John Vidal wrote for The Guadian the following article:
"The conference centre, Sandton Conference centre a stone's throw from old township slum, feels about as close to the rest of Johannesburg as Mars.
Sandton is a purpose/built business centre. Its hip restaurants, company HQs, international banks, silver BMWs, flash hotels, $300,000 flats and glass and brass architecture, all built in the decade since the earth summit in Rio de Janeiro, are surrounded by deep walls of of police, electrified fences and miles of concrete barriers.
Sandton is five/star Globoville, a corporate ghetto and the richest, brassiest, smartest suburb in a city which was built on the excesses of mining and retains the gold rush mentality.
For the legions of grassroots groups, farmers, indigenous peoples and others in Johannesburg to try to give a voice to the the world's poor and concerned, Sandton is socially unconscious, unsustainable development at its worst. Its shops are from Paris, London and New York, its hotels trade only in dollars, and for most of Johannesburg it is unaffordable and elite.
Only the music of the townships and rural areas wafting from the shops and restaurants suggest this is Africa.
Yet the billion/pound development built on the new globalisation of capital only exists because the business community has packed its bags and fled the terrible crime, impoverishment and physical degradation of the old city centre. Once the richest area in Africa's city of gold, the old business quarter has been taken over by the homeless and the street hawkers. It is a dangerous desert at night, and few people go out alone, even in a car.
A stone's throw from the conference hall, behind the barriers but in sight of Sandton's boardrooms and satellite dishes, is the old township of Alexandra. The global money found so easily to build Sandton in just a few years has not reached this sprawling slum with its rubble/strewn streets, and thousands of small businesses. The legacies of apartheid can be seen in the old watchtowers and single sex hostels.
South Africa has received more investment than any sub/Saharan country in the past 10 years, and is bursting with positive initiatives, yet to turn round a century of unsustainable development, colonial rule and apartheid requires gargantuan investment.
Meanwhile, the rest of sub/Saharan Africa looks on in bewilderment as world leaders flock to Johannesburg.
The region faces a poverty timebomb, says the World Bank, and has largely fallen off the economic map with 500 million of the poorest people in the world scratching an ever/harder living.
Neighbouring Botswana may be financially better off, but Aids is crippling development. Angola and Mozambique are still recovering from civil war and are stymied by trade rules that bar them from exporting. Zimbabawe is imploding. And across the vast region, preventable illnesses are taking their toll, and hunger stalks the land.
The UN World Food Programme predicted a catastrophe could occur later this year as the region's food supplies dwindle. Ten million of the poorest are already suffering malnutrition, and the international effort to bring them food will have to be herculean. More than a million tonnes of food must be imported, and the world community is reluctant to pledge the $500m needed.
Six hundred miles north of Sandton, 1 million of the poorest Malawian farmers are growing more desperate by the day. "The World Food programme wants to target 30% of the entire population from January to March", says Al Smith, the Usaid chief in charge of the relief operation. "We are getting to 5% of people, but it should already be 15%/25%."
The article can be read in entirety at