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World Social Forum Comes to Africa – so what?

by Al Kags

The 7th Edition of the World Social Forum is going to be held in Africa for the very first time – in Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Conference Centre no less. At least 70,000 delegates from around the world are expected to descend upon Nairobi from the 20th of January this year until the 25th of January.

The WSF Kenya website says this of the conferece:

“From its modest origins in Porto Alegre in the year 2001, the World Social Forum has mushroomed into a global counter-force challenging the assumptions and diktats of imperialism and its associated neo-liberal policies that have over the decades, imposed colonialism and neo-colonialism; devastated Southern economies; bolstered the disastrous and repressive reigns of assorted tin pot dictatorships; marginalized women; disenfranchised youth; intensified the destruction of the environment; unleashed bloody, inhuman and needless military conflicts in nation after nation, region after region and deepened the exploitation of poor peoples around the world.

Rallying around the clarion call of Another World Is Possible, the World Social Forum has placed social justice, international solidarity, gender equality, peace and defence of the environment on the agenda of the world’s peoples. From Porto Alegre to Mumbai to Bamako to Caracas, Karachi and now Nairobi, the forces and the contingents of the World Social Forum have collectively expanded the democratic spaces of those seeking concrete, sustainable and progressive alternatives to imperialist globalization.”

 I don’t know what this means. I have read and reread it several times and I find it difficult to identify with the words I am reading – probably because I don’t understand its profoundness.

I understand that is an infinitely wonderful thing for Kenya that the conference is coming in – it says we are doing some stuff right. It says that Phillip Kisia ad his team at KICC, Bwana meya at his Parlour and the city are doing their jobs well.

But I wonder about the expediency of the conferece after all is said and done. It sounds to me like a talk shop that does not have real deliverables at the end of the day. It is indisputable that the world and especially the third world has had to suffer poverty and marginalisation and despots and all. Africa knows these problems intimately.

But what actual deliverables are achieved out of these expensive talk shops? what is done  that actually makes a world of difference to our social makeup? I am told that Dialogue is a central take out from the conferences of this nature and that the more we talk the more we shall solve our problems. Really?

Will the World Social Forum save Zimbabwe from Comrade Bob or Southern Sudan from the Janjaweed? Will the World Social Forum or any other one of the miscellenious forums actually change the lives of the Somalis and the other suffering masses? I suspect it will for the five days or a month after, sort out a few Kibera dwellers Ugali and a few beers for the more opulent Nairobians involved but will it change our lives?

To put it in a nutshell, I am not convenced that this conference has any more utility to Africa and the world as it is touted to have.

Be that as it may, talk shops are a good break and for the people that attend them, a nice experience.

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