African Leaders Stress Infrastructure at Davos

Although each leader had a different perspective, all agreed that infrastructure is the key to the continent's development.

Posted: 01/24/2013 11:07 AM EST

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said if his country and others in Africa truly hope to develop, major investments in infrastructure must be made first.

"It's easier to move from African countries to Europe and the rest of the world than to move from one African country to another," Jonathan said during a session at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. He added that Nigeria hopes improvements in infrastructure will help the country become a major exporter of rice over the next five years, instead of importing the staple.

Jonathan’s remarks came during a session called De-Risking Africa, where he and several African leaders spoke plainly about their respective countries’ pitfalls on the road to growth.

South African president Jacob Zuma said Africa's leaders are held back by problems that stem back to the colonial era.

"If colonialism left us with no infrastructure, the solution is to grow the economy," Zuma said.

His remarks echoed the sentiments of participant and fellow South African Graham Mackay, executive chairman of South African brewing giant SABMiller, who urged African leaders to let private-sector businesses "fix" Africa's problems rather than take on the responsibility as governments.

However, Rwandan leader Paul Kagame said the key to African issues is the power of African ingenuity.

"For me, the major problem I see is that Africa's story is written from somewhere else, and not by Africans themselves,” Kagame said.

The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization that hosts political and business leaders at the Davos resort in Switzerland each year to discuss ways to improve the state of the world.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Pascal Lauener)

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