WSF 2007: Learning from the African Experience


Source: IPS

Hilmi Toros

But, after heading to Nairobi from across Africa and from as far afield as Asia, Europe and the Americas, what did ordinary participants get out of the five-day event attended by 50,000 activists weighted down by a 174-page programme of events as they debated, networked, chanted, danced and staged protests against current social ills?

If consensus is needed, it could easily be – apart from the all-embracing and catch-all Another World is Possible – “The African Experience”. It is, in short, seeing global issues gripping the WSF through an African perspective. That is the view of six participants chosen at random from Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Twenty-year-old Sandra Solero and 27-year-old Jenny Andersson are both university students from Sweden who worked and saved the equivalent of $4000 each for “the African experience” during which they stayed at a guest house.

“It’s been fantastic,” says Sandra. “I now see African problems in a real place, not from Europe. I am more committed.”

“I feel inspired,” notes Jenny. “I have a lot to tell to people at home in Norrkoping.”

Sister Jacinta Katusebe, 28, and four other sisters from the Roman Catholic Congregation of the Sisters of Holy Cross, took a 15-hour bus trip from Kampala to be on hand for the Forum.

A teacher, she feels her mission was accomplished through attending workshops on education for all and the status of street children. “I met so many people from Asia and South America and we talked for hours about education,” she said. “I have a new perspective. I couldn”t have achieved this anywhere else.”

Lourdes Cervantes from Cuba, Chief of the Political Department of the Organisation for Solidarity of African, Asia and Latin American People, has attended all WSFs and considers the Nairobi one the most significant because it displayed Africa’s perspective to activists from other continents.

“Each Forum went further and reached higher,” she says. “But, after talking seven years, it is time to make concrete proposals.” Another Forum veteran is G. Farid Awan, Secretary General of the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation. This is his fourth forum and he urged that Forums be held at national and grass-roots levels.

Along with the African experience, he cites and welcomes extensive participation from European countries, adding: “I was inspired by the strong presence of young people from all over.”

Diverse, but with common experiences, Solero, Andersson, Cervantes, Sister Katusebe and Awan may yet meet.

If not here, then when and where? Not next year. There is no Forum in 2008 and the venue of 2009 has yet to be decided. Musings have it that names in the hat include Bahia, Brazil, the country of WSF’s birth in 2001; Barcelona or a location in Italy in what would be a first in Europe.

Until then…