the Mo Ibrahim Foundation in 2006 to promote African governance and leadership. And the foundation of that are four pillars; one, of course, that you’ve all heard about is the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which is importantly more money than the Nobel Peace Prize for African leaders that the committee, the prize committee, judges as having governed well, and I think probably more strict than a Nobel Peace Prize these days in terms of its selection.

Secondly, he also is with the Ibrahim Index of African Governance which is really bringing data to bear on assessing individual African countries with coverage of all 54 countries.

Thirdly, he has the Ibrahim Forum which is annual. It’s a discussion around a critical issue for Africa, and it’s the annual forum often in some country in Africa. And then he has the Ibrahim Fellows in which he’s really trying to mentor future African leaders.

In addition to his foundation, Mo is still doing business as the founder of Satya Capital Limited which is a private equity fund that invests across Africa. And in 2015, I think it’s important to note that he announced a partnership with TPG Growth to invest over a billion dollars more together in Africa.

So, Mo, welcome to you.

IBRAHIM: Thank you.

FRAZER: We’re delighted to have you.

IBRAHIM: Thank you.

FRAZER: Yeah. And now I’d like to also introduce my brother Strive Masiyiwa who, as you all know, is Zimbabwean born. He’s a successful entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist. He’s a founder and executive chairman of Econet which is a diversified telecommunications group. And I think it’s important to note that he has operations not only in Africa, but in Latin America, America, the U.K., Europe, China, the UAE, and in New Zealand. So it is truly a global company.

He and his wife cofounded the Higher Life Foundation in 1996, which invests in children and their future education through scholarships to especially orphaned and vulnerable children, as well as scholarships extended to local and international merit-based, so highly gifted students.

Strive is also the chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA. He’s the chair of the Micronutrient Initiative of Canada. And I could go on and on about both Mo and Strive’s many boards, their strong philanthropy, and the wide recognition in awards and honors that they’ve received before the work that they’ve done.

So, Strive, welcome to you as well.

MASIYIWA: Thank you.

FRAZER: I’d like to start today’s discussion with a question about your vision for Africa. When we think about policy, policy has to start with the vision to establish the goals, the objectives to put in place the strategy. So if you’re a policy engineer for Africa, how do you start with what are the—what is the crystal-clear vision that you would bring to your company?

Mo, I’ll start with you.

IBRAHIM: OK. I really look forward for, if not a united Africa, but a common-market Africa. I think it’s really a burden for us to have that single-market concept. The reason is we are 54 countries, and many of our countries really are sub-skilled, many of our countries—we have 13 countries or so which are landlocked, quite a number of countries with less than 2 million people. And we don’t trade with each other. African trade is less than 13, 14 percent, and that is a recipe for disaster. We cannot do that; we cannot continue to have that.

And I always say, imagine China, which has the same population as Africa, which is composed of 54 countries with different rules, different taxation systems, different currencies, where China would have been today. I think it would have been where Africa is. So that’s really something very important for us to deal with, this type of world, global environment around us, we cannot really prosper as 54 different entities following different trajectories. It wouldn’t work. That’s really important.

A second point is our youth. There’s major demographic changes happening in Africa. In 10 years of 15 years, Africa will have more labor force than India or China. And what do we want to do with this? Unless we really revisit our education system, our training programs, et cetera, we’re going to have some big issues. So it is a two-edged sword. If we do it right, that will create a great engine for development. If we do it wrong, we’ll end up with a lot of dead people in the Mediterranean, and that would be very worrying.

All in all, I see the basics are there for Africa. In terms of land mass, it’s a huge continent. It terms of numbers, of sheer number of people, it’s less than India, less than China. We have much more natural resources than them. We have wonderful waters around us. The marine resources around Africa is fantastic. It’s exploited by everybody other than the Africans.

And I can see the basics are there if we manage to sort out our governance in Africa. That’s why I really focus like a laser on the issue of governance, the way we need to run our countries and move forward, that is the most important issue, in my view.

