Home » Uncategorized » Over 100,000 to attend world economic congress in Kenya

More than 100,000 delegates descend on Nairobi in January for a major conference aimed at saying No to the economic domination of poor countries by the rich.

Preparations are in top gear to host the delegates who will attend the unprecedented meeting scheduled for the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi, from January 20 to 25.

World Social Forum 2007 may as well turn out to be the largest international gathering ever held in Kenya, and is expected to have a positive impact on the economy.

The World Social Forum is a movement which started five years ago to fight globalisation, and it seeks ways to help the poor and the voiceless who have often been left out of major political decisions directly affecting them.

“The US is the only superpower in the world currently, and we are in a situation where what the West says goes, be it in Africa, Asia or the Caribbean,” Kenya national coordinator Onyango Oloo told the Nation in an interview.

WSF usually meets in January when its “great capitalist rival” – the World Economic Forum, which is a convention of rich countries, is meeting in Davos, Switzerland – and possibly beats the Swiss meeting to international media coverage.

The meeting will be held in Kenya at the instigation of local delegates who have over the years lobbied the WSF international council to hold one in Africa. It is expected to boost the economy by billions of shillings and improve the country’s image as a conference host and tourism destination.

“After the lobbying, Kenya got a bid which was supported by the Tanzanian and Ugandan social forums,” said Mr Onyango, adding: “I suppose because we have more developed infrastructure and experience in hosting conferences.

“And last year, the announcement was made that the next meeting would be held in Nairobi.”

Said Mr Onyango, a member the organising team: “In view of the massive attendance expected, the whole of KICC, Uhuru Park and Central Park will be used for WSF activities.

“There is a possibility that some of the events will be held at the Nyayo National Stadium. The youth camp may be held at the University of Nairobi, subject to on-going discussions, or at another venue.”

The planning and actual event is sponsored by a string of local NGOs and their British counterpart Oxfam GB, Danish NGO MS Kenya, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Action Aid and other European and American foundations.

Already, the organisers are in touch with the Government through the ministry of Planning and National Development, police and the Immigration ministry. Also involved in planning are architects and physical planners.

Government chief economist Samson Machuka told the Nation: “We would like to ensure that the conference is done to the best international standards. We are confident it can be done. If it has been done elsewhere, it can be done here.”

The participants at the meeting are expected to discuss education, social assistance, discrimination, art and culture, participation of the public in development initiatives and human, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.

Other issues are:

* The struggles of marginalised groups;

* Restoring the people’s sovereignty and democratising their access to water and other resources;

* The destruction of social values by raising economic and financial standards as set by dominant countries and other groups;

* The unlimited expansion of power exercised by international financial and trade institutions, which marginalise the voice of the ordinary person in policy making.

The conference will be held in Kiswahili, English and French, and there are arrangements for sign language.

Kenya Airways, the designated official carrier of the conference, said through a spokesperson: “We are discussing the details, and although we are yet to finalise the discussions, we will certainly be happy to be the official carrier. We would like to make the connections for the delegates easier.

Police have been informed, but they will receive formal communication about the arrangements once plans for the venues and the activities have been finalised. Said Mr Steve Ouma of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, who is also on the planning committee: “We have informed the police and they have promised to support us.

“We shall provide them with the full details in due course. We will also be involving the City Council inspectorate and a number of security firms.”

Police support is necessary given the number of guests expected – to provide sufficient security at their places of accommodation, VIP escort and traffic control during the week.

The organisers say each session will open with a procession and close with another, raising fears of massive traffic jams.

Mr. Onyango said the delegates would be accommodated in hotels stretching from Thika to Limuru, with the possibility of including Machakos and Naivasha.

“We are looking not necessarily at the top-of-the-range hotels because the people who attend WSF meetings are about giving a voice to the voiceless,” he said.

“We are currently doing an audit of the hotels street by street and registering their capacities, and we plan to book them (delegates) in advance for the event.”

The delegates’ stay is expected to be a major boost to the economy, with the massive inflow of foreign currency.

“With such a large number of delegates coming to stay in the country for that number of days, one needs no imagination to estimate the foreign exchange that will be injected into the economy, particularly in terms of hotel accommodation, telecommunication, paper consumption, taxi and other public transport, groceries and other related costs,” he added.

150,000 delegates

For instance, organisers who say there could be up to 150,000 delegates, are projecting that the Kenya Airports Authority will collect an estimated Sh216 million in taxes.

The hotel industry, including guest houses and hostels, could make up to Sh3.4 billion, while the earnings from bus and taxi operators will be enormous.

“The printing and paper industry will benefit perhaps more than any other,” Mr Onyango said. “Tonnes of programme documents, brochures, posters, flyers and daily newspapers will be printed.

“Booksellers and publishers will also find a captive market. The use of international telephone and the Internet will be enormous. The cellphone industry could make about Sh150 million from the event,” a document prepared by the secretariat says.

The delegates are also expected to earn the economy a further Sh80 billion if they each spend an average of Sh5,000 a day on food, water, photo films, beer, entertainment and souvenirs.

WSF coordinates world campaigns, shares and refines organisation strategies and informs the affiliate organisations about the activities of movements across the world.