Sophia Bekele, the founder and CEO of DotConnectAfrica (DCA), joined other distinguished speakers at the one-day 2018 EurAfrican forum held under the patronage of the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and the Government of Portugal, who called for a “sustainable strategy for Europe and Africa that builds bridges between the two continents.”
Recalling the initiation of the EurAfrica Forum in 2016, Bekele was an invitee that advised the Presidential delegation, which led to the initiation and launch of the expanded EurAfrica Forum 2018.
(TOP: Sophia Bekele, founder, DCA Group at the 2018 EurAfrican forum).
This year’s forum was held under the theme “Crafting Coalitions for Change,” the action-oriented platform aims to foster stronger collaboration between Europe and Africa in order to promote a shared green and inclusive growth, to uncover new business opportunities and to create synergies between innovation models.
African and European leaders from government, business and civil society discussed shared goals and collectively explored new types of coalitions at a time where the global geopolitical landscape is rapidly changing, bringing with it promises and risk.
Opening the forum, José Manuel Durão Barroso, chairman of the EurAfrican Forum, welcomed the delegates stating: “Africa will be the largest market in the world and the continent with the most demographic dynamism,” adding that “With increased education, infrastructure, respect for basic rules and rights, Africa will be the future.”
The first edition of the Forum is a call to action to reinvigorate and mobilize a generation of trustworthy, committed, authentic and ethical leaders able to empower people through their actions.
At the opening panel, “Time for Trust”, Bekele started her discussion by stating: “There is currently a meltdown of trust globally. The number of resignations due to ethical conducts in the government sectors as well as the actions of private sector giants such as Facebook and Google over our privacy, makes this topic of TRUST a timely issue”.
Bekele introduced herself by saying she is an expat living in three countries – USA, Kenya, and Ethiopia – where she has established a firm base. She conveyed to the forum that herself and her companies have a long history of engagement with Africa, both in development of business and social impact.
Focusing on the forum subject, Bekele noted that, “Trust can be fostered through three areas – Opportunity, Technology and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)”.
Expanding on the topics, she said that the EurAfrican geo-economics will therefore move towards reality if Africa is given opportunity to be equal partner in the equation, an opportunity for a fair trade – not as just an exporter of raw materials which is happening now, but empowering Africa to build its own processing capacity. Europe can do this with Africa at the national level withshared vision for each country instead of looking to Africa as one single continent.
She prevailed upon the delegates to over-communicate these shared achievements using the modern social media platforms. The traditional media has shown and is biased towards its own objectives.
Europe can also develop and engage in CSR programs to build its social capital as “the world needs to find the right balance between profit and social impact.”
Finally, she advocated a call to action for the empowered groups and leaders in Africa, which are its women and youth. “We should learn just like the Chinese to take advantage of the demographic dividend we have in our youth, the largest group and future generation of Africa. Statistically, it has also been known now that African women in fact currently make up the largest women workforce in the world”, Bekele said.
Responding to the questions from the audience, Bekele reiterated the panels’ voice that Africa is the destination for trade and development, and she has high hopes for Africa. Therefore it is the opportune time to forge trusting and working with other economic regions in the world like Europe.