FRAZER: Well, let me just follow up on that. And I should say for transparency sake, I am a member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s board of directors.

You just launched your government index in October. What are the trends in terms of the vision that you set out?

IBRAHIM: We noticed that governance over the last 10 years improved slightly. Things started to improve in Africa around the year 2000, improve tremendously. Then they started to stagnate a few years ago, and we started to raise the alarm a number of years ago.

We had measured progress in the area of participation, democracy, gender rights, health, education. We saw really great development there.

And then we started to see stagnation. And interestingly, stagnation also coincided with the economic development. So economic development itself was not a guarantee of the continuous liberalization and democratization of the countries. Maybe to the contrary, our leaders said, well, I have heard you now, let me do what I can do. So we raised the alarm a number of years ago.

The one main concern we have now, the data shows that the area where we see different deterioration, which is holding back the continent, is the area of safety and security. We see too much ungoverned spaces in Africa, too much conflicts, high level of this. And, of course, we have 54 countries. I’m trying to average here, so I don’t want to make the mistake of just tarnishing Africa, all of the 54 countries who have 54 different stories. But in general, we can see the area of security and safety of the people as deteriorating in a number of countries. And that is worrying.

FRAZER: Thank you.

Strive, what’s your vision? If you were designing a policy for the continent, what do you see is the vision for it that you would set out?

MASIYIWA: Well, thank you, Jendayi. And once again, thank you to your members for this opportunity to participate in this conversation.

As you probably know, about a month ago I accepted a request by the African Union to join a task force which is being led by President Kagame to undertake the first major review of the African Union since the 1960s. When the African Union was formed in the ‘60s, its mission was the decolonization of Africa, and this probably was an extraordinarily successful mission when we look back on it, when the founders got together and they said, look, we have so many countries under colonial rule and we need to deal with that. Their focus was not democracy, it was decolonization. And the period that followed was one which was very turbulent.

But when we look at the last two decades, we have seen quite encouraging economic growth where even though we are 54 sovereign countries, if you compare us to Asia we’re as diverse as Asia. You know, you have Myanmar on one side, you have Singapore on the other. And they’re all part of Asia. Africa’s not different. We have South Africa, we have Mauritius at one end, we have Morocco at the far end, so, you know, this is a daunting mission.

But when you look at the conflict between African countries, it’s almost nonexistent. We have very few intra—we have no nation at the moment, to the best of my recollection, where two African countries are fighting, which is extremely important given the fact that most of our borders were artificially imposed. So while we may have dispute over borders, we have, to a great extent, been able to sustain intra-African dispute. But, of course, there have been a lot of civil wars within countries. But even over the last two decades, we have seen a dramatic decrease in that. And today, we are more concerned about issues of jihadists and other similar groups that the rest of the world faces.

But what we now need to do is to strike a new, common vision. And here I concur with Mo that creating a common market, whilst respecting the sovereignty of these nations, is never an easy thing. But the vision of a Pan-African or a United States of Africa politically is difficult. Look at Europe, as mature a system as it is, has just had the trauma of the exit of the Brits. So it’s not an easy thing to achieve, but we do see the exciting possibility that could emerge if other the next two to three decades we can really forge a common market so that investors can come into any part of Africa and be able to enjoy the benefits of a market of a billion people today that’ll be 4 billion people plus by the turn of the century.

Most of the world’s youth will live in Africa by the turn of the century. We’ll be over 40 percent of the world’s population. So it is at one level, certainly for me as an entrepreneur, I see a half-full glass. There’s extraordinary opportunity that could be unleashed. But it could be also a contributor to incredible instability if we all don’t get it right. And I’ll stop there.

FRAZER: Strive, let me follow up with that. Since you are on this reform panel for changing the AU and making it more effective in terms of the commission and the architecture for governance and development on the continent, do you see the regional economic communities as building blocks for building this common market? And how do you go about that practically?

