Leaders gather in Cape Town for WEF on Africa

1 June 2015

The World Economic Forum’s 25th meeting in Africa, with the theme Then and Now: Reimagining Africa’s Future, takes place in Cape Town from 3 to 5 June.

It will be the largest ever in the region, with more than 1 250 leaders from business, politics, academia, civil society and the media attending.

The record levels of participation could be seen to reflect an optimism in the economic prospects of the region, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), as well as an unprecedented commitment across all stakeholder groups to pursue public-private co-operation as a means of tackling the considerable challenges the region still faces.

More than 90 senior government officials will attend and 83 leading international companies will be represented. “As befits Africa’s youthful population,” said the WEF, “the meeting will also boast a record 200 young leaders, drawn from the forum’s community of Global Shapers and Forum of Young Global Leaders, as well as the highest proportion of women leaders – at 270 woman leaders 25.8% – than ever before. In total, over 75 countries will be represented.”

Lessons of the past

Speaking on the eve of the gathering, Elsie Kanza, the head of Africa, World Economic Forum, said: “The occasion of our 25th meeting allows us an opportunity to see how far Africa has come economically, socially and politically since 1990. However, what this meeting is really about is looking forward, to see how we can channel the lessons of the past with the creativity, innovation and resourcefulness that comes from all stakeholders working together to solve Africa’s challenges in the present and future.”

The WEF’s first meeting on Africa took place in October 1990.

This year, the programme is built upon the three pillars: enabling markets, marshalling resources and inspiring creativity. It will feature high-level sessions on critical subjects such as migration, combating terrorism and harnessing Africa’s informal economy.

Alongside the meeting, the Grow Africa Investment Forum, which runs from 2 to 4 June, will bring together leaders engaged in the forum-led Grow Africa food security initiative. Another high-level summit will take place focused on mobilising financing for cross-border infrastructure.

There will also be several innovations, among them Community Conversations. These will be public debates based on the forum’s popular Davos Open Forum format, in which young people from the city are invited to interact with meeting participants on the key subjects of entrepreneurism and leadership.

The meeting will also, for the first time, webcast press conferences and issue briefings live, enabling the public to submit questions on important issues facing Africa’s future.

FDI leader

Speaking at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Friday ahead of the summit, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said South Africa as a foreign direct investment destination was regarded as one of the best on the continent.

“South Africa remains the most diverse economy on the continent – providing a supportive regulatory framework, a well-developed infrastructure network, a world- class financial hub and world-class services for business opportunities.”

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, South Africa remained the top foreign direct investment destination in Africa during 2013, significantly increasing foreign direct investment inflows from $4.6-billion (R56.28- billion) in 2012 to $8.1-billion in 2013, mostly in green field’s investments.

Radebe said South Africa continued to make strides in improving the ease of doing business.

“South Africa, if compared to other Brics [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] nations, comes first in the five of the 10 criteria the World Bank uses to assess ease of doing business – starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting credit, protecting investors and paying taxes,” he said.

Convened for regional and global leaders from business, government and civil society, the forum will take stock of progress made over the last 25 years, share insights on the present landscape and identify innovative approaches to accelerate inclusive growth while bring about sustainable development in the future.

SAinfo reporter