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Davos 2017: The dawning of the fourth industrial revolution

Siki Mgabadeli speaks to Elsie Kanza, the Head of the World Economic Forum about the importance of Africa’s presence at the World Economic Forum.

The WEF’s Annual Meeting in Davos Switzerland continues, where a record 3,000 leaders from government, business and civil society have gathered at the 47th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. Earlier I spoke to Elsie Kanza, the head of Africa for the WEF and I began by asking her how much representation the African continent has at WEF.

SIKI MGABADELI: Thank you so much for joining us today.

ELSIE KANZA: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here.

SIKI MGABADELI: Now, tell us how represented the African continent is here at the annual meeting.

ELSIE KANZA: The Africa community is very well represented. It’s higher than it’s been before. We have over 120 leaders present representing the entire continent from East to Southern to West Africa, Anglophone and Francophone Africa. They are coming from all segments of society, so from our global shapers who are 20 to 30-something year olds, to civil society leaders, media leaders, government and business as well and they’re really well integrated throughout the programme and ensuring that the African voice is present.

SIKI MGABADELI: Now the theme for this year is literally responsive and responsible leadership. What does that speak to when it comes to the continent?

ELSIE KANZA: Well, it speaks to similar issues that citizens and leadership as a whole is experiencing globally. There was a recent survey conducted about global shapers community, so this is youth around the world and we found that of the key issues that are top of mind for them they are actually similar, so issues related to poverty, unemployment, corruption, are equally similar globally as they are for youth in the region and there’s a broad recognition that there is a crisis of leadership meaning that it is not as responsive as citizens would like the leadership to be.

It is also equally true that with new digital platforms on social media, it is possible for leaders to get a better sense of how they’re doing and faring because more people can voice their experiences, voice their satisfaction or dissatisfaction and this is helping to break down what we increasingly hear about this equi-chamber or silos of thinking that allows leaders to better realise where they’re falling short. And so the meeting is very much keen on helping leaders get a better sense of where they could do better, and also where collectively we may need new approaches to be able to meet the needs of our citizens globally.

SIKI MGABADELI: Talking about citizens, one of the things that we’re hearing is this disaffection globally, not just on the African continent where people feel like they are excluded. There’s joblessness, there’s a feeling that they’re being replaced, and increasingly we’re talking about the fourth industrial revolution. How are we grappling with that a year on since you had that as a theme in 2016?

ELSIE KANZA: So in 2016, both at the global level and at the regional level, we were very keen as an institution to increase the awareness and realisation about this new context and the implications therein for economies, for societies. One year on, there is a high level of awareness and now it’s very much a focus on what we do about it, and in this sense, African leaders are very much seated by their peers and counterparts from around the world to figure this out because there is no leader as such in this space and its offering new opportunities, for example, the establishment of new governance institutions and systems that start to address some of the concerns that African leaders as well as other emerging market leaders have had that the traditional global governance institutions have been biased against them, and so together try and figure out how they can ensure that they continue to deliver on what is required in individual states, whether it is delivering health care or jobs for that matter in this new context which is the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


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