The 27th Annual World Economic Forum dialogue on Africa is currently underway in Durban, South Africa and we are all watching with great anticipation and expectation. This expectation is heightened based on host for this year’s meeting, South Africa, (considering the recent economic downgrade South Africa has just experienced) accompanied by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) decision on growth forecasts for the region (the lowest in the past twenty years). With this context in mind, WEF Africa should prove to be a great opportunity for not just South Africa or the region, but the whole Continent to demonstrate to the international community how Africa plans to decrease our levels of inequality and poverty whilst taking lead in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
No time was wasted in seizing this opportunity by other players as evidenced by Oxfam, an international confederation of 20 NGOs with partners in over 90 countries, releasing their report titled “Starting With People: A Human Economy Approach to Inclusive Growth in Africa” just ahead of the commencement of the meeting. This seems to coincide with the theme of WEF Africa this year, which is “Achieving Inclusive Growth Through Responsive and Responsible Leadership.” The Oxfam report urges African leaders to build a human economy through prioritizing reduction of the huge inequality levels we currently sit facing, the development of SMMEs and small scale agricultural farmers whilst increasing spending on essential areas such as healthcare and education. Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam, further added that “Africa should stop imitating the failing policies of Europe and America and develop a new economic model that works for all Africans.”
This was further elaborated on when South Africa took the stage through the newly appointed Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba, who presented the steps that the National Treasury would take in achieving inclusive growth through mechanisms such as the R500-billion state procurement budget to be used to aggressively support black industrialists, small and medium-sized businesses as well as black and women owned enterprises. Spending will also increasingly be made into the township and rural economies as well as favouring manufacturers over the finance sector.
Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services in South Africa, Dr. Siyabonga Cwele, who announced a joint initiative with the WEF titled Internet For All, further highlighted the dedication to this inclusive economy. The initiative is aligned with the South African Government’s National Development Plan, South Africa Connect Strategy and the WEF ‘s program to accelerate Internet access and adoption through a multi-stakeholder platform. Stakeholders that will form part of this include Ericsson, Cisco, Digital Opportunity Trust, Huawei, Microsoft, MTN, Telkom, governments, civil society, academia and international organizations.
The meeting came to an end on the 5th of May with a renewed sense of f hope for the ability to keep the continent’s economy booming whilst ensuring the inclusion of all sectors of society.