The forum convened over 1000 leaders from more than 100 countries, representing business, government, academia, civil society, the media and the arts.
This year's forum is themed “Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership”.
The WEF said Africa’s imperative was to generate truly inclusive economic growth that “provides everyone with the same opportunity to prosper and achieve”.
It said the meeting aimed to move leaders to change the way they approached development planning by designing policies that allowed everyone to benefit from economic growth.
“Until now, the benefits of global economic growth have been disproportionately distributed within regions and countries, which has led to a crisis for market capitalism and a proliferation of populist and nativist political movements,” the forum said.
The other priority was to help Africa prepare for the huge changes the world was about to experience as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“Rapid technological advances in the physical, digital and biological worlds are giving rise to a new era that will have a profound effect on how humans live, work and interact with one another,” the WEF said.
“Building the right institutions, developing relevant skills and enhancing access to knowledge will all be crucial to Africa’s future prospects.”
Among the key issues which came under the spotlight in Durban were food and water security; preventing the deforestation of tropical forests; securing investment to tackle Africa’s large infrastructure gap; bridging the digital divide; improving delivery of health care; helping Africans gain access to financial services; and facilitating better intra-regional trade.
Key participants from the region include South African President Jacob Zuma, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, King Mswati III of Swaziland, Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Zambian President Edgar Lungu, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, Senegalese President Macky Sall, Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, Namibian Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, and Ghanaian Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia.
Other key attendees at the WEF meeting include South African Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, Trade and Industry Minister of Lesotho Joshua Setipa, Rwandan Minister of Youth and Information and Communications Technology Jean Philbert Nsengimana, South African Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Siyabonga Cwele, South African Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa, South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, Rwandan Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete, Congress of South African Trade Unions president Sdumo Dlamini, South African Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, South African Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and South African Energy Minister Mmamoloko Nkhensani Kubayi.
Leaders from outside the region who have been taking part in the seminar include Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies of Singapore, Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's Federal Minister of Finance, and Brigitte Zypries, Federal Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy of Germany.
Representatives from international organisations include actor and activist Forest Whitaker, who is the Unesco Special Envoy for Peace as well as a social activist with the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative; Mamadou Biteye, managing director Africa regional office for the Rockefeller Foundation; Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development; Ellen Agler, chief executive of The END Fund; and Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary-general for the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
“The best way to secure a sustainable and prosperous future for Africa is to build an economic transformation centred on inclusive growth and equality of opportunity for everyone,” said South African Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.
Elsie Kanza, head of regional strategies Africa, and a member of the executive committee at the World Economic Forum, said: “Africa’s leaders must act fast to build strong, inclusive societies capable of prospering in our rapidly changing world.
"If we create conditions in which everybody is able to prosper, then the 21st century can truly be Africa’s century.
"If we fail, the region risks falling further behind."
The co-chairs of the WEF on Africa are Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International; Siyabonga Gama, group chief executive of Transnet; Frédéric Lemoine, chairman of the executive board of Wendel; Rich Lesser, global chief executive and president of Boston Consulting Group; and Ulrich Spiesshofer, president and chief executive of ABB. – African News Agency