The world, in trade and industrial terms, is being disrupted by both technological and political developments, providing opportunities but also posing risks to African countries. So highlighted University of Cape Town Mandela School of Public Governance Professor Carlos Lopes.
On the technological side, advances in recent years created possibilities of leapfrogging over existing technologies well-established in more mature economies. However, he cautioned that to leapfrog technologies "you need a certain level of sophistication".
Some African countries "get this", he reported. There were three key elements involved in successfully leapfrogging technologies.
First, there was a need for ambition. The national government had to be able to project ahead, to conceive of a future course for the nation.
The second "absolutely fundamental" element is sophistication. As it would not be possible to achieve this across the entire economy, the need was to focus on a limited number of carefully researched and targeted value chains, and develop sophistication in elements of these. "Don't go for everything!"
The third element was political will. Governments could not continue to operate in a routine manner, with departments working independently in separate silos. All departments had to be focused on implementing a single national strategy and committed to contributing to it.
"You have to have a national ambition with one single strategy," summed up Lopes, who hails from Guinea-Bissau. A good example of a country which was doing this was Ethiopia. Rwanda and Morocco were two more. Others, such as Senegal, were on the way to achieving this.