Voice of America (Washington, DC)

15 January 2014

Africa: Davos Economic Forum to Tackle Challenges of a Changing World

Geneva — A stellar cast of more than 2,500 business, government, academic and civil society leaders are expected to attend this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The meeting, which takes place from January 22 to 25, will address the challenges facing today's changing world.

As in previous years, glitz and glamour will be in abundant supply at the World Economic Forum. Security will be tight in the small Swiss Alpine town of Davos to protect some of the world's leading movers and shakers.

Among the more than 40 heads of state expected to attend are the prime ministers of Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and the presidents of Mexico, South Korea and Brazil.

For the first time since 2004, a sitting president of Iran will come to Davos. Forum organizers say Hassan Rouhani will speak about Iran's place in the world and present his view of Iran's relationship with the rest of the world.

The list of luminaries expected to attend is extensive. Many will participate in panel discussions focused on this year's unwieldy theme -- "The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business."

The forum's founder and executive chairman, Klaus Schwab, says some of today's best minds will be asked to try to unravel the world's complexities. He says they will be asked to look at hot-button issues, such as the situation in the Middle East. They also will be asked to address fundamental underlying development issues, including the new digital and technological landscape, job creation and global warming.

"What we want to do in Davos this year in this respect is to push the reset button," he said. "Let me explain. The world is much too much still caught in a crisis management mode and we forget that we should take now into our hands and we should look for solutions for the really fundamental issues. We should look at our future in a much more constructive, in a much more strategic way."

Among the many highlights in the program are sessions on climate change and the post-2015 development goals, the future of health and healthcare, and the pressing problem of youth unemployment. Others include panels on economic prospects for major emerging economies including China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Russia. The future of North Africa and the Middle East also will be discussed.

Africa, too, will figure prominently, but differently from previous years. Nearly 40 African leaders, among them nine heads of government, will attend, including the presidents of Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia.

In a departure from traditional practice, WEF Director, Head of Africa, Elsie Kanza, says this year there will be no formal sessions devoted to Africa. She tells VOA African issues will be dealt with on the sidelines of the meeting, or they will be integrated into other global topics that are addressed.

"Something that is important from the African community, and which we paid heed to this year, is that they were tired of being boxed into an Africa corner," she said. "They said Africa is very much part of the world and Davos is really a platform that is global, and that therefore what you have is African voices on global issues."

Kanza says African leaders do not want their issues to be treated as isolated cases. She says they want to be seen as equals to all others who attend the meeting. They say they want the Davos focus to be more on Africa's place in the world, rather than on the continent or region of origin.

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