World Economic Forum’s young leaders shift African perceptions

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

While the World Economic Forum (WEF) had top leaders dominating headlines, a cadre of younger participants ensured the meeting was not only about grey-haired men in suits.

WEF runs the Global Shapers programme, which recruits participants younger than 30 who are working on development projects in their countries.

Global Shapers participate as panellists and sit through meetings at various WEF events. Cape Town-born Aslam Levy was one of the local Global Shapers at last week’s WEF.

Aslam Levy from Cape Town participated in the World Economic Forum, changing his perceptions about Africa. Pic Supplied

Aslam Levy from Cape Town participated in the World Economic Forum, changing his perceptions about Africa. Pic Supplied

Levy is the director of online platforms for the Government Communication and Information System in Tshwane. He has been on the programme for the last two years.

He said the network of young leaders in the making “want to improve their communities” around the country.

“We network among each other to scale up the work that we do. We also meet leaders from government and business,” he said.

“We discuss local problems such as youth unemployment and we share solutions.

“The benefit of having people from different backgrounds puts you in a practical environment that you would usually not have access to. It broadens your view.”

The advantage of attending WEF meetings was that younger leaders are able to interact with global leaders, said Levy.

“We have direct interaction with leaders who are very relaxed at these events. We can go up to them and have conversations with them at this event,” he said.

Through his interaction with Global Shapers from Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, South Sudan and Zimbabwe, Levy was able to reignite his passion about Africa.

“We had conversations around African identity and our infrastructure. Being at the WEF meeting has enriched my perception about Africa,” he said.

“I always had this perception that we don’t work well together as Africans. I had a defeatist mindset. But coming to a forum like this and hearing the progress has changed that.”

Other Capetonian Global Shapers are meanwhile involved in a project called Entrepreneurs in Public Policy (EPP), in partnership with the Independent Entrepreneurship Group.

The group’s spokesman Michael Howe-Ely said they were a platform for “entrepreneurs to speak out against restrictive laws, regulations and policies that hinder their ability to do business, while also making positive recommendations”.

“It is not affiliated with any political party, aiming to ignore party positions and simply focus on the issues affecting small businesses on any level, whether it is municipalities, provincial governments or national government,” he added.

“We host events where entrepreneurs are encouraged to discuss laws and regulations which are affecting their ability to do business.

“As the main job creators in South Africa, it is important for entrepreneurs to be aware and involved in policy decisions that will affect their lives and their livelihood.”

EPP events have featured Global Shapers and business leaders.

Howe-Ely said they were “now preparing to host events on a range of issues, including energy, aviation and regulations affecting small businesses”.

“We’re also in the process of developing proposals to incentivise the creation of retail space for informal traders within new and existing shopping malls,” he said.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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