MASIYIWA: Absolutely. So we, you know, we’ve, as many of you know, with such a large continent and so many countries, what we’ve tried to do over the last couple of decades is to create regional blocs, and they all work in different, you know, they have different capabilities, and the successes differ. Some have generally focused on peace and security, while very effective at peace and security may not necessarily be as effective on the economic front.

And obviously, without preempting the work of the task force or any of my colleagues, I will say I come from the economic side, so my own interest would be trying to push the agenda that we could make Africa much more attractive to draw investment. We need to remove the addiction for a lot of the economies that is resource associated, oil or minerals and so forth, because that not only creates a boom-and-busts for a lot of these countries. If you look at Nigeria today, two or three years ago it was oil Nigeria, we were all excited, and the oil price goes down and suddenly we’re in a different direction.

But this also anchors a lot of the problems we have with corruption. So we need to unleash entrepreneurship much more and broaden the base of these economies. That’s going to be an interesting challenge from a reform perspective.


Mo, let me ask you. Both of you are electrical engineers, you’ve both built successful businesses around technological innovation. What sectors do you see the possibility for technology playing the same role that telecommunications and mobile phones played in sort of leapfrogging the continent even to a cashless society, you know, the Safaricoms and other things that came out of that infrastructure that you both put in place? Are there any opportunities like that today?

IBRAHIM: I think Africa is full of opportunities. This is a growing society. Consumption today—consumption in Africa in 2015 was $4 trillion with the mass urbanization taking place in Africa, with the high growth rate in population. It’s a country hungry for everything—services, real estate. Housing is a major issue. Our cities really is a major—our last conference, you mentioned—every year we have a forum in Africa. Last year, it was focused on the issue of African cities because Africa now has, like, 50 cities with more than 1 million people and is growing at an advanced rate. And nobody’s paying attention, and a lot of things need to be done with these cities. It’s so expensive to try to build a metro or underground until the city has grown so much or to try to build a highway or to deal with education or health issues, garbage collection, you know, so it’s a major issue.

And the ecosystem around a city is totally different from what was largely the rural society turning quickly to an urban society. That creates a lot of opportunities for local housing, for example. This is a huge area in Africa, and that’s a real challenge for companies, how to come with solutions for that.

Infrastructure—infrastructure actually is an area which is we are moving quite fast, but there is a huge amount of work in it to be done, roads, ports, airports, broadband which is, I think, by extension, infrastructure. And actually, the return of these investments is quite high compared with the, you know, similar investments outside Africa. So as a society, we’re really hungry for a lot of products, and it’s a great opportunity. That’s why I only invest in Africa, actually.

FRAZER: Yeah, thank you.

Strive, agriculture, you’re the chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution. You just had a forum in Nairobi in September. Is there room for innovation? What does that sector hold? It’s 60 percent of arable, uncultivated land is in Africa. Mo talked about the cities. What about agriculture in the rural areas?

MASIYIWA: Well, you know, just to add to some of those statistics, 70 percent of all agricultural production in Africa is done by women on very small pieces of land, most of which they don’t own. We need—you cannot have a major economic reform if you don’t get your agricultural reform right. So when you look at the potential of Africa’s agriculture, and Mo and I were both founders with Kofi Anan of the Alliance for a Green Revolution, and you wonder what two electrical engineers ended up doing, that was the only way of getting me and Mo to work together. (Laughter.) Before that, we just competed like cats and dogs across Africa, but in a nice way, until he retired and then I became King. (Laughter.)

But we did great things together, as you know. And we both really believe that promoting small-holder farmers to be able to leverage new technologies in areas of seeds and fertilizers, soil health, environmental protection, is not only key to Africa’s self-sustainability in food production, but also in its stability. It’s the lowest-hanging fruit we have at the moment to deal with youth unemployment. But young people are not just going to go out with the hose to do what their parents did and their mothers do. So we need a major technological revolution, for want of another word, around agriculture, which makes it much more attractive for young people to come in and innovate and to see agriculture as an industry and not as just a rural activity. And we are seeing some extraordinary results since we launched the program. So I’m extremely encouraged.

