I am working in Dakar. Incidentally, the World Social Forum took place here in the capital of Senegal. The kick off was a speech by Evo Morales on Sunday February 6th.
The World Social Forum is not an organisation, not a united front platform, but a debate democratic forum. In short, it is the left’s answer to Davos.
The event took place in the campus of a university. It was said that 50 to 60 thousand people participated in the event. Even though Dakar is the most touristic city in West Africa and its population is extremely warm, Dakar doesn’t have the minimal conditions to host such an event. The airport is chaotic, traffic jams are omnipresent, and daily the government cuts electricity in some parts of the city. Naturally, there was no lack of electricity in the university campus, but the suburbs of Dakar had even less “light time” than normal during this week.
People coming from Brazil had to face a long journey before arriving here. They had to change airplanes either in South Africa or in Portugal. There are no direct flights from Sao Paulo to Dakar. There used to be one operated by Turkish Airlines. However, there were many Africans arriving in Brazil without a visa. They would be sent back. The flight back was forced but free of charge for the passenger. Therefore, Turkish Airlines cancelled the unprofitable route.
There are not enough hotels either. On Wednesday, the National Team of Senegal played against Guinea in Dakar. Senegal won 3 x 0 in the pitch. However, both teams complained a lot about the situation of their hotels. People from NGOs, left parties and labor unions liked the lack of hotel infrastructure. They could use it as an excuse to justify why they were staying in 5 starts hotels.
The event was marked by its lack of organization. There was no centralization of information. The site and time of the debates and workshops were only made public on the same day, so even people who were presenting or making speeches would arrive late. For instance, on the day of Lula’s speech there was a rumour that Lula’s speech was going to be in a library. A huge agglomeration was formed there, and many people missed the chance to see our former president, who ended up speaking to a small crowd in a public square.