ADDIS ABABA -- "Shaping Africa's Transformation" is the theme of the World Economic Forum on Africa, being held this week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Some 700 leaders from all walks of life are attending this African edition of forum. The big names include Kofi Annan, the only sub-Saharan African to hold the post of U.N. secretary-general, and the leaders of South Africa, Rwanda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Gambia, Gabon, and host Ethiopia.
The economic forum's Africa director, Elsie Kanza, said in a traditionally male-dominated continent, the number of female participants is showing encouraging signs of growth.
"Out of the total number of 700, over 500 will be business leaders, and we will have some good gender mix in there," said Kanza. "We are expecting at least 20 percent of them to be women, and this is an improvement. And, we hope to see these numbers increase even further going forward."
This year's forum is giving a nod to the rising importance of social media. The public is being given an opportunity to join the conversation by submitting comments online.
People are being asked what change they want to see in Africa by 2013, said Kanza. "By paying attention to what has happened in the world, in the past year, we have seen a strong interest and pressure from citizens to be listened to. They do not feel their political leaders are paying enough attention to their needs, their interests and priorities. So we decided to launch a social media campaign and to ask Africans what are their expectations from their leaders. And, then feed that to our participants during the meeting and then say, 'This is what Africans would like to see happen,'" Kanza said.
Kanza said forum participants, including heads of state, will be available to record video responses to questions asked online through a social media corner on the forum's website.
It will also be possible to follow the meetings online through Livestream, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or podcast.