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The world descends on Jozi for COP17 conference


Global attention turns to Johannesburg this weekend when some of the world’s top decision-makers descend on the Sandton Convention Centre for the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The conference runs from Friday September 23 to Tuesday October 4.
Some of the dignitaries expected to attend the opening day of the conference include President Jacob Zuma, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, CITES Secretary-General Dr John Scanlan and United Nations’ Environment Programme’s Executive Director, Erik Solheim.  Johannesburg is the latest metropolis – after world cities such as Bangkok, Doha, The Hague and Santiago – to host a CITES conference.
After the Department of Environmental Affairs was awarded the rights to host the COP17 conference, it sent out an invitation to South African cities to bid to co-host it.  Joburg Tourism successfully bid on behalf of the City of Johannesburg.
Though Johannesburg might not play a direct role or specialise in the international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, hosting COP17 and other significant global events presents sustainable marketing and promotional benefits for the city and cements its reputation as a leading global player.
Hosting such events contributes meaningfully to the city’s economic growth.  With more than 2 000 delegates from 180 countries expected to attend, the estimated direct economic impact for Johannesburg is over R83-million.
MMC for Economic Development, Cllr Sharon Peetz, says in addition to the economic benefits, hosting international events and conferences also contributes to the knowledge economy.   “All meetings hosted by the City of Johannesburg – including Africities, Enactus, C40, Metropolis and the International Public Relations Association's Congress – have contributed to a wealth of knowledge for our city by debating current global issues in various specialist sectors such as municipal entities, entrepreneurship, public relations and so on. As a city, we are richer as a result of having hosted these meetings,” she says.
Johannesburg has a disproportionately high percentage of rare and threatened species and ecosystem compared to the rest of Gauteng and of South Africa as a whole.   This is a consequence of the combination of its topographic and geological diversity resulting in a diversity of habitats.
The city has over 20 000ha of green open spaces and 3.2 million trees. The Johannesburg Zoo has 326 species consisting of 2 096 specimens housed within 54ha area.