Rich man, poor man

23 January 2020 | Opinion

For African citizens, the debates and discussions by the elite in Davos seem like a world away.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) hosts an annual meeting at the end of January in a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland.

The meeting brings together some 3 000 business giants, political leaders, economists, celebrities and journalists for four days to discuss global issues across 500 public and private sessions.

Over the years, the problems of Africa and elsewhere in the developing world have often appeared more the subject of intellectual debate than pressing urgency. We hope that will change this year.

However, the continued impoverishment of millions of people over the world has become one of the great sources of global instability, especially when it comes to uprisings and other conflicts.

This year at the WEF, there has already been a call to end all investments in fossil fuel use, extraction and subsidies. As reported by the media, including the Financial Times, this demand is not universally popular in Africa, whose countries have made negligible contributions to global greenhouse emissions.

In the same breath, Africa, which has largely been bypassed by previous industrialisation explosions, remains in a precarious position because of the ongoing corruption and looting by those in power, as well as its inability to value-add to its raw materials.

The continent is, however, in a position, if managed properly, to reap the benefits of its young and growing population, vast resources and largely untapped markets, which could provide the foundations for continent-wide renewal, powered by technological innovations.

When the bigwigs of Davos have finished their inescapable flaunting of the trappings of wealth and power, African poverty will inevitably still persist, which brings us back to what should be a concerted attempt by the citizens of this continent to get us out of our current quagmire. The question remains: How long will Africa still put out its begging bowl while exporting its raw riches to the rest of the world?

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