Oliver Cann graduated from University of Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom in 1996 with a BA (Hons) in Government and European Union Studies. From 1998 to 2006, he was partner and co-owner, Thompson Stanley Publications, United Kingdom. In 2006 to 2008, he was head of Business Media, Press Association, United Kingdom. From 2008 to 2012, he was Head of Media Relations, Aspect Consulting, Brussels, Belgium, before joining the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2012. Cann, who is the spokesperson and Head of Media Content for WEF granted DOLAPO AINA an interview during the World Economic Forum Africa in Rwanda.


Why has the World Economic Forum focused on Rwanda in 2016?
It is a good year to focus on Rwanda. As we all know, African economies are suffering especially those in commodity dependent markets, including Nigeria (the strong dollar is not helping either.) There is a sense that the high growth we have been seeing, is now slowing. In fact, that is the order of the day. The reason why it makes sense for Rwanda as the World Economic Forum on Africa host in 2016 is that, the country has never been blessed with the same abundance of raw materials and natural resources as some of its neighbouring African countries.
Therefore, the Rwandan government made some tough decisions and some bold investments early on, several years ago, to build institutions and to create an environment that is friendly for business, which has enabled the country to attract investments, to build its infrastructure and to establish itself as a centre within the region for high skilled work.
That said, it has also worked hard to make sure its government is in a strong situation, vis-à-vis institutions. It has a lot of good qualities in terms of bureaucratic red-tape (I believe it takes three hours to start a business in Rwanda.) There is a lot of good lessons here.
In fact, during the World Economic Forum on Africa, the deputy President of South Africa and some ministers within his delegation told us that he saw a lot of good work that Rwanda is doing that South Africa could benefit from. And his team would go home and try to emulate.
Why has the World Economic Forum been focussing on 41R (Fourth Industrial Revolution) and is it applicable in Africa?The meeting has got a technological focus and that is because we launched what we call a theme called "the fourth Industrial Revolution" in Davos, because we believe this is going to change the way the world looks, how do people work together, how do people live together, how do people interact. It is going to transform life as we know it today. We don't know how it is going to transform but we know it is. We know most of these technologies are happening at a pace, if we don't know them better. Then we won't be in a good position when it comes to making sure they serve humanity.
That said, we did not have a discussion in Davos, particularly on the impact of the 4IR on Africa. i think that was along critical challenges. We had a lot of work done in the space of infrastructure, financing, sustainable development and food security. A lot of our work and the grand projects is focused on Nigeria (that is a big area of activity for us.) Also, on healthcare, we are working with our partners on a project in Ogun State for health insurance which is now been endorsed by the government.
So, we are focusing on everything.
We don't see technology as a silver bullet but we see it as one way of making advances in almost every single area, whether it is government. Whether it is financing big projects by improving the amount of information available. Whether it is making healthcare more efficient and more people-centric. Or whether it is having farmers get the right price in the market or the right conditions for growing crops.
How can the media in Africa promote Information Communications Technology?
I think the role of the media is in helping tell the story of these great changes because, they are going to happen to everybody and everybody needs to know our world is changing. Children are going to go to school today, not knowing what jobs they are going to have because we don't know what jobs are going to be created. A lot of the jobs we have today may not be here in ten to twenty years time. So, we need to be talking about the future.
Sometimes, it is quite frustrating because things move at quite slow paces and a lot of the work it does is talk; it does not generate many headlines.
But what we do and what we are good at is to bring together leaders with whose help we are able to put together commitment, resources, energy, expertise into finding solutions and then, it is the task of governments and businesses to scale this up. And that story needs to be told that we need to start planning and thinking ahead and being aware of the long term issues that are going to affect our futures.
What is your take on the conclusion of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Rwanda?
I would like to think that the people have gone away with a strong sense of direction and urgency. Direction because there has been a great amount of agreement on not just what to do but how to do it in areas such as infrastructure financing or trade or food security, mobile telephones or internet for all. We have had lots of agreements and work and this is a meeting of our communities who have worked throughout the year, they have come together, access how they are doing, they discuss and decide how to push on through, for the year ahead.
I think the direction is there but also the urgency. There is a strong pressure to start working a bit faster. Look at climate change; we know what needs to be done. But we need to get the commitments in place to make COP 22-Conference of the Parties (a Climate Change Policy and Practice) a realistic target.