As Nigeria prepares to host the world at this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF) the statesmen confirmed to attend the annual event include Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, former President of Brazil, Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, Kofi Anan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa and Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
In addition, 13 sitting African heads of governments are expected to attend the annual regional meeting. The number of African leaders is the largest ever since the first WEF on Africa began in 1990, according to Ogho Okiti, media coordinator of the forum.
The first WEF on Africa was held in Davos, Switzerland, the venue of the global version of the annual meeting. Since then, all other Africa editions have been in South Africa, except on five occasions when it was hosted by Zimbabwe (1997); Namibia (1998); Mozambique (2004); Tanzania (2010) and Ethiopia (2012). Nigeria is the first West African country to host the event.
The WEF Africa forum has served as platform for socio-economic and political development, as well as free and broad democracy in Africa. Nelson Mandela, F. W. de Klerk and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi first appeared together, outside South Africa, at Davos in 1992.
WEF has served as a catalyst for several global initiatives such as the Global Compact (jointly developed with the UN); the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation Alliance; the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
The 24th summit, with the theme ‘Forging Inclusive Growth (and) Creating Jobs’, is holding after last year’s report Connecting Africa’s Markets in a Sustainable Way, jointly produced by the Africa Development Bank, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, called for more regional integration, better infrastructure and investment in growth poles to diversify Africa’s economic base and generate enough jobs for its young, fast-urbanising population.
Africa’s rapidly growing youth population is the youngest and largest in the world. By 2045, Africa’s youth population will exceed that of China and India requiring 122 million jobs.
Nigeria is home to Africa’s largest population and lately emerged as the continent’s largest economy. Hosting for the first time is a reflection of the growing attraction of Nigeria to international capital.
As Africa’s largest oil producer, biggest telecommunications market, the second largest beer market, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest cement market as well as the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) Nigeria is considered one of the world’s most rewarding new markets and one of Africa’s promising growth poles.