非洲商业巨子兼易卜拉欣基金会（Mo Ibrahim Foundation）创始人易卜拉欣（Mo Ibrahim）向参加全球论坛的代表指出，西方主流媒体有关非洲的典型报道总是充斥着一小串负面消息，似乎这片大陆从来就和好事儿绝缘。新闻的焦点总是围绕着索马里海盗、达富尔难民、卢旺达种族屠杀、艾滋病和腐败暴君，却忽略了对更广泛的内容以及对包括改善国计民生、提高教育与环保、争取妇女权益、扩建医疗等基础设施在内的非洲发展与进步给与更加平衡、更加亲和的报道。
Back To Africa (Part One)
During the past few decades I have seen countless first-time Western visitors to China — tourists, business executives, journalists and politicians — deeply surprised and impressed by the reality of the China they saw first-hand, in sharp contrast to the image of China which they had in their mind before visiting.
Recently it was my turn to experience such an awakening moment. The occasion was my first visit to Africa, to participate in the FORTUNE/Time/CNN Global Forum in Cape Town, South Africa, from June 26-28.
Life is a great journey comprised of many small journeys, some successful and some not, woven together — if we get it right — by learning from success as well as failure. Mistakes are the feedstock of wisdom, which is a by-product of experience, and an acquired trait very different from innate intelligence.
Once in a while one of life’s small journeys provides an unusually rich vein of learning and insight, and my first visit to Africa was such a trip.
What I saw in one brief week left me deeply impressed and aware of how out of step my knowledge had been with Africa today, and where it is headed.
There is a terrible irony in the fact that despite the explosion of information and communications in our ever-shrinking world, we can still be so poorly informed about our neighbors. We can lay part of the blame on news media, but we should shoulder some of the responsibility ourselves for being intellectually lazy and complacent in our old ways of thinking.
As Mo Ibrahim, highly successful African entrepreneur and Founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said to Forum delegates, typical news reports from Africa in most western mass media consist of a short string of bad news sound bites, as if there were no good news emanating from the continent. The usual focus is on Somali pirates, the suffering in Darfur, genocide in Ruanda, HIV/AIDs, corrupt despots, etc., minus the broader context and a more balanced, nuanced look at positive progress which is being made in many parts of this giant continent in improved governance and civil society, in education, the environment, the empowerment of women, expansion of infrastructure including health care, etc.
Africa as a continent comprises 53 countries, with roughly 1/3 of the world’s land area — bigger than North America, Latin America and Europe combined. It has a huge share of our planet’s natural resources, with a population of 1 billion people. Sub-Saharan Africa is the third-fastest growing economic region of the world after China and India. The annual flow of foreign direct investment into Africa increased from US$9 billion in 2000 to US$62 billion in 2008, which is almost as large as the FDI flow into China, relative to GDP.
The African continent’s population density is very low. By comparison with China, for example, it has 25% less people living on three times more land area. Like China, about 40% of its people live in cities versus rural areas. Africa’s population is also relatively young. According to a new McKinsey & Company study on Africa, by the year 2040, one in five of our planet’s young people will hail from Africa, and the size of its labor force will be larger than China’s. Africa has nearly 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land.
麦肯锡报告 / McKinsey report
Over the past decade, the FORTUNE Global Forum has brought together hundreds of top business and government leaders as well as academics, journalists and opinion leaders, in cities from Beijing to Paris. This was the first time the Forum was held in Africa, and FORTUNE was joined in hosting it for the first time by its sister media brands TIME and CNN.
财富全球论坛议程 / “Agenda” of Global Forum
It was fitting that the first Global Forum in Africa coincided with the first FIFA World Cup Finals in Africa, also held in South Africa, an extraordinarily robust and colorful event garnering more global eyeballs and attention than any other in human history, broadcast via 400 TV stations in 208 countries, with an audience size that dwarfs even the Olympic Games and the Super Bowl.
世界杯足球赛门票 / FIFA Ticket
What I saw of Cape Town is charming and picturesque, with scenic vistas as striking as Sydney, Vancouver, or San Francisco, and a waterfront area full of great restaurants (including some fabulous seafood), shopping, and sightseeing. It is a city of roughly 5 million people, who embody South Africa’s rainbow image in their ethnic and racial diversity.
Capetonians pride themselves on having learned from the painful past of Apartheid and evolved into a tolerant and inclusive society. The city has large and influential Jewish as well as Muslim communities who live in harmony with one another. It is home to the 4th largest gay community among world cities.
South Africa has a long tradition of being a gateway for large parts of the African continent, a role which it continues to play today, including in the context of trade and investment between Africa and China as well as other parts of Asia.
One of the opening presentations of the Forum was a very informative talk by Professor Lee Berger, Reader in Human Evolution and the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Witwatersrand, on the African origins of human life on our planet, which concluded with the message to all delegates from around the globe: “Welcome home.”
Looking ahead, the business case for Africa is very strong. The McKinsey study cited above describes important changes from 1995-2005 including macroeconomic reforms, improvements – albeit uneven ones — in the regulatory environment, and the global commodity boom as contributing factors to the fact that the average rates of return on investment in Africa have been significantly higher than in other parts of the world.
Anecdotally, from talking with other delegates at the Global Forum, my clear sense is that the three-day event not only provided good networking, fine food and entertainment against the backdrop of the best football on the planet, but much more importantly, it changed the minds of a lot of very influential people. That’s the highest goal that an event of this sort can aspire to.
(To be continued…)