JOHANNESBURG – The World Economic Forum got underway on Wednesday in South Africa amid protests and a wave of xenophobic violence that has gripped Johannesburg which has been heavily criticized by neighboring countries.
The Forum kicked off in the South African capital, Cape Town, as protests denouncing gender-based violence unfolded across the city.
In recent days, Johannesburg has been struggling with a wave of looting targeting tourists and immigrants which has left at least five dead and 100 arrested.
“Taking action against people from other nations is not justified and should never be allowed in our beautiful country,” South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said during an event held before the meeting.
Despite being a relatively recurrent phenomenon in the African country, the most recent episodes triggered the criticism of several governments, including Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia and raised serious concerns over the security of migrants.
The Presidents of Rwanda, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were rumored to have boycotted the forum to protest the xenophobic violence.
However, organizers said that they would not be attending the forum because they had not confirmed their participation or completed their registration.
The event will be attended by the heads of state of Botswana, Namibia, Uganda and Seychelles, among others, as well as hundreds of businessmen and local and foreigner experts.
The international discontent with South Africa was not the only thing that overshadowed the opening day of the event.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre, the venue for the forum which will continue until 6 September, to protest against gender-based violence in South Africa.
The protesters called on the government to take drastic measures to tackle a phenomenon that has on average left one woman killed every eight hours over the past few years.
The protests were triggered by the recent killing of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old student at the Cape Town University who was allegedly murdered by a postal employee.
Her death also sparked rallies within universities, social media campaigns calling on the government to declare the violence against women a national crisis and to implement the death sentence.
Ramaphosa had conceded the problem was severe, adding that his country would tackle it rigorously.
The forum will focus on the challenges the fourth industrial revolution presents and the aim of achieving an inclusive growth for the continent.
The African Development Bank projected a four percent growth for Africa this year.