January 18, 2007 - Issue 213

Cover Story
World Social Forum 2007, Nairobi, Kenya:
Is Another World Possible for African Peoples?
By Dr. Rose M. Brewer, PhD
BC Editorial Board

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Dr. Brewer is attending the WSF forum in Nairobi, Kenya as a news correspondent for BlackCommentator.com. She will be reporting on events at the WSF exclusively for BC.

During the week of January 20 through 26, 2007, the 7th world forum in as many years is being held in Nairobi, Kenya. This forum occurs in the midst of a U.S. attack on Somalia and an Ethiopian military assault on the Islam Courts movement in Somalia (with U.S. backing). Thus, in this midst of these geopolitical fires in the Horn of Africa, tens of thousands of grassroots activists, educations, revolutionaries, and others will gather to confront global capital in the belly of historic European colonialism in East Africa: Nairobi, Kenya. The 2007 forum is the first time that a full forum will be held on the continent. In January 2006, a polycentric set of forums were held in Venezuela, Pakistan and Bamako, Mali (which represented the continent but nothing on the scale of the Nairobi gathering), but Nairobi is the first full forum held in an African country.

The perennial critique of the World Social Forum is that race is marginalized and not centered in the process. In fact, Africa has been represented as a shadow presence in the fight against neoliberalism and global capital in the forums. The question this time around is whether having the event in Nairobi will make a substantial difference in this practice and theory. Will Africa really be centered and matter? This remains to be seen.

Wealth is highly concentrated on the continent, and the expropriation of human and material resources continues pretty much unabated in the era of “New Empire”. The continent and its peoples have been hit hard by debt, privatization and the structural adjustment policies put into place by the IMF and World Bank, the institutions of global capital. The economic plight of Black Africans remains harsh and structural and economic exclusion continues. Health, girls' education, sexual slavery, control of land and resources, among other things, remain ongoing challenges. Thus, as the change agents from the global South and North come together in Nairobi this week, the question will still be: What will it mean for the continent? 

The World Social forum is held at the same time the World Economic Forum is taking place in exclusive Davos, Switzerland. The dominant economic nations and corporations will be discussing the global capitalist system which enriches so few in Davos, while many of the dispossessed will gather in Nairobi. Indeed by bringing together activists, grass roots leaders, academics, NGOs, students and others from all over the world, the WSF space offers a time and place to begin articulating a new vision of justice and equality for the world’s peoples. What vision will be articulated for the African continent? That’s a key question. Nonetheless, people from all over the world have awakened to the unfairness of the current global order and are mobilizing and organizing for change. They will be gathered in Nairobi over the next days to begin the work of engendering consciousness, vision, and one could only hope, strategy for creating new possibilities for Africa, the African diaspora and the global poor.

BC Editorial Board Member, Dr. Rose Brewer, PhD, is a professor of African American/African Studies at the University of Minnesota and a leader of the Black Radical Congress. Click here to contact Dr. Brewer.



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