The story of African economic growth has topped world conversations for a long time. Yesterday I got to interact with business leaders, policy makers, startup founders, and and investors at Georgetown Africa Business Conference. This much needed event ran under the theme “Big Market: Harnessing Growth in a New Era of African Trade.” This unique platform is student-led collaboration between McDonough School of Business and the Walsh School of Foreign Service’s African Studies Program.

Being part of the African growth conversations in a different setting is extremely eye opening. During these conversations everyone was agreeing with the fact that Africa is poised for growth, with BREXIT even becoming a cherry on top. For once my motherland Africa will have a bargaining power with Britain, as it is currently searching for new trading partners. It is up to Africa to seize this opportunity or let it slip out of the silver platter. The only challenge that could hinder Africa now for a win-win situation could probably be the mind. When you have been accustomed to be always being the disadvantaged and the lesser powerful in all bargaining processes when the opportunity comes, I believe one becomes timid and afraid to grab and seize the moment.

However one mind blogging million dollar question that kept running through my mind all the day long was “Is Africa ready to embrace this growth and thrive?”

In my opinion so many key variables are still standing in the way of Africa’s growth such as something as simple change of mindset. If we, the owners of the resources, are not ready to grow we will continue being exploited together with our resources. The mind is the most dangerous tool, and if not handled well it will leave Africa in a worse off position. Just because we are not accustomed to win-win bargains we will negotiate to losing without setting favourable conditions for our growth.

Amongst the simple mindset issues then comes more complex issues such as democracy. I believe it is a key and also catalyst to growth of any economy. Most African countries have yet to fully democratise. Some African governments still use the state apparatus to maintain their status quo. They sell their investor narratives to their citizens before even going out to the world. I believe when we fully democratise all other key elements of economic growth can easily fall into place.

My main highlight of this conference was was witnessing a fellow Zimbabwe, Hope Tariro Ndlovu pitch his tech company Turvel which is poised to increase efficiency in public transportation in Africa. It is a Public Transport App that seeks to make public transportation more accessible and cheaper for millions of commuters across African countries. In my view public transportation in Africa is one of the setbacks when it comes to growth of our continent but if we embrace innovations from brilliant minds like Hope they become a catalyst to our growth as a continent. If our transportation is efficient then we reduce down time and spend most of our time productively.