WEF Africa to punt continent’s agenda

[Image]Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the
World Economic Forum, and President
Jacob Zuma at the 2010 WEF Africa event
held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
(Image: World Economic Forum)

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Source: the Presidency

South Africa hosts the 21st World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa at Cape Town’s International Convention Centre from 4 to 6 May 2011.

The meeting, which will be attended by more than 900 participants from 60 countries, will focus on how sub-Saharan Africa can sustain its growth path and become a hub of global growth and demand. Six of the 10 most rapidly expanding economies are located in sub-Saharan Africa.

To be held under the thematic pillar Shaping Africa’s Role in the New Reality, the meeting will take place against the backdrop of increasing global recognition of Africa’s growth potential.

South Africa’s delegation to WEF Africa will be led by President Jacob Zuma. The group will comprise, among others, several high-level government representatives including finance minister Pravin Gordhan; Minister of National Planning in the Presidency, Trevor Manuel; Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies; Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Economic Development; tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk; Edna Molewa, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs; and Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology.

A number of South African businesspeople will also attend the WEF meeting.

Zuma will participate in the opening plenary on Wednesday 4 May, as well as a panel discussion the following day, titled Climate Change – the Durban Agenda. The discussion will focus on how South Africa, as the host of the 17th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17), can rise to the challenge of finding long lasting solutions on Africa’s climate agenda.

Zuma will also attend a meeting with Cabinet ministers and CEOs from local and international companies.

More than just cultural riches

Gordhan, the delegation’s lead minister, pointed out that in redefining South Africa’s relationship with the world, the country’s message was moving beyond the emphasis on its rich cultural diversity.

“We are now highlighting our achievements in the fields of science, technological innovation, financial services and our recognition as a systemically important member of the international community,” he said.

“In our hosting of WEF Africa, we will confidently say that South Africa is indeed responding to the new reality. The country is ideally placed in the shifting poles of power and economic growth, not only as an emerging market, but also as a leading economy on a continent that has become an indispensible partner in the global economy and is home to approximately 15% of the world’s population.”

Gordhan added that the government continues to promote inclusive growth, job creation, and the diversification of the economy, and that South Africa was actively participating and contributing to positions formulated in global policy making.

“We are also assuming an increasingly important position in the international arena,” said Gordhan. “We are one of the non-permanent members on the United Nations Security Council, the only African country to be a member of the G20, and now most recently, we have taken a seat at the table of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa forum (BRICS), which, with its population of over 3-billion people, serves as a major platform for global dialogue and cooperation.”

Advancing African interests

Among issues to be discussed at WEF Africa are ways in which African economies can mitigate their exposure to the volatility in commodity prices and how the continent can strengthen its voice in multilateral forums such as the G20 and COP 17. The latter event takes place in Durban in December.

As the biggest economy on the continent, South Africa has been and will continue to use its seat on multilateral fora, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G20, to advance Africa’s interests. South Africa will also use its BRICS membership to amplify Africa’s voice in the world.

The continent’s improved economic prospects have largely been attributed to actions taken by African countries themselves to end political conflicts, improve governance and create better macroeconomic conditions.

While Africa will benefit from globalisation, which is expected to spur demand for commodities, the continent’s growth into the future will be driven by social and demographic changes currently underway.