And the level of investment—we had a pledging conference where people could come in and talk about how much they are investing in Africa in agriculture. Our idea when we had that program was that we would achieve pledges of $5 billion. People had just to come in and say this is what I’m doing, whether you were GE or a donor, and the pledges came in at over $35 billion of people working in African agriculture, which was quite extraordinary.

FRAZER: Thank you.

Before I turn it to the members, let me ask you a final question. Someone said recently that Africa is an accessory, an afterthought in U.S. foreign policy. What advice would you give to the next president of the United States about how they should approach Africa policy?

I’ll start with you, Strive, and then end with you, Mo.

MASIYIWA: Jendayi, then I’ll start giving away what you and I used to do when you were ambassador to South Africa. (Laughter.) You know, in Africa—obviously, I can’t speak for a whole continent, but, you know, I can at least speak for a continent in which I travel extensively. I have businesses in 17 African countries. America is always seen as a force for good. It is not just about your military strength or your economic strength, we generally have a perspective of that you do what you want to do because you believe in good.

And we want a partnership with the United States, which is what we’ve been telling President Obama. That’s what led to the U.S.-Africa summit, where we said, look, it’s—we’ve got to—you were great for us in giving us a hand up, but now we need to move to a relationship which is a handshake, you know, where we work as equal partners, we respect each other’s views. Sometimes we will differ. But we want the same things. We want stability, we want prosperity, and we want to live in a globally sustainable environment.

We have a very fragile ecosystem. Our people, because a lot of them are at the bottom end of the ladder, are the—are the first victims of things like global change, climate change.

So you know, we need to continue to work on these things together. And I’m looking—that would be the advice I would be giving.

FRAZER: Thank you.


IBRAHIM: I think that depends on who wins the election—(laughter)—because if a certain candidate wins—now African people, as you know, are black—(laughter)—half of them are Muslims, so I will not be able even to come here and to engage in a discussion with you. (Laughter.) And again, it seems you are turning against globalization and general trade. You spent years convincing us to open our economies, to join the WTO, and now you’re turning your back, and we look at you and say, you know, what’s going on, guys?

So I’m really confused. Africans in general are confused about what’s going on in this country and where this country’s going. And we cannot figure really what—our relationship with you.

I used to go around Africa preaching good governance and democracy, and this country was a model for us about constitutions and rule of law and a lot of things. And I find it difficult now to continue to do this. You understand why. And we hope that you get over this period and you continue to be a leading light for us and for the world.

We are very worried.

FRAZER: That leaves us with a lot to think about. Thank you very much.

At this time I would like to invite members to join our conversations with their questions. As a reminder, this meeting is on the record. Wait for the microphone and speak directly into it. Please stand, then state your name and affiliation. Please limit yourself to one question and keep it concise to allow as many members as possible to speak.

There’s a hand over here.

Q: Thank you very much. I’m John Hirsch from the International Peace Institute, and I’ve also lived in Africa a number of years.

I’d like you both, gentlemen, to say something about what the private sector can do about the refugee and migrant crisis. Many of the people who are drowning in the Mediterranean are from African countries—from Eritrea, from Kenya, from Nigeria, so on. What can not only the two of you but the private sector on the continent do to make life more viable for people so they will not feel the need to run away and face this terrible crisis? Thank you.

FRAZER: Yes. Which of you’d like to take the question?

IBRAHIM: Which one?

HAASS: Go on, Mo. (Laughter.)


Really, I think there is no quick fix to this one. We always rush to see, well, you know, what—let’s get some money, let us put a camp here or do—in my view, this is a long-term issue, has to—we have to—we need to find why. Why are young people leaving that? Why Eritreans or Ethiopians are leaving? Because of problem of governance in their country. That’s the issue.

Why—you know, when there is a loss of not only of opportunity, of hope for those youngest, then they have to do this stupid thing. I mean, it is a very dangerous journey, and people are doing that because of the—of what’s happening in their countries.

