DURBAN, Aid and development charity Oxfam has launched an inequality report on Africa on the eve of the opening of the World Economic Forum Africa 2017 here Wednesday entitled "Starting with People: A Human Economy Approach to Inclusive Growth in Africa".

The latest data reveal that seven of the 20 most unequal countries in the world are African and this latest report by Oxfam urges African leaders to build a new more "human economy" to tackle inequality and poverty.

The statistics that speak to inequality are startling -- the world's eight richest people have the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people in the world.

South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana and Nigeria are the five most unequal countries in the world, based on income, with the human cost felt the most by women and children.

WEF Africa 2017 is expected to bring together more than 1,000 of the world's political and business leaders to address this inequality challenge.

The Executive Director of think-tank Trade Collective, Lebogang Pheko, argues that gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of growth is not entirely accurate.

It tells us that profits are growing and that economies and industry is moving. It doesn't tell us about how this is causing social collusion, environmental ravages and the cost on children. It doesn't tell us about sexual harassment. It doesn't tell us that there are children who are often abandoned by both parents who are trying to eke out this living from this market economy because it doesn't matter as long as Forbes magazine says you are growing.

The Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum, Elsie Kanza, says countries need to go beyond GDP as a measure of the well-being of people. She says that over the last decade, Africa has experienced jobless growth with no trickle-down effect of wealth.

There are differences even within countries between rural and urban areas; you have lots of youth who are not actively involved in the process. Many of them are unemployed and unemployable; the skill levels are not even. Women are not actively represented or not even at equal pay.

Kanza says the meeting will engage with leaders from different sectors of society that can influence economic growth in their communities at ground level.

All of them have an impact on various levels of their communities. We have a very active social media presence and encourage conversations throughout the meeting, there are platforms. In this way we are able to expand the voices beyond who we can fit into the convention centre to really make this a participatory meeting. We only have about 1100 people but we have a conference of a billion people.

The Oxfam report calls on African governments to reduce inequality levels in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, to prioritise the development of SMMEs and small scale agricultural farmers in rural areas and to increase spending on essential services like healthcare and education. Civil society is expected to echo these demands with a march to the conference venue, the Durban International Convention centre, on Wednesday.

Traffic flow around the conference precinct at the ICC will be disrupted as roads have been closed. Security measures have been put in place by the National Joints Operational and Intelligence Structure. National police spokesperson, Vishnu Naidoo, has assured motorists that there will be alternative routes provided to control traffic.

There's a wealth of experience as far as this structure is concerned and we're confident that with the continuous support of communities we will deliver this event successfully," said Naidoo.

"We're also aware of protest action that's going to be taking place, and we're calling upon communities to engage in these demonstrations and protest action in a responsible and peaceful manner and within the confines of the law. No form of criminality will be tolerated; we will make sure that they face the full blunt of the law should anyone transgress in any way.