Thousands of people protested outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Wednesday where the World Economic Forum on Africa summit is taking place. PHOTO: Ayanda Ndamane / African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – The World Economic Forum in Africa’s (WEF) annual meeting in Cape Town kicked off to the chants of thousands of students and schoolchildren who came to the International Conference Centre to protest against the high levels of violence against women in the country.

More than 1 000 global leaders in business, government, civil society and academics attended this year's three-day conference, which was focused on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the economic development of Africa. 

The student protest, which police responded to, followed days of protests elsewhere, truck burnings and other xenophobia-related, violent incidents in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Gauteng towns.

Some African leaders, notably from Rwanda, Malawi and Democratic Republic of Congo, have reportedly not attended the WEF conference this year due to the violence being perpetrated against their citizens in South Africa.


President Cyril Ramaphosa, who led a government delegation of more than 10 ministers to WEF, attended a Brand SA event prior to the opening of the event, where he announced that the government would speed-up efforts to make it easier to do business in South Africa.

The difficulty of overcoming red tape in business in South Africa, where unemployment is higher than 50 percent if one includes the youth, was highlighted on the first day. 

For instance, a PwC survey of more than 170 chief executives in Africa found that over-regulation was considered by them to be one of the foremost threats to the future of their business operations on the continent.

Also under discussion yesterday was how technology could be used to leap-frog traditional ways of doing business and providing better services to citizens, although, it was noted, only one quarter of Africans have access to the internet.

Also discussed yesterday was the WEF’s Africa Growth Platform strategy, which has a target of reaching and helping more than 100 million small businesses in the next five years.

It involves three strategies: getting governments to implement policy reforms to stimulate small business development, to build a community of investors of small businesses, and to build and sustain a community of small businesses.