So I think, in the final analysis, it is the issue of focusing on the issue of governance. We should not marginalize certain people in our—in our societies, as is happening in some of our countries. We should have that space for everybody. And we should focus on the training and job creation for young people.

It’s a long process, and that is the way I think we need to address it. While I appreciate all the, you know, kind of conferences here and there and bridges, but this is—this—these are aspirins. These are not a solution for the problem. We need to focus.

Look around us. How many bad elections happened in Africa this year? Did anybody say anything? When in Burundi somebody said, oh, forget about the constitution; I’m staying here, what the African Union does? They send Museveni to go and convince him to leave. Museveni is there for 30-odd years. He did not leave himself. So how can he go and preach to leave? I mean, it is—it is a joke.

And we—so election is stolen in Gabon, clear. It happened in a number of countries. We saw people changing constitution, doing all kind of stuff. And that puts on the seeds for all the problems which happened later on.

We really need to know what is the root cause of all our problems, and we need to deal with that honestly and openly, without compromise. And unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening now.

FRAZER: Thank you.

Strive, unless you have anything to add, I will go back—go to the members—

MASIYIWA: No, no, let’s—we can move on here.

FRAZER: Yes. Yes.


Q: Thank you, Jendayi. Mahesh Kotecha, SCIC, former adjunct senior fellow at the Council—a long time ago. I first of commend the Council for bringing together such an accomplished group of African entrepreneurs who have successfully built companies, made money and given back. I think that’s really very, very exemplary, and I hope you do more of it.

My question is to both of you, Mo Ibrahim especially, because you mentioned it—infrastructure. You know, a common market for 54 countries, if it’s difficult for 27 in Europe, will be very, very difficult for Africa. Infrastructure, though—infrastructure-led growth has been happening in West Africa. You see Nigeria, sort of a hub or trading with—trading across borders. What about that issue? And AU has done very little with the NEPA projects. They’ve been sitting there for 15 years, with not a single one taking off. That’s just a total waste of time. What will you do to fix that?

IBRAHIM: Yeah, in the question of the common market, it’s not difficult. Already western Africans now have one central bank. Europe did not—Europe don’t have that, and that’s the crisis of the euro. There is no lender of last resort in Europe. We have one in West Africa.

So it is not—East Africa is moving very quickly towards that. These economic zones—there are seven economic zones in Africa. Each one is—economic commissions, we call them—is moving towards integration, and the idea is that??—so it’s going to happen.

And you know what’s something about Africans? There is something called—I don’t know. There is this affinity between Africans. You know, you walk in Paris, you walk in Madrid, and you see another African, and you just say hi. I don’t think a Frenchman and a German man meet in the Underground in London and say hi to each other. (Laughter.) I don’t think so.

So I don’t think it is difficult. I think it will happen. And it’s a necessity, and it will happen. I am sure it will happen.

How long it will take? I don’t know. But every year we are moving forward. Every year we are moving forward. And that’s really important.

There’s a lot of commodities now which can move, you know, tax-free between countries, and this list is growing. We need to focus on and enable this process, which is really important. And it’s going to happen.

FRAZER: Strive.

MASIYIWA: Yes. You know, one of the first things that we are going to have to agree on, certainly as we begin this reform process, is to throw away anything which has a label from another part of the world, so—because if we come out and we say common market, now we have to follow what Europe did, OK? We need, as Africans, to see what will work for us. And we also need to realize that these are not problems that will be solved in one day, OK? So we’re not going to sort of look at Europe’s model or Latin America’s model. We’re going to create an African model aimed at addressing our challenges in the reality of the African situation.

The African Union—and I’m not a member of the African Union in that sense, so I can’t speak for them—but they’re a voluntary body in a sense. They don’t have the authority to impose. They have to coerce and bring forward people. And sometimes people walk away. Morocco exited the African Union, don’t forget. They’re not members. (They just woke up one ?) and said we don’t agree, so we’ve left.

