Coming to Durban — A Tale of WEF Africa 2017

Jennifer & Precious giving President Jacob Zuma a crash course on the SDGs

The journey to a World Economic Forum meeting for a Global Shaper is sort of a long one.

First, there’s the video application process which is not to be taken lightly.

Secondly, if you are amongst the chosen number who make the list(this year we were 50), there is a tedious visa application process which involves a lot of prayers and gnashing of teeth.

And finally, when all is done and you finally make that trip, through immigration in both countries, your heart leaps for joy as you realize the immense opportunity that has been thrust into your laps. And you brace to take it all in.

Precious Wachikwu and I — from the Port Harcourt Global Shapers Hub — had the honour of making it past these many hurdles.

We arrived in Durban in the company of other Nigerian shapers, proudly flaunting our Global Shapers tee.

From Right: Grace (Shaper, Calabar Hub), Jennifer & Precious

As we waited for access to our rooms, we decided to take in as much of the amazing Durban seafront as we could. And it was amazing.

Our week kicked off with the Solutions Summit from the 1st of May to the 3rd of May. A first of its kind event, it was a tripartite meet of the Schwab Social Entrepreneurs’, the Young global Leaders and the Global Shapers.

After a very warm welcome session with our community lead, Chidiogo Akunyili, and roughly forty-something other Global Shapers, we were integrated into the larger network of ‘Schwabies’ and ‘YGL’s.

Over our welcome dinner, interactions and networking soon began and the evening held a beautiful promise of things to come.

Jennifer & Precious at breakout sessions during the Solutions Summit

The Solutions Summit with the theme ‘Scaling What Works’ was an amazing combination of Innovation Labs on Quality Education for All, Delivering Superior Health Outcomes at a Lower Cost, Approaches to Decent Work and Sustainable communities and much more.

There were Skills Workshops, Focus Groups and plenary sessions, award sessions and some dancing during which Global Shapers brought the energy of youth and did some interesting shaking on the dance floor.

The Solutions Summit was a close community of actual people doing actual work although with different realities, mindsets and experiences coming together to share, network and hopefully, collaborate.

It ended way too soon, as we quickly transited to the Durban ICC for the on-boarding session of the Global Shapers Community into the larger WEF space.

Going from the Solutions Summit to the World Economic Forum on Africa was like an eaglet leaving it’s nest and flying into the big, bad world. You snooze you lose, but our amazing Global Shapers Team of Katherine Milligan, Chidiogo Akunyili, and Chido Munyati did a brisk job of whipping us into WEFA appropriate shape.

Jennifer & Precious at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017

The theme of WEF Africa was ‘Achieving Inclusive Growth- through Responsive and Responsible Leadership’ and the sessions were tailored to reflect this theme.

We had a Meet the Leader session no one other than the man himself, Professor Schwab, and he graciously took a moment afterwards to endorse our #KnowtheSDGs campaign.

Prof Schwab endorses #KnowTheSDGs alongside Precious & Jennifer

Things happened pretty quickly after that. The opening plenary the next day with Professor Schwab and President Zuma was widely reported in the media with Global Shapers taking the lead in asking the questions that needed to be asked about inclusive leadership, creating a seat for young people in governance and expediting Agenda 2063 which is supposed to be the framework for the socio-economic transformation of Africa. At the end of this heated session, we made our way through unfriendly human barriers to give President Zuma a quick breakdown of our #KnowtheSDGs campaign.

President Zuma endorses #KnowTheSDGs alongside Precious & Jennifer

The WEFA panels had a notable focus on using digital technology to improve lives and foster inclusive growth, opening Africa’s skies and xChange labs where practical solutions were developed to specific problems like the Africa 4.0; Designing African Futures.

WEF Africa is not all work and no play though. There was some dancing at the Cultural Soirée where the Mokete performed and attendees shone in their cultural attires. There were also some side events where Global Shapers truly became Shakers and showed off some amazing dancing skills.

The most emotional moments of WEF Africa might have been our debrief session where we formally bade farewell to our Community Leader amidst some tears and heartfelt speeches. It was so heart-warming to see all these different people from all over Africa unite in love, friendship and a shared purpose. Who says we are different?

One boat ride later on Isiponono and some more farewells later, our WEF Africa experience wound down to its unexpectedly emotional end. Why did it feel like I was leaving my siblings when I had only met these Global Shapers a few days ago?

I guess it’s true what they say. #ShapersLove is real and tangible and I basked in it all week long!

At the culmination of WEF Africa, a Durban Agreement on #OpenAfrica, an initiative of the African Global Shapers Community was launched to drive the narrative for an open and border-free Africa to increase the ease of travel, cultural understanding and inclusive economic growth.

As an amazing human being I recently met likes to say, “If not us then who? If not now then when?”

By Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya

[Content Developer & Global Shaper, Port Harcourt Hub.]

Here are more photos from Precious and Jennifer’s WEF Africa 2017