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The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industral agendas. For the first time Ethiopia is hosting the forum. Elsie S. Kanza, Director and Head of the Africa for the World Economic Forum talk about the expected outcomes of the forum.
Capital: Could you tell us about the forum in general and how the regional and the global forums are related?
Elsie S. Kanza: That is a different regional meeting. We do it once in Africa. This is the World Economic Forum focused on regional investment. This economic forum is focused in bringing together multi stock holders in the state of Africa, to meet the interests of the continent. We also have other regional meetings that will take place in Latin America, East Asia, and different locations in the Middle East, northern Africa, and elsewhere in Europe. The focus of our annual meeting that takes place in Davos is more of a global forum. In Africa, regional issues and concerns take precedent.
As Africa is part of the world, what happened around the world has a direct impact on it. And inversely, in some aspects, what happens in Africa has an impact on the rest of the world. Take for example issues of the climate change. Local actions and activities such as desertification can ultimately impact the global sphere. Then it becomes a priority for the rest of the world. For example, during our meeting we discussed climate smart agriculture recognizing that agriculture is absolutely critical to the continent. There is currently a lot of interest. We are now concentrating on transforming the sector by increasing its size. If this is not done in an environmentally sustainable way, we look to accelerate the challenges of climate change around the world. This is how the two meetings are related.
Capital: How do you see Africa in the coming years?
Kanza: We have participants who attend the global summit and have interest to attend the regional meeting. They may have companies or operations in Africa. They have an interest on a global level and operate in the global level and in Africa. There is a heightened interest Africa, as it is the fastest growing region in terms of investment in the developing countries. There is stagnation or slow growth in Western Europe, America and elsewhere and some of the Asian economies. Africa’s growth opportunities and Africa’s growth possibilities were featured in detail at Davos this year. The undeniable truth is that Africa is the next growth pull.
Capital: What do you expect from the forum?
Kanza: In terms of the meeting, the outcome is threefold. One is realization of Africa’s importance as the fastest growing region and Ethiopia’s place among the fastest growing ones. Just by being here, we need to understand the changes that have taken place, the changes undertaken by the government, regarding Ethiopian government officials, the business community and also the Ethiopian society, with particular emphasis for the Ethiopian young people who will be present. That is one part.
We have brought diversification in the participation, coming from the sub-Saharan Africa of which one of the key concerns is how do we increase African trade and how develop African interact and network together. This will be a major change in the Sub-Saharan Africa. Hopefully this will accelerate the needed integration in the continent. In addition to that we have a number of initiatives driven by public-private collaboration such as grow African partnership. The forum is also partnering and collaborating with the NEPAD agency. The expectation here is that change is going to happen in agriculture and recognizing that the government can’t do it alone. Stake holders need to participate.
Another aspect and which is exciting personally for me, is to see the emerging new leaders. From this we expect Africa to continue forward under leadership that is more aware and responsive. We have tried to address these increased responsibilities and for the leaders to listen to their people. Using social media as a dialogue, we also want to see what changes the citizens are interested to see next year; giving feedback and an ear to their responses.