My Journey To The World Economic Forum On Africa 2015
Better late than never, right? I should have written this blog immediately I got back from Cape Town but I have not had the chance to do so. Plus, I wanted to ensure that I put some effort in putting together an interesting story so that you could enjoy reading it, just as I enjoyed the journey. This is a short summary, or you may call it a report, of how I ended up at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2015, and how I spent my time there. It is meant to encourage young and ambitious persons to strive to attend such events as the exposure from such events is priceless.
I am a member of the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum, and I belong to Accra Hub. In January 2015, a call for applications was sent out to all members of the Global Shapers Community in Africa, and I submitted an application before the deadline. The application included a video and answers to some questions about yourself. I engaged the services of a videographer and early one Saturday morning, I met up with him at the African Regent Hotel in Accra. The sun was out. I was in my white Global Shapers Accra Hub polo t-shirt. I explained the concept to the videographer and we started shooting. He took many shots from different angles. After 2 hours of continuous shooting in the sun, we were done. He edited all the shots we had taken and made it into a 2-minute video. He sent the edited video to me and I submitted it as part of my application. I have never shared the video but today you get to see it for the first time:
I waited patiently for a few months, which seemed to be forever. Sometimes, it felt like I did not make the shortlist but I kept praying about my application. I was eventually notified that I had been invited to the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa. I made the necessary travel arrangements and counted down to my departure date. I could not wait to be part of the 2015 World Economic Forum on Africa.
On 24 May 2015 (a week before my departure) I was on Y107.9FM‘s Sunday evening program, MPWR Show, hosted by a fellow Global Shaper, Emmanuel Gamor (who was also invited to the World Economic Forum on Africa 2015), to talk about my expectations at the Forum and what I hoped to learn from the Forum. During the week, a number of articles were written by Citi FM and Daily Guide acknowledging our achievement – three Global Shapers from Ghana to attend the World Economic Forum on Africa.
As mentioned above, the 2015 World Economic Forum on Africa was held in Cape Town, South Africa from 3 – 5 June 2015. This year’s Forum marked 25 years of the Forum on Africa and had the theme, “Then and Now, Reimagining the Africa’s Future.” Also, this year’s Forum coincided with 25 years of change in Africa and the Millennium Development Goals, and the ongoing discussion on how to sustain Africa’s economic growth and the new Sustainability Development Goals.
2 JUNE 2015
I arrived in Cape Town on 2 June 2015 and checked into my room at the Southern Sun – Waterfront Hotel, a walking distance from where the Forum was to be held. That evening, the Durban and Cape Town Hubs organized a networking event for all the Global Shapers who had arrived in town. It was a meet-and-greet session where the 80 Shapers (later known as Africa 80) had the opportunity to meet and greet each other. At the event, we were given practical tips on how to benefit from networking at the Forum. Naadiya from the Cape Town Hub provided the following tips to the group:
- Create a hit list, which is a list of all the people you would like to meet at the Forum;
- Have a 5 second introductory statement that should make the person listening to you be interested in having a conversation with you;
- Let your listener know what you can do for them rather than what they can do for you or what you can get from them;
- If you are lucky to receive your listener’s business card, make a note on the business card about what your conversation with that person entailed and why you need to contact that person; and
- When you return home, email your listener to let them know it was a pleasure meeting them and discussing “a, b and c”. The benefit of emailing is that the person always has a record of you even if they throw your business card away.
3 JUNE 2015
On 3 June 2015, we had a Global Shapers Private Event, where we were officially welcomed by Chidiogo Akunyili (Senior Community Manager, Global Shapers Community) and her team. We were informed about the World Economic Forum, its purpose and what it sought to achieve. We were also informed about the Global Shapers Community and why it had been created.
We were then given tips about how to conduct ourselves at the Forum and generally within the Community. We were encouraged to sell the Global Shapers brand. Thus, at any given time during the Forum when we had to introduce ourselves, we were advise to state “I am Kow Essuman, a Global Shaper from the Accra Hub”.
Yemi (Head of the Global Shapers Community) joined us and explained further the structure and purpose of the Global Shapers Community. He indicated that the Global Shapers Community had surmounted all its challenges and one challenge it faces now is how it can fund itself. He informed us about his funding strategy and how we can help achieve that. He advised us to stick together because if we are coordinated, we can never be divided. #WeAreOne. We then had the opportunity to take photographs with the #SHAPEsustainability goals.
Three Shapers shared the projects they were working on in their respective Hubs. After which, we had breakout sessions where we discussed the projects presented and suggested solutions to the challenges.
Representatives from the Abraaj Group joined us and told us about the Abraaj Group. They explained their investment model and what they consider before making an investment. They took questions from the Shapers present.
That evening, we had a Coca-Cola dinner and panel discussion on businesswomen, which was moderated by Rosalin Abigail Kyere-Nartey of the Kumasi Hub. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Gamor had been nominated as a “fire-starter” for a panel discussion on gender parity. Clearly, the evening was about women. So I made a pledge to be #HeForShe.
4 JUNE 2015
The Global Shapers had a Meet the Leader session with Prof. Schwab (Founder of the World Economic Forum), who challenged us about our identity. He stated that our brain, soul and heart must be in sync with each other and everything we do. According to Prof. Schwab, the brain deals with how you think and what you do on a daily basis; your soul is what moves you and your vision; and your heart has your passion to do what you do. He challenged the Shapers to lead the campaign on conserving Africa’s wildlife resource.
We had other Meet the Leader sessions with other persons including Graca Machel, Ashish Thakkar and Acha Leke. We participated in Partners Networking Event, where we networked with the partners of the World Economic Forum and sold the Global Shapers brand. Thereafter, President Jacob Zuma and the South African government hosted a dinner and soiree for attendees at the Forum. The dinner was climaxed by an exhilarating performance by Mafikizolo! amidst dancing. The South Africa Mokete was delight to all in attendance.
5 JUNE 2015
The Shapers had a Meet the Leader session with Paul Polman (the CEO of Unilever). He shared his experience as a CEO and his commitment to development. He spoke about the Sustainable Development Goals and the views they had taken so far, and how they intend to achieved it.
The Forum ended on this day. We had a Shapers de-briefing session where we shared our experiences at the Forum. We discussed what our challenges are, our aspirations as Shapers and our commitments for the future.
I stayed in Cape Town for the rest of the weekend before catching a flight back to Ghana. During the short stay, I made some really good friends amongst the Shapers who stayed over as well. Some of us went partying on long street on the night the Forum ended. When we finally returned to Accra, Emmanuel and I put together a Report for our Hub and submitted it to the Global Shapers Community. It was described as “best practice at its best” and shared with the other Shapers and the Community. What we learned from this experience was that we need to be coordinated in our efforts, and that improving the state of the world is not just a World Economic Forum mandate, but a rallying call for all citizens. We need to be active agents in achieving this.
Kow Essuman, Esq.
*The author is a barrister; qualified to practise law in England and Wales, New York and Ghana. He is a Global Shaper (Accra Hub) of the World Economic Forum. He may be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.