World Economic Forum on Africa kicks off

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pretoria - The 21st World Economic Forum on Africa, which will be attended by more than 900 participants from 60 countries, kicks off today in Cape Town.

The three-day meeting will discuss how sub-Saharan Africa can sustain its growth path and become one of the pillars of global growth and demand.

To be held under the theme, Shaping Africa's Role in the New Reality, the meeting will take place against the backdrop of the increasing global recognition of Africa's growth potential.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, the lead minister for WEF, pointed out that in redefining the country's relationship with the world, South Africa's message was moving beyond the emphasis on its rich cultural diversity.

"We are now highlighting our achievements in the fields of science, technological innovation, financial services and our recognition as a systemically important member of the international community.

"In our hosting of WEF Africa, we will confidently say that South Africa is indeed responding to the new reality," he said.

Gordhan said the country is ideally placed in the shifting poles of power and economic growth, not only as an emerging market, but also as a leading economy on a continent that has become an indispensible partner in the global economy and is home to approximately 15 percent of the world's population.

"We are strong promoters of inclusive growth, job creation, and the diversification of the economy," the minister said.

He added that South Africa was actively participating and contributing to positions formulated in global policy making.

"We are also assuming an increasingly important position in the international arena. We are one of the non-permanent members on the United Nations Security Council, the only African country to be a member of the G20, and now most recently, we have taken a seat at the table of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa forum (BRICS), which, with its population of over 3 billion people, serves as a major platform for global dialogue and cooperation."

Among issues to be discussed at the WEF Africa are how African economies can mitigate their exposure to the volatility in commodity prices and how the continent can strengthen its voice in multilateral forums such as the G20 and the Seventeenth Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17). The COP 17 conference will be held in Durban in December.

As the biggest economy on the continent, South Africa has been and will continue to use its seat on multilateral fora, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G20, to advance Africa's interests.

South Africa will also use its membership of BRICS to amplify Africa's voice in the world.

Africa's improved economic prospects have largely been attributed to actions taken by African countries themselves to end political conflicts, improve governance and create better macroeconomic conditions.

While Africa will benefit from globalisation, which is expected to spur demand for commodities, the continent's growth into the future will be driven by social and demographic changes currently underway.

The South African Government delegation to WEF Africa will be led by President Jacob Zuma, who will be accompanied by the following ministers:

* Pravin Gordhan: Minister of Finance
* Trevor Manuel: Minister of National Planning: The Presidency
* Rob Davies: Minister of Trade & Industry
* Ebrahim Patel: Minister of Economic Development
* Tina Joemat-Pettersson: Minister of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries
* Malusi Gigaba: Minister of Public Enterprise
* Marthinus van Schalkwyk: Minister of Tourism
* Dipuo Peters: Minister of Energy
* Edna Molewa: Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs
* Naledi Pandor: Minister of Science and Technology

Several South African businesspeople will also attend the WEF meeting.