WEF Africa will give KZN a boost

2017-01-29 06:09
This year's WEF focus is on "mastering the fourth Industrial Revolution". (AFP)

This year's WEF focus is on "mastering the fourth Industrial Revolution". (AFP)

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The reason KwaZulu-Natal lobbied for the World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa 2017 to come to Durban in May is because of the leverage that the hosting of this important continental assembly will afford to our province to sell itself as the investment and tourism destination of choice.

The world today knows of Davos, not only because of its indisputable scenic beauty, but because, annually, it is host to one of the world’s foremost gatherings on economic development.

Likewise, we are convinced that if, as social partners, we come together to embrace WEF Africa, the brand equity of both KwaZulu-Natal and Durban will be massively enhanced. 

Besides the fact that hosting WEF Africa will inject more capital and boost economic activity, the complementary effect is that most of the attendees will eventually become our brand ambassadors, encouraging tourists and investment back to KwaZulu–Natal.

 Investment attraction and tourism promotion aside, we are convinced that – at a time when global business leaders and governments are challenged to revisit the course they have taken when it comes to development – the province of KwaZulu-Natal will be the best platform for plotting a new trajectory for global economic development. 

The trajectory that we hope will emerge from WEF Africa 2017 is one that will place inclusive growth at the apex of our continent’s leaders’ priorities; that will reaffirm the importance of intra-Africa trade; that will vigorously promote new and innovative ways of tackling societal challenges; and, importantly, one that will be preoccupied with addressing the global challenge of inequality that is becoming more and more pronounced. 

With the latest Oxfam report suggesting that the 62 richest people in the world have the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people and that the poor are getting poorer, clearly the world, including ourselves, is sitting on a powder keg.

Indeed, all is not well when our country boasts the dubious honour of being the most unequal society in the world. 

Given our past of racial segregation and deliberate neglect of the majority of our people, clearly we should be at the forefront of finding lasting solutions to inequality, for if we fail to act decisively in this regard, our very own democratic project will be in jeopardy.

It was therefore apt that the theme for the 2017 WEF annual meeting in Davos spoke about responsible and responsive leadership and how the world should engage with the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In light of protectionism, regionalism and isolationism that are rearing their heads, particularly in the developed world, and the threat to jobs posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we feel it is proper that KwaZulu-Natal should be the platform where these global questions are tackled.

As we tackle these questions, we take heart from the fact that world leaders, particularly the president of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, have already aligned themselves with a position that acknowledges the unintended consequences of globalisation, but, at the same time, are not calling for the proverbial throwing out of the baby with the bath water, but rather globalisation that is based on cooperation and mutual respect among the nations of the world.

Indeed, this is a difficult task, but one which we feel progressive world leaders, both in business and politics, are more than capable to lead.

The province has an exemplary track record when it comes to hosting global and continental gatherings, and emerging with progressive solutions – including COP17 that we hosted in 2011, the launch of the African Union in 2002 and the International Aids Conference last year.

We have no doubt that, again, we will step up to the plate and ensure that our hosting of WEF Africa 2017 will take the economy of the continent and the world forward.

These are difficult times in the global politico-economic arena. They demand leadership with the necessary vision and foresight. They demand guts.

They demand the crossing of the unnecessarily accentuated divide between the public and private sectors.

They demand that we reimagine the world and be guided by the pursuit of global economic justice and we, as KwaZulu-Natal, believe that we are ideally positioned to use WEF Africa 2017 to set the tone for the empowerment of the rest of the African continent. 

We have no doubt that we speak for all the social partners when we say that Durban, KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa are ready to take WEF Africa to new heights, in terms of both logistical arrangements and content and outcomes of this important gathering.

Zikalala is the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs

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Read more on:    world economic forum  |  wef africa  |  investment  |  cop17

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