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Counting on the WEF on Africa to be powerful

Today, over one thousand leaders from government, corporate and civil society are gathered for the start of the World Economic Forum on Africa taking place in Cape Town, South Africa.

Why do I not feel overly excited having this prominent event on my doorstep?

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 2019/09/04

The record of accomplishment for such large high-profiled gatherings making headway does not foster hope.

One example that comes to mind is the yearly COP gathering, which took just over two decades to cultivate the Paris Agreement—and the agreement is still a work in progress.

It’s not an ideal situation but does show that the coming together of heads of state can change the ‘storyboard’ of our future.

The WEF on Africa announced that this year’s agenda aims to push new partnerships to create sustainable employment opportunities. This objective is on point as too many of our youth are ill prepared for the job market or find it gravely lacking in opportunity.

In addition, the future does look interesting as a rapid transformation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) creates new opportunities for job seekers and entrepreneurs (the job providers of our countries).

Admittedly, the encroaching 4IR transition is also a threat, demanding attention from sectors that have stood the test of time—the electricity distribution market’s ohms, amperes and volts have remained unchanged since Thomas Edison’s time.

These three electricity elements are unlikely to change, but then again I’d not envisioned trading in a virtual currency until recently. Nor did I image the threat of cybersecurity to our power stations, which if perpetrated successfully, can bring a city, country or whole region to its knees.

As such, the stakes are high for the WEF on Africa to deliver concrete messaging around these topics.

Will the gathered leaders find consensus and deliver some solutions to: 1) creating employment opportunities, 2) managing the impact of climate change on Africa, 3) positioning Africa on the global Internet of Everything platform, and 4) leveraging the new Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement to drive regional integration?

It’s a tall order and I’m counting on the 19th edition of this meeting to wield its power.

Till next week.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
Nicolette is the Editor of ESI Africa print journal, ESI-Africa.com and the annual African Power & Energy Elites. She is passionate about placing African countries on the international stage and is driven by the motto "The only way to predict the future is to create it". Join her in creating a sustainable future through articles and multimedia content.