Exclusive interview with African Innovation Foundation Board Chairman, Former Diplomat Walter Fust

Ambassador Walter Fust headed the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation for more than 15 years. Following his retirement from the Development Corporation, Fust has served in roles for the United Nations’ Broadband Commission ITU, UNESCO, and the Committee of Experts on Public Administration. Fust also serves on the board of directors for a number of international institutions including the Coalition for a Dialog on Africa, the Library of Alexandria and several national foundations. As an internationally recognized leader, Fust provides knowledge and expertise in trade, development and humanitarian affairs.

Ambassador Fust has served in diplomatic and advisory roles as the Managing Director of the Swiss Trade Promotion Office and Secretary General of Switzerland’s Ministry of the Interior.  He served in various functions in Switzerland’s Federal Administration and the private sector including the role of personal assistant to Federal Councilor Dr. Kurt Furgler.  Fust began his diplomatic career serving at the Swiss Embassies in Baghdad and Tokyo. He completed his studies in public administration at the University of St. Gallen.


African Innovation Foundation Board Chairman, Former Diplomat Walter Fust

(a)    Ambassador Fust, your line of work includes among others, diplomacy, development cooperation etc; how do you think diplomacy plays an important role in business development.

Diplomacy plays an important role in business development as it assists in strategic thinking about the range of influences within an operational context, moving beyond immediate goals and growing your long-term interests. With the IPA, we focus on strategic development in African markets, pushing the IPA agenda and building mutually beneficial relationships.

(b)    There might be a thin or thick line between providing advice on humanitarian affairs and trade, how does your current role changes your thinking about Africa, especially if compare to your former roles.

Africa is on the rise and investment is imperative. It is a fast growing continent with lots of opportunities for business development. With my current role, I get the opportunity to engage with innovators that are making a difference in communities, policymakers who can fuel success and build a more enduring framework for Africa’s economic growth.

(c)    What did you see in your current position that makes you take the job?

My work with the African Innovation Foundation affords me the opportunity to apply private-sector and diplomatic insight to ensure lasting success across the African continent.  This is an inspiring and exciting challenge.

(d)    If you were today the richest man in the world, what would Africa benefit from you?

I rarely address hypotheticals, but I am confident that investments in building a strong African innovation ecosystem will create a more vigorous local and global economy.

(e)    Some African countries seem unwilling to apply advises from the IMF and the World Bank with regards to domestic and national borrowing; what is your take on that?

I agree with my colleague – innovation is the best way to break Africa’s cycle of dependence.  Africa has the potential and the resources to do that.

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