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Africa at the Davos forum: who was there?

Africa Davos

Since May 22, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has started in Davos, Switzerland. In addition to the absence of heads of state of world powers and small delegations from companies, banks and lobbies accustomed to the event, few African officials made the trip.

After two years of forced break, the Davos Forum takes place this year in a very particular context. The war in Ukraine, the Covid-19 pandemic, the gas and grain crisis and record inflation will be discussed between the honchos of economy, industry and business and "peasants". This does not necessarily concern developing countries, but the whole world.

During its last edition, in January 2020, the WEF had recorded a large African participation, a dozen heads of state having then made the trip, in particular. It was then a question of promoting the “great reset”, namely a “new model of draconian governance or even a vast operation of green marketing”, estimated the communicator Pascal Hérard.

This year, Russia was banned from the Davos Forum, no heads of state from NATO countries made the trip to Switzerland, and Chinese participation was limited to a few investors and a pre-recorded message. by Xin Jinping. On the side of Africa, it is far from the time when Nelson Mandela met Frederik de Klerk there, or Saif al-Islam Gaddafi marked the end of hostilities between Bern and his father, a few months before the death of the "Guide of the Revolution Libyan", precipitated by the Western bombardments.

The African Union focused on Malabo

A general African disinterest? Not really. Some African countries have sent their emissaries around the Swiss ski resort. If Egypt, Rwanda, Côte d'Ivoire, Tunisia and South Africa participate in this "Western showcase of a drifting world" - in the words of the economist Madeleine von Holzen -, it It was mainly to plead their cases to business leaders and other financial and economic authorities.

Two African absences are obvious. First, that of a delegation from the African Union (AU). If the president in office Macky Sall is not really obliged to participate in the FEM, the president of the AU commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, could have represented the body in Davos. However, the Chadian is currently in Malabo, where he is preparing for the two extraordinary AU summits which will be held on May 27 and 28.

Then, it is above all the absence by Togolese Gilbert Houngbo, who will be from October the first African head of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which is noticed. An appointment that has attracted the support of several African countries and months of lobbying. Gilbert Houngbo was for years the director for Africa of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). After nearly four years as Prime Minister of Togo, he also chaired the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). It is in this capacity that he took part in the Davos summit on three occasions, where he represented African interests.

And, precisely, today, when Africa is experiencing an unprecedented shortage of food products, and finds itself dependent, more than ever, on imports of cereals and food products, Gilbert Houngbo has decided to be absent from Davos. A summit where the key guests are the IMF, the Paris Club, the World Bank, the European Union (EU), the Bank of America (BOA), among others.

Some African leaders present at the Davos forum

A few African heads of state are present at the Davos forum, however. Among them, Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, Masisi of Botswana, Namibian President Hage Geingob, and Rwandan Head of State Paul Kagame.

The President of Mozambique, Filipe Nyusi, was also expected in Switzerland, but had to be absent due to the security crisis in his country. Ditto for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who did not explain his absence, but sent his Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. The latter met the president of the Davos forum, Børge Brende, and focused his interventions on the next Conference on climate change (COP 27), which will be held in November in Egypt.

The Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire, Patrick Achi, pleaded for his part the importance of foreign investment in the chocolate industry. Côte d'Ivoire is the world's largest cocoa producer, and dominates cocoa cultivation with neighboring Ghana. What better place to talk about chocolate than Switzerland.

Another high profile African guest, Tunisian head of government Najla Bouden. The Tunisian leader has multiplied meetings, in particular with the creator of the Davos forum, Klaus Schawb, but also held a working session with the director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva. Tunisia has been facing a serious financial crisis for years, and successive leaders have struggled to find a solution.

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