Today is the launch date of the New York Forum Africa, a global event that has been coined the “african Davos”. Organized by Richard Attias & Associates, the organizer of the yearly New York Forum, and under the patronage of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, the 3-day event takes place in Libreville, Gabon, and gathers “world leaders in the fields of politics and business."
The theme of the event is “rethink Africa’s tomrrow”, an invitation to invite global thinkers into sharing their views of the development in Africa. Many debates have been organized. They evolve around five topics: energy, digital media, agriculture, tourism and diasporas. According to the organizers of the event, the main incentive for taking part in the forum is that all propositions expressed during the event will make their way to the next G20 that takes place in Mexico on june 18-19.
The organizers have announced the presence of +600 “world leaders”, but yet, no list of who exactly is attending the event. The program includes: Andrew Young (former US ambassador to UN), Muhammad Yunus (founder Grameen Bank), Yayi Boni (president Benin), Colin Coleman (Goldman Sachs S. Africa), Ariane de Rotschild, Jean Chrétien (former prime minister Canada), Anne Lauvergnon (former CEO Areva), along with a long list of African ministers and CEOs.
In parallel, while world leaders are mingling in Libreville in a Davos-style fashion, a counter-strike has been organized by the local equivalent of wearethe99percent, the “forum des indignés du Gabon” (the forum of Gabon’s indignants). Supported by French far-left politician Jean Luc Mélenchon, the Occupy-style event will take place in a Libreville high school all friday and saturday, with protests organized around the New York Africa Forum.
The “indignés du Gabon” is condemning the organization of the New York Africa Forum in their country, arguing that Gabon has deep economic and political wounds it needs to take care of, instead of inviting “world leaders” to decide upon Africa’s management of its wealth. The police has been active in tracking down this oppositionmovement, with a bust in a university on Tuesday to keep students from organizing protests, and by arresting this morning the leader of the oppositionmovement, Marc Ona.
The New York Africa Forum did not get a lot of attention from the press (only Ghanaian newspapers are covering the event), but the protests and the arrestations are starting to get the attention of foreign journalists. Forum organizer Richard Attias said this event is the first edition of a series: if President Ali Bongo Ondimba keeps repressing instead of appeasing the social tensions, another edition of the New York Africa Forum sounds very unlikely.