The Annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos Klosters, Switzerland, serves as a reminder that the world operates amid a backdrop of multiple crises, addressing challenges such as energy supply, climate change, food production, the cost of living and geopolitical tensions in various global hotspots. The meeting for this year took place from January 15 to 19.
This year, South Africa was led by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana and supported by the Minister of Communication and Digital Technologies Mondli Gungubele, Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel, as well as Minister of Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande. The delegation included South African corporates and civil society organizations.
Brand South Africa, as the entity responsible for managing the image and reputation of the country, was responsible for the Team SA program together with its partners, Old Mutual, South African Breweries and Naspers.
This was to ensure country visibility as well as running an integrated communications, media, and digital program at Davos. This included South Africa’s voice, positioning, and messaging in global conversations about Africa’s development and the attraction of investment into the region, and the continent.
South Africa was there to share its positive narrative to attract potential investments under the overarching theme of “Building a Resilient Future”. Minister Godongwana highlighted South Africa’s determination to resolve the country’s energy supply and logistics challenges.
Agility In The Face Of Polycrisis
During last year’s meeting, the World Economic Forum pointed out that we are living in a polycrisis as we tackle multiple crises at once. The phrase was coined in the 1970s and popularized by historian Adam Tooze. And so, it proved, at this year’s meeting how world markets had been shaken by fears of a new round of inflation, sparked by rising shipping costs due to the disruption of shipping in the Red Sea.
Bonang Mohale, the Chairman of the Bidvest Group, and a member of Team South Africa attending his 21st edition of WEF, says this requires leadership that is agile, bold, imaginative and ethical.
Mohale says in the period leading up to and during WEF, he had felt “a sense of unity and singular sense of purpose” between government and business to solve South Africa’s challenges. He argues that this needs to be maintained while holding each other accountable.
Positioning South Africa As A Global Economic Influencer
As the most industrialized and diverse economy in Africa, South Africa
boasts leading infrastructure and a diversified economic landscape. With
a GDP exceeding $400 billion and untapped growth potential, the nation is
strategically positioned to make significant contributions to the global economy.
The country continues to punch above its weight as a global economic influencer with a number of key objectives at Davos.
Team South Africa joined the rest of the delegates in discussing four key themes to guide their engagements at Davos under the overarching theme of “Rebuilding Trust”. These are achieving security and cooperation in a fractured world, creating growth and jobs for a new era, harnessing artificial intelligence for economic growth and safety, and formulating a long-term strategy for climate, nature, and energy. The themes align with South Africa’s commitment to addressing global challenges while showcasing its own potential for sustainable development.
Economic Transformation And Sustainable Development
Under the umbrella of Operation Vulindlela, South Africa is undergoing a fundamental economic transformation. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s initiative aims to modernize and transform critical network industries, such as electricity, water, transport, and digital communications. Reforms to the visa regime are prioritized to attract skills and promote tourism, laying the foundation for a revival of economic growth and fostering a globally competitive economy.
Reforms in the energy sector have already borne fruit with the level of interest shown by the private sector in self generation
as well as the amount of solar capacity installed by households and businesses as a result of government incentives.
Addressing Challenges In The Transition To A Green Economy
South Africa recognizes the challenges posed by the global push for a green economy, especially concerning potential impacts on African trade. The introduction of carbon border tax adjustments and other measures could affect initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). WEF provides a platform for South Africa to raise these concerns and seek collaborative solutions to ensure a just transition away from fossil fuels while safeguarding economic interests.
Digital Transformation And Global Collaboration
South Africa’s journey toward becoming a digital economy has been a key focus at Davos. The government is committed to implementing recommendations from the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, emphasizing digital skills training, infrastructure development, and the formulation of an artificial intelligence national plan. International investment and collaboration are deemed crucial to the success of these initiatives.
Private Sector Engagement And A Global Multilateral Reform Recognizing the vital role of the private sector in economic growth, South Africa actively engaged with business leaders at Davos. Initiatives to improve the business climate, reduce data costs, and streamline regulatory processes underscore the government’s commitment to fostering a conducive environment for local and international companies. Additionally, South Africa advocates for the reform of global multilateral institutions, pushing for greater participation from Global South countries in access to finance, supply chains, trade, and investment opportunities.
One of South Africa’s key contributions was hosting a Bloomberg Live panel discussion with Ministers Godongwana