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18th World Economic Forum on Africa kicks offs

by Shaun Benton
on 04 Jun 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

Over hundreds of eminent individuals who play key roles in leading companies, associations, unions, governments and media organisations are converging in Cape Town for the 18th World Economic Forum on Africa.

The three-day meeting, which kicks off on Wednesday, is themed "Capitalising on opportunity".

With co-chairs from Nigeria, South Africa, the United States, Japan and the United Arab Emirates, the opening day of WEF-Africa will see a natural synergy with two of Africa's economic leaders as it coincides with a South Africa-Nigeria bilateral business forum to be attended by President Thabo Mbeki and visiting Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua.

The WEF-Africa co-chairs this year are Aliko Dangote, president of chief executive of Nigeria's Dangote Group, E. Neville Isdell, chairman and chief executive of that most global of brands, Coca-Cola, Wendy Luhabe, chairperson of South Africa's Industrial Development Corporation.

The other two of the five co-chairs are Sadako Ogata, president of Japan's International Cooperation Agency and Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman of the United Arab Emirates' major investor, Dubai World.

These five key figures in the machinations of the global economy will jointly be kick-starting the meeting, hosting the interactive opening session on 'Africa Economic Brainstorming - Drivers of Change', which will hold a forward-looking prism to the major drivers of change that the continent would need to be anticipating this year.

Complementary to this, another key session will look at the important nascent signals that could herald major changes in the near future, while another session will advance views crucial to understanding the global phenomenon of climate change and its local consequences.

Africa, with its historic bedrock of agricultural production at various levels, is expected to be hardest hit by this phenomenon and is facing losses estimated at between 1.9 percent and 2.7 percent of gross domestic product over coming years.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the science adviser to Japan's Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda, will join a discussion on this with Mozambique's President, Armando Emilio Guebuza, among others.

Parallel sessions will also focus on global corporate citizenship, where Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF, will air remarks along with Coca-Cola boss Mr Isdell and others and where listeners are expected to encounter the "one size does not fit all" refrain.

Another session, running parallel, include a discussion and analysis of economic outlooks over the next 12 months, which will see Finance Minister Trevor Manuel contributing along with Elizabeth Tankeu, commissioner for trade and industry for the Addis Ababa-headquartered African Union.

These are just a few of the sessions scheduled for Wednesday, giving an indication of scale of the three-day assembly; another focuses on malaria, noting that the continent is beginning to feel the positive impacts of the funding contributions various "corporate champions and philanthropists".

Uncertainty - political and otherwise - in the host country, South Africa, is to be tackled, with a look at confidence in the country's future and roles of business, government and civil society in this.

Another key session will see a glance at "Afropessimism" by six Africans heads of state - President Mbeki; President of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma; President John Kufour of Ghana; President Bingu Wa Mutharika of Malawi; President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi; Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga of Kenya and Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua.

Moderated by Mr Schwab, the discussion will look at the continent's "realistic potential", it will grapple with what are seen in some quarters as seemingly insurmountable challenges, while examining the possibilities of what is seen as the world's final economic frontier in this age of globalisation.

And that's not even the end of the first day, with discussions and events going on until late in the evening, with the pattern of back-to-back and parallel sessions being repeated in equal measure until Friday, when the 18th WEF will close with a look at the possibilities of turning "adversity into opportunity" in Africa. - BuaNews


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