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Ethiopia: The World Economic Forum in Africa 2012

Over 700 leaders from more than 70 countries are attending the World Economic Forum taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian from 9 – 11 May, 2012.

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 industry agendas:

Africa is experiencing strong growth and despite the increasingly volatile global economy, African leaders are pursuing measures that will transform the region into the next global growth pole. In this context, the World Economic Forum on Africa will seek to leverage the positive political, economic and social progress of recent years by providing a true multistakeholder platform to develop new ideas and actions to achieve further sustainable, inclusive growth, –  says Elsie S. Kanza, Director, Head of Africa, World Economic Forum.

Caroline Kende-Robb, Kofi Annan and Bob Geldof – World Economic Forum on Africa 2012. Photo source: World Economic Forum (CC BY-SA 2.0) .

It is not a surprise that such a forum would take place in Africa since African countries are among the top fast growing economies in the world. The top ten countries with fastest growing population are also in Africa. But the choice of Addis Ababa leaves many unanswered questions to human rights activists.

Ethiopian blogger and Global Voices author asks, “When Addis Ababa hosts the 22nd World Economic Forum for the first time on Africa soil will anyone care?”:

I strongly believe that one topic that should be tackled in numerous debates in the forum should be the role of free and independent media and economic growth in Africa. Also other topics on the agenda should be issues like journalists’ incarceration, telecom services control by government and may be corruption. In fact the present spotlight of media on Ethiopia’s economic breakthrough is distracting attention from many serious challenges that Ethiopia’s free media is facing on day to day basis.

The forum has started on Wednesday after lots of bad news about Ethiopia’s free press five journalists—Woubshet Taye, Elias Kifle, Re’eyot Alemu and two Swedish journalists — sentenced to at least 10 years and more behind bars and 2012 PEN America press freedom award winner, Eskinder Nega, could face the death penalty if convicted this Friday.

However, Bekele argues that bringing the WEF to Ethiopia “marks a real shift in the perception of Ethiopia”:

Bringing the Forum to Addis Ababa marks a real shift in the perception of Ethiopia by the international community – a gradual understanding that this is a continent of potential and opportunity and not just misfortune and intractable problems.

As a representative of civil society among what will be an impressive gathering of influential political and business figures, I will be reinforcing the logical progression from building strong communities to strong economies, and, ultimately, greater political stability.

On Twitter, tweeps use the hashtag #WEFAfrica to share key insights and lessons from the Forum:

@Kwabena: Who (here) is using new technologies to engage the youth? – Klaus Schwab asks at the World Economic Forum on Africa #wef #WEFAfrica

@waresafrica: “l wouldn't really invest anywhere apart from Africa today because that's where the growth is.”Dangote tells #WEFAfrica in Addis

@msibeko: Best time for Africa in 50 years, but don't confuse economic growth with economic transformation. Kaberuka #WEFAfrica

@StephanMorais: My view is that there is no connection between democracy and economic growth, but democracy is good in itself, PM Ethiopia @ #WEFAfrica #YGL

@Africa_activist: Is the ordinary African touched by this #AfricaOptimism, is it an elitist movement, how can it be real & transformative? #WEFAfrica #YGL

@FightPoverty: Very inspiring day yesterday @GrowAfricaForum – key message: shift mindset from developing agriculture to developing agribusiness

You can follow the Forum live here.

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