May 2017 – Durban, South Africa
The World Economic Forum is world renowned institute and network. “The World Economic Forum, committed to improving the state of the world, is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. The Forum engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” (weforum.org)
Every year they conduct regional events across the world which bring together the movers and the shakers of the respective regions – from politicians and world leaders to business tycoons and entrepreneurs. Through my role as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper I had the opportunity to attend The World Economic Forum on Africa 2017 in Durban South Africa along with 49 other Global Shapers from across the continent. In a nutshell the whole event was networking on steroids, but for me a gained the most from engaging and interacting with my fellow Global Shapers. I was particularly disappointed at the shallow ways in which many panellists contributed to many of the debate particularly when it came to politics. This is not a reflection on the World Economic Forum but rather further proof of the ‘beat around the bush’ strategy of many African leaders and officials. Using appeasing buzzwords and never quite addressing issues directly or substantially in an attempt to stay neutral and politically correct. This makes for a dull experience as a member of the audience.
As it was The World Economic Forum, economics and economic growth was a major theme throughout the event. This in my opinion was limiting because the approach was based on the premise of neo-liberal capitalism being the standard and the structure to be strived for. This raised many flags for me as a humanitarian and a pan-African. I will not use this platform to expand into my problems with capitalism as it is today as it is not the time and place, however I will say that essentially capitalism is exploitation. Period. It will always be problematic for me. This is why books such as The Capitalist Nigger are more regressive especially for the African context. That narrative isn’t constructive – we need to build our own socio-economic paradigms which serve all our people. Because let’s face it, until we find an alternative we will continue to bear the brunt of capitalism and for Africa this means a perpetual state of financial dependency and entrenched neo-colonial systems.
We have a long way to go and the beginning of the solution, I believe, is to not look at development in a linear and exclusive way by focusing on economics as is normally the case. But recognizing the nuances and complexities. Recognizing that economic growth does not mean societal equity (as demonstrated by states like South Africa and Nigeria). Building equitable societies should be our focus and we will only get there by completely reviewing our priorities and redirecting our resources.