You can’t do that with the U.N. Maybe certain people might think they can. But we just have to address—find common areas which can give us a quick win; certainly areas of infrastructure, harmonizing our policies. There’s a lot of things we can do—reducing tariff barriers, creating trade platforms between countries, improving communications. You’ll be surprised how much that can help stimulate economies. And as people gain confidence from the benefits of those things, we can build on it. But it’s not going to be easy, but we will try.

MS. FRAZER: Yes, a question back here.

Q: Thank you, Ms. Frazer. It’s always a pleasure to listen to Mr. Ibrahim and Mr. Masiyiwa’s insights on Africa.

I have a question on environment and on your vision for a green Africa in the context of COP 22 that’s going to take place in Marrakesh in three weeks. It’s going to be the COP of Action. So do you have expectations around this COP? Thank you.

MS. FRAZER: I think we’ll start with Strive.

MR. MASIYIWA: I have been around these issues too many times to have expectations. (Laughter.) We do the best we can. But, look, as I said earlier, Africa has a very fragile ecosystem, and the effects of climate change are very real for us. And the—you know, I was doing a trip recently with former Secretary General Kofi Annan. We were in Mali together, and we were visiting rural farmers. I mean, they already were talking about the effects of climate change on their cropping seasons and the need for more resistant seeds.

So, you know, we’ve had floods. We’ve had droughts. So we need a comprehensive action program that takes us forward beyond the talk. So we are hopeful about this. I’m not cynical. We—this is what we have. These are the tools of modern leadership, and we have to use these platforms and we have to move people forward.

MS. FRAZER: Do you want to take that, Mo, or—

MR. IBRAHIM: No, I say we’re all convinced everywhere, actually, about the need to do something about climate. I think maybe the only people who are not convinced are some people here in U.S. So you need to talk to your people, not to us. (Laughter.)

MS. FRAZER: Let’s see here. Yes, in the middle. We’ll go to the middle here.

Q: Thank you. Dawn Liberi. I, in fact, was just recently the U.S. ambassador to Burundi. I just finished my tour. So—

MR. IBRAHIM: Timely. (Laughs.)

Q: I completely agree with what you said. And unfortunately we’ve seen the results of governance issues, because Burundi has now lost at least 10, if not 15, years’ worth of private-sector investment, economic development, et cetera. So I have related questions.

One is, do you see a role for the private sector to help, if you will, convince leaders in sub-Saharan Africa that their—that the need for governance is very clear if they want to continue in terms of development? Because now the people obviously are suffering in many countries, and the leadership frankly can no longer maintain its platform because of the lack of economic development.

So is there a role for private sector to help convince leaders, particularly since many of their political and other colleagues are not able to do that? Neither is the union, many of the regional blocs.

And related to that, how do you see the role of the private sector bridging the gap in loaning to women in particular? As you said, 70 percent of small farm-holders are women. At least 43 percent of all households in sub-Saharan Africa are headed by single women. And yet one of the single largest gaps in financing is to women. And I think that if we can help address maybe the two issues I’ve just put forward, we might have part of a solution for the future. Thank you.

MS. FRAZER: So I’ll ask Strive to answer the first, or the second, on women. And I’ll ask you, Mo, to answer the first one, private sector and how it can push for governance.

MR. MASIYIWA: But, you know, Ambassador, it shows just the limitations. We are the single largest investor in Burundi. I own the mobile network in Burundi. And if I could convince them, I’d be the first to say it shows just the limit. So there are limitations from a private-sector position.

So let me pivot to the women, because it is easier for me. You know, we—to get our agricultural sector moving forward, we need to deal with the elephant in the room, which is land rights, particularly with respect to women. And you know this has deep cultural challenges in some of the countries.

But to the extent—our focus, certainly as AGRA, is on those countries where persuading them to make the reforms has been easier to achieve, like Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia to some extent. And they are taking steps. Rwanda has just done an extraordinary task of land ownership. We now have women holding title to land in Rwanda. And I think this is where you’re going to see a real accelerator, and then raising the skills level and dealing with some of the traditions.


