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African Economic Leaders Pursue New Trade, Investment Strategies at Davos

Business and political leaders attending the five-day World Economic Forum now underway in Davos, Switzerland are focusing on addressing an acknowledged global economic shift. Amid the new realities of globalization and fluctuating oil markets, they are trying to build a shared commercial partnership with newly emerging powers like China and India. But there is also a motivation to see that aid to Africa and a revival of the stalled global trade talks will benefit their long-term needs. More than fifty African delegates, including three presidents and a good number of ministers, are in attendance at the Davos gathering. Namibia-born Davos Forum Africa Director Haiko Alfeld describes how the African delegates will participate in this weekend’s forums and debates.

“There’s a discussion on scaling new, innovative forms of foreign aid. The kind of pooling of resources of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have really created an enormous prospect for making a huge difference in Africa. The discussions that South African President Thabo Mbeki and others will be in on Africa’s emerging geopolitical strategic importance is one of the important meetings over the weekend,” he said.

Alfeld notes that taking center stage on Saturday is the continuing effort to reach a global accommodation on a world trade agreement. He admits that prospects for kick-starting the pact at an informal gathering of trade ministers are slim, but says he hopes progress can be achieved.

“I was pleasantly surprised that our most senior business participants here issued a strongly worded joint statement, calling on specific countries – the US, European Union, Japan, but also Brazil, India, and South Africa – to make a determined effort to restart negotiations. Ministers of trade from thirty odd countries will meet, a good representation from Africa in that group, and everyone is looking with great expectations,” he said.

With an endorsement by Germany of trade liberalization policies and greater fairness toward African countries, Haiko Alfeld says Africans should feel encouraged to start new commercial ventures.

"We were well pleased that the German government, which now chairs both the G-8 and the European Union, has decided to maintain Africa as a central pillar of the G-8 agenda. The Germans have put conditions for investment into Africa as their chosen focus area. Again, that’s good for Africa because it underpins the efforts of Africans themselves to improve conditions of investment,” he said.

The World Economic Forum will run through Sunday in Davos, Switzerland.