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Plenary I: The State of the World Economy and its Implications for Development

The global economy is gaining momentum, and this is most clearly seen in emerging Asia and Europe. But the global recovery is very uneven with commodity exporters lagging.  Risks are significant: rapid tightening of global financial conditions, debt, protectionism, and political rifts. In addition, weak productivity growth and aging populations suggest a period of slower long-term growth. 

• Are current consensus forecasts for growth in 2018 realistic?
• Which downside risks are most likely and potent?
• Is the world bound for lower growth in the long-term?
• What are the prospects for economic convergence between advanced and developing countries?
• What are the most apt policy responses to the present challenges? 

Plenary II: Exploiting the Economic Potential of Africa and its Global Links

Africa’s growth has slowed recently yet Africa’s economic potential is undeniable. Over the past 15 years, many countries throughout the continent have witnessed high and sustained economic growth.  However, most countries in Africa remain mired at very low levels of income and high rates of poverty. Diversification is slow and governance is weak. 

• Which sectors will/could drive Africa’s development?
• What is the role of regional and global economic integration?
• What are the policy priorities?  

Plenary III: Agricultural Policy and Technological Change in Africa

More than fifteen years after the adoption of the first Millennium Development Goals, Food Security continues to be a challenge for many countries in Africa, in terms of access, availability, quality and regularity. Population growth and the current demographic boom will accentuate this challenge, but technological progress – as seen in a number of success cases in recent years – can help. 

• What is the role of agricultural reforms in food security?
• How can technology help?
• What is the role of social protection?
• How can regional integration strategies help?
• How can the agribusiness development potential be exploited?

Plenary IV: Bridging Africa’s Financing gap: New Actors, Longstanding Challenges

African countries have suffered from a persistent and widening financing gap. With levels of accumulation of wealth reaching record peaks in industrialized economies, and more recently in the BRICS and Asian economies, and interest rates low, there exists a major opportunity to reorient savings toward high return projects in Africa, most notably in infrastructure. Identifying and removing the bottlenecks to this investment is vital.

• What is deterring investment in Africa, even in instances where high returns are expected and political stability is fair? 
• How can technology (fintech, etc.) help bridge Africa’s financing gap?
• What role for China and the new Development Banks?
• How can the risk of investment be mitigated and effectively managed in the region?
• Are there lessons from the successes of countries in Asia and Latin America?

Plenary V: Re-Designing education systems: What Skillsets for the jobs of tomorrow

Unemployment and underemployment rates among youth have dramatically increased in the past decade in Africa.  The current education system often fails to provide its youth with adequate skills, even at the most basic level. 

• What are the skills needed in the new technological age? How can children and youth develop them?
• Should emphasis be put on ICT and digital understanding and fluency?
• What is the role of technical and vocational education?
• What can be learnt from success cases in the South?
• Can the education system be reformed from within or does it require an externally driven radical overhaul?

Plenary VI: The Geopolitics of Africa and the Superpowers

Africa’s geopolitics is characterized by cooperation and competition over abundant natural resources, as well as a desire of African countries to deepen their integration with each other and to forge stronger links with the world’s traditional and emerging superpowers. In addition to natural resources, the interest of the superpowers in Africa span control of irregular migration, infectious diseases, and terrorism. The superpowers also want to position themselves in Africa’s potentially very large markets.

• What interests and objectives for Europe, the United States and China in Africa?
• How can African countries leverage off the interests of the superpowers to achieve their own development objectives?
• Can cooperation within Africa enhance its geopolitical weight?

Plenary VII: Financing Infrastructures: Time for a Big Push in Africa

Infrastructure development is a key factor for growth and an essential catalyst for sustainable and socially inclusive development. The emergence of a large middle-class on the African continent is driving the demand for socio-economic infrastructure including access to water and sanitation. Furthermore, structural transformation and industrialization require adequate infrastructure to power economic activity, fuel industrialization, connect producers to markets, enhance intra-African trade and foster regional integration. Financing is scarce. 

• What are the current strategies for financing infrastructure in Africa? Are they effective?
• What is the role of the various actors in the development of infrastructure in the continent?
• How to better exploit the political, technical, and financial synergies needed to address the infrastructure gap?
• Is there an appropriate balance between regional, national, and sub-national infrastructure?

Plenary VIII: Security in the Sahel and Transatlantic Implications

Countries in the Sahel are facing political changes that affect the rest of the continent and the world.  The Sahel region has had a long history of vulnerability owing to dry land conditions, climate change as well as movements of people. These factors have resulted in porous frontiers often lacking legitimacy. In such a vacuum extremist organizations have expanded their ambitions and capacities drawing an “Arc of Instability”. 

• Are the measures taken by the Sahel countries and their allies only treating the symptoms rather that the disease?
• What are the operational frontiers for the security of the Sahel? 
• What is the implication of Mediterranean countries and the danger posed on them by the terrorist armed groups in the Sahel? 
• With the emergence of “narcoterrorism”, what is the link between terrorism and drug trafficking? 
• Which development oriented measures could be taken to tackle the root causes of terrorism?

Plenary IX: Lessons from Foreign Military Interventions in Africa

Africa has a history of foreign military interventions, dating back to the colonial era.  The 21st century has seen an intensification of foreign and intra-African military intervention.  The reasons include competition and the desire to maintain spheres of influence, the war on terrorism, humanitarian concerns, peace keeping, and sometimes a push for regime change. 

• Can military intervention be avoided by better mechanisms of conflict resolution?
• Do foreign military interventions work? 
• Are they compliant with international law or are they a violation of African countries’ sovereignty? 
• How can the involvement of western countries become more beneficial to the continent’s peace seeking agenda?

Plenary X: The Development of Africa: Insights from Latin American Presidents (In Spanish)

Africa and Latin America share deep cultural, ethnic and historical ties, rooted in waves of migration. Latin America is richer, yet the two regions share a dependence on primary commodities and have faced similar economic challenges in recent years as commodity prices boomed and then declined.  Their bilateral relations have seen important development in areas such as trade, policy initiatives, diplomatic relations and health cooperation. 

• What lessons can be drawn in Africa from the successes and failures of development in Latin America?
• How do Latin American leaders read Africa’s development and political challenges today?
• Can cooperation between Africa and Latin America be more productive and how?