MR. IBRAHIM: Yes, I think what we can do is try to be a force for good as businesspeople. I don’t believe businesspeople are necessarily evil or bad people, and many businesspeople are quite good. I really remember the B team. You remember B team as well—

MR. MASIYIWA: (Inaudible.)

MR. IBRAHIM: —which is the global businesspeople and which believe that we need to focus really our model now on profit, planet, and people, not only on profit. But this is an important area, because business cannot exist without people or without the planet. It’s obvious. So we’ve taken a step to audit our businesses and to ensure environment, carbon, et cetera, transparency, tax evasion, issues like that. It’s really important.

I’m also a member of the Commission of Business and Sustainable Development. We need to see how business can help with sustainable development goals as part of the international effort to move things.

But businesspeople also have access, and they can gently advise. I offered the prize, for example, for a good leader; you know, $5 million or $2 million for life, so what I can. So we try whatever soft solutions, if possible.

But I think it’s also important for us to make sure that we pay our taxes and we stop the culture of these brown envelopes, because in many cases it’s a business, really, who is an instigator of the bribery. It’s not necessarily the other way around. And price shifting, profit shifting and base erosion, all these issues are really very important also for development. And so we really need businesspeople to stand up and pay more attention to—at least in the morning, when they sit with their kids, they can look in their eyes and they know they are doing the right thing. I think that’s important.

MS. FRAZER: We have time for one more concise question. Yes.

Q: Thank you. Jennifer Permesly. I’m an attorney with Skadden Arps.

I’m curious about the role that China is playing in Africa. We hear a lot about it. To what extent is that a reality? And do Africans view it as mostly a good thing, or are there real concerns about political influence and other motivations?

MS. FRAZER: Thank you.


MR. IBRAHIM: Yeah, I can never come to the United States and speak about Africa without being asked about China. (Laughter.) Somehow we are made to look like the unfaithful wife—

MS. FRAZER: (Laughs.)

MR. IBRAHIM: —who somehow started to court another man or something like that. (Laughter.) I mean, China is trading a lot with Africa. It is the main partner for Africa in trade, followed by Europe. And United States is a very distant third. This is the reality. So China is very important for Africa because of the amount of trade we have with China.

Now, China, of course, is new for the international stage. I mean, China has not been there for hundreds of years dealing with Africa, whatever. They’re finding their feet. What we must tell our Chinese friend is that they need to start from where the European ended, not from where the European started. That’s really important. European started when you guys started with slavery, then colonialism. We had very bad experience with you.

MS. FRAZER: (Laughs.)

MR. IBRAHIM: And then, effectively, you raped the continent. And things started to improve and you guys developed a conscience and you started to behave better. And we say, OK, you look at the Europeans and Americans and try to start from where they end it, not from before that. They need to learn about this.

But it is very important to have a relationship with them, because it’s important for our economies. Yes, we need more transparency. What concerns me personally is that a number of the Chinese contracts lack transparency. And that is not helpful. But I don’t think there is an evil guy sitting in Beijing saying, how can I screw the Africans today or—(inaudible). You know, they’re just people need to learn how to deal with Africa.

MS. FRAZER: Thank you.


MR. MASIYIWA: Certainly, you know, I agree with what—with much of what Mo says. You know, we’ve seen the rise of China in Africa. I mean, speaking of my own business, 20 years ago I’d never even been to China. Today we probably buy 70, 80 percent of our equipment for our networks from China. They’re extremely competitive. And the quality of their equipment and their support has improved dramatically. We cannot tell the difference with any Western-supplied equipment.

But at the same time, our Western suppliers have also raised their game. They’re taking a lot more interest in us. We’re doing just as—the business we do with the United States is—we come here for the best of what the Americans produce, and we go to the Chinese for what we know the Chinese do well. Now the Indians are coming. Whoa, the Indians are everywhere at the moment. Modi came and they came with him. And we love it. We’re very happy—more new friends.

And really, of course, there are aspects of doing business with the Chinese that I’m not that familiar with. They do a lot more business with governments, where I’m not—I can’t comment on that. But certainly the Chinese private sector, Chinese companies, are very serious about Africa. And they’re incredibly competitive when it—particularly when it comes to financing and supporting Chinese companies on major contracts. And it’s been good for us.

MS. FRAZER: Well, we have a few minutes left, so I’m going to take the privilege of the presider to ask one last question. You both are tremendous businessmen, but also philanthropists. How do you see philanthropy growing? You’re part of the Giving Pledge in Africa. There are more signing up for the Giving Pledge. What’s the landscape for philanthropy across the continent, for African philanthropists?


MR. IBRAHIM: I think we are learning about philanthropy. Africans, by their nature, because we used to live in these close communities, are very supportive of each other. And usually, because there’s a lack of a social net to help people, et cetera, there’s nothing like that. People have to look after their—that’s why the concept of the extended family exists in Africa. So that sort of giving is normal.

What is not people used to is to give to strangers. People will give to their village, to their extended family. But to give—and that’s the essence of philanthropy. You give it to somebody you don’t know and you will never meet. That is slightly different. But it is—people are learning also about doing this.

But I must say, really, I’m a philanthropist by accident. I don’t believe that philanthropy is going to change the world. I think action will change the world. That’s why our foundation, although it’s classified as philanthropy, we’re really about action. We challenge governments. We do scorecards for countries, for governments, et cetera, and leaders.

And I really believe in our role, you know, in taking actions and to really fight for better governments, for transparency, and clean government. I think that’s important, because that’s what’s going to change, because I’m really interested in change, because there will always be refugee camps. There will always be genocide. There will always be all this sort of thing. We need to stop that, and that’s very important than just trying to feed people in the camps.

MS. FRAZER: Thank you.


MR. MASIYIWA: Thank you, Jendayi.

I—whoa, I’ve agreed so much with Mo today. I’m wondering how I’m going to cope with it. (Laughs.)

MR. IBRAHIM: You are growing up. (Laughs.)

MR. MASIYIWA: Whoa. All right. We’ve been fighting like this for 25 years, so don’t worry.

But obviously, as Mo rightly says, giving and supporting is very much fundamental to the African family fabric. We don’t have social security and social support. So what is new is the emergence of African entrepreneurs who have made considerable amounts of money, and which—and here we’re talking about people like Mo and myself, who have established businesses that operate in multiple jurisdictions in Africa. That too is new.

And we are beginning to explore the broader philanthropic aspects. We’re trying to not only support the vulnerable and the poor in our societies from where our incomes are made, but also to begin to look for solutions, because philanthropy is not charity. We’re really trying to find fundamental solutions across the board, whether you’re looking at Mo Ibrahim’s work in governance or we’re looking at problems of micro-nutrition and stunting of children, right across to areas of leadership and how our societies develop.

But at the end of the day, you know, we cannot over-emphasize the role philanthropy can play, no more than in the United States. We have to get government policies to work right. We have to make governments do the role for which they are supposed to. No philanthropy can make up for that.

As somebody wrote, we can’t stop young people, as private sector, crossing the Sahara, because before they take their lives in the Mediterranean, many cross the Sahara before that. You know, that’s not going to be solved by the private sector. I think it cannot even be solved by Africa. It’s a global problem for which we must all take common responsibility and see how we solve it, because the world is ever interconnected.

Thank you.

MS. FRAZER: I think that’s a perfect way to end our meeting today. And I’m sure that the members will agree with me that we’ve had a comprehensive conversation that was very frank. And I should just commend our president, Richard Haass, for putting together the Global Advisory Board and having members like you, with such stellar reputations, be part of it.

So please, members—

MR. IBRAHIM: Can I offer just some advice, maybe, or suggestion to our American friends?


MR. IBRAHIM: We were talking before about the problem of the elections here, and how it’s polarized, and you guys have a lot of problems. May we suggest to you an African solution? What about giving Obama a third term? (Laughter.)

MS. FRAZER: With that, we will end. (Applause.)


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