More than 800 participants, including several African heads of state, innovators, captains of industry and entrepreneurs from around the world are expected to attend the Kusi Ideas Festival that is scheduled to take place next month in Kigali, Rwanda.
The two-day conference organised by Nation Media Group (NMG) is not only part of its 60th anniversary celebrations but also the beginning of efforts to build a one-of-a-kind Pan-African ideas’ transaction market that will capitalise on the opportunities and innovations available for Africa.
It has been dubbed the ‘Davos for Africa’ and will be co-hosted by Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
In partnership with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and its affiliated organisations, NMG through the festival aims to bring together influential leaders, scholars, entrepreneurs and innovators from Africa to converse on important issues facing the continent.
These issues include topics around climate change, food security, human security, a borderless continent, media and democracy, sports and culture as well as sustainable economies.
Speaking during a media briefing on the event that will take place on December 8 to 9, NMG Chairman Wilfred Kiboro said the festival will provide a strategic platform to look back at Africa over the past 60 years and set the pace for the next 60 years going forward.
“As we celebrate 60 years, we want to provide a platform for people to discuss what they would like to see in Africa in the next 60 years. There has been tremendous change on the African continent in health, governance and education but there have also been great challenges such as famine, wars and genocides. If we are going to make a contribution to the world, we need to start thinking of the future,” he said.
Mr Kiboro, who was with NMG Chief Executive Officer Stephen Gitagama, AKDN Diplomatic Representative Azim Lakhani and Aga Khan Health Service Board Chair Moyez Alibhai, further said African countries can draw great lessons from the discussions.
The countries expected to participate include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Ethiopia, Algeria, Mozambique, Sweden and Mauritius.
Invited heads of state include those from Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Namibia, Madagascar and the DRC. Other delegates are expected from Sweden, the US, UK and Norway.
On his part, Dr Lakhani noted that AKDN-affiliated organisations, under the leadership of His Highness the Aga Khan, had over the past 60 years been thought leaders in Africa on issues such as education, infrastructure, health, environment and finance, adding that the festival will follow in this vision.
“This platform will be an opportunity for Africans to discuss challenges in Africa and solutions by Africa. It will also reiterate the need for Africa to create conditions that will enable people to thrive and economies to flourish,” he said.
The festival will have more than 30 speakers from across Africa and outside the continent, among them President Kagame with a keynote address, AU High Representative for Infrastructure and Development in Africa Raila Odinga, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development Mukhisa Kituyi and UN Economic Commission for Africa Executive Secretary Vera Songwe.
Kusi festival was named after a southerly wind that made possible cultural, intellectual and technological exchanges in the Indian Ocean circle and partly shaped the history of the nations on the eastern side of Africa and its hinterland.
“We will be channelling that spirit in the Kusi Festival because the same Indian Ocean circle that carries the fibre optic cables is emerging as the world’s dominant trade arena, and is the geopolitical sharp edge with the world’s highest concentration of foreign military bases and navies,” Mr Gitagama said.