Zimbabwe’s embattled president Robert Mugabe arrived in Durban late on Tuesday for the 27th edition of the World Economic Forum On Africa.
The event holds at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal province. And over 1200 participants from over 100 countries representing business, government, academia, civil society, media and the arts are attending the meeting.
The South African government had announced on May 1 that South Africa would be hosting the meeting and that it will commence from May 3 – 5, 2017.
— South African Gov (@GovernmentZA) May 2, 2017
BuzzSouthAfrica understands that this year’s theme is captioned: ‘Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership’ and that President Jacob Zuma would be leading the South African delegation.
He is also expected to undertake a state-of-readiness walkabout at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban ahead of the start of the Forum. The president will inspect facilities led by the WEFA Organising team, according to the Presidency.
Reports have it that discussions at the forum will be dominated by the issue of ‘inclusive growth’ as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts for sub-Saharan African growth are at their lowest level for 20 years.
Key Participants At The World Economic Forum On Africa
They include the chief host of the meeting – South Africa’s President Jacob G. Zuma, his deputy Cyril M. Ramaphosa, King of Swaziland – H.M. King Mswati III; President of the Republic of Mauritius – Ameenah Gurib-Fakim; President of Zambia – Edgar Chagwa Lungu; President of Uganda – Yoweri Kaguta Museveni; President of Mozambique – Filipe Jacinto Nyusi; President of Senegal – Macky Sall; Prime Minister of Swaziland – Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini; Prime Minister of Namibia – Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila; and Vice-President of Ghana – Mahamudu Bawumia.
Representatives From International Organizations
UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace – Forest Whitaker; Mukhisa Kituyi – Secretary-General, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Ellen Agler – Chief Executive Officer, The END Fund; Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo – President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) among others.
Leaders From Outside Africa
Tharman Shanmugaratnam – Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies of Singapore; Wolfgang Schäuble -Federal Minister for Finance of Germany; and Brigitte Zypries – Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy of Germany.
The announcement of the meeting was greeted with backlashes, mixed reactions, and criticism. Many South Africans used the opportunity to take swipes at president Jacob Zuma and his counterpart from Zimbabwe.
While some argued that Zuma isn’t qualified to represent South Africa at the World Economic Forum, others suggested that Ramaphosa should speak on his behalf.
Here are some reactions.
— Ditiro Mohlamatji (@Diriro1) May 2, 2017
— Ditiro Mohlamatji (@Diriro1) May 2, 2017
A bit of the backlash was also fired at Robert Mugabe, with a Twitter user saying he hopes the president doesn’t fall this time like he did in 2015 on a red carpet.
Robert Mugabe is in Durban. Really hope the guy doesn't fall again 😂
— 🔥ZuptaChology🔥 (@Zupta_Chologist) May 3, 2017
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to attend WEF,in Durban
How quickly can international arrest warrants be organised? https://t.co/wk0XEX5SB4
— DemocracyInterruptus (@DroppedChance) May 2, 2017
This year’s WEF Africa comes as host country South Africa battles with dwindling economic growth, an unstable economic policy as a result of the downgrades to junk status and subdued investment.
Beyond South Africa, the forum can be said to have been apparently set against the backdrop of low growth, dire unemployment figures, and a huge infrastructure deficit in other African countries.
The infrastructure gap in the continent is also a source of worry and many hopes this year’s WEF gathering will really close up the gap – at least to a large extent.
Statistics shows that road and rail transport costs in the continent are estimated to be about 50% greater than comparable regions in other parts of the world. And over 600 million people across in Africa do not have access to electricity and other basic needs.
It is pertinent to note that the WEF is not the first to have focused on market integration as a way to promote economic growth. Recently, the African Union Summit established a continental Free-Trade Area (FTA) that would include all 54 African countries. The FTA aims at promoting economic growth too.
However, the World Economic Forum has promised that this year’s meeting will help effect change for jobless youths. Like tens of thousands of other Africans, South Africans also hope that the WEF Africa 2017 will rise above the spin, and make laudable efforts at addressing the dire economic conditions affecting millions of Africans.