World Economic Forum meetings are convened so that leaders can come together to discuss the challenges affecting the global, regional and industry agendas, discern solutions and catalyse collective action in the spirit of public-private cooperation.

The occasion of the 25th meeting of the World Economic Forum on Africa (Cape Town, 2015) allowed WEF not only to do this, but also to look back on the many milestones that had been achieved up to that point since 1990.

By learning lessons from past, and bringing together the greatest minds of the present, the Forum is committed to acting as Africa’s trusted partner in transformation as it faces the challenges that will shape its future.

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Top facts about the World Economic Forum:

1. The World Economic Forum’s first Africa meeting takes place in Geneva, featuring a multistakeholder cast of participants from business, government and civil society, including many African National Congress (ANC) leaders.

2. The success of the first Africa meeting launched a global roadshow – led by Barend du Plessis, then South Africa’s Finance Minister, and Thabo Mbeki of the ANC – to gain international support for South Africa’s future.

WOW factor: This was the first time that the entire South African political spectrum was united behind a common cause.

Forum on Southern Africa in October 1991

3. The second Geneva Meeting on Southern Africa took place under the theme “Opportunities for Growth and Development in a Southern Africa in Transition”.

4. South African President F. W. de Klerk met with Nelson Mandela and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 1992 in Davos, Switzerland.

This was their first joint public appearance outside South Africa and a milestone in the country’s political transition.

5. Mandela chose Davos to make his first speech on South Africa’s economic future under the ANC and credited the occasion with inspiring his reversal of ANC policy on nationalisation of the mining industry.

6. In May 1993, The World Economic Forum held the first Africa meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. This was the first visit to South Africa for many Southern African Development Community heads of state.

Global Leaders of Tomorrow – 1993-2003

7. The Forum launches a new community in response to a perceived need for a new approach to global leadership.

Selected for the inaugural class in 1993 was South African politician Cyril Ramaphosa, current Deputy President of South Africa.

8. Selected for the inaugural class in 1993 was South African politician Cyril Ramaphosa, current Deputy President of South Africa.

The community ran successfully through 2003, during which time many notable African leaders were honoured, including Patrice Motsepe, founder and Executive Chairman, African Rainbow Minerals, a Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum on Africa 2015; and Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International, who served as co-chair at the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2015 in Davos.

Southern Africa Economic Summit – June 1994

9. First Southern Africa Economic Summit in Cape Town, coinciding with the emergence of the first democratically elected Government of National Unity in South Africa. Heads of government participating include Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and Ali Hassan Mwinyi of Tanzania.

Global Compact – June 1999

10. At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 1999 in Davos, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announces the Global Compact initiative to give “a human face to the global market”.

Southern Africa Economic Summit – June 2000

11. Held in Durban, the summit aimed to give economic impetus into the African Renaissance concept and pursue regional integration priorities.

Among the participants were Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Vice-President George Saitoti of Kenya, and delegations from Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria.


The World Economic Forum is an international institution committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation in the spirit of global citizenship.

It engages with business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

Incorporated as a not-for-profit foundation in 1971 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the Forum is independent, impartial and not tied to any interests.

It cooperates closely with all leading international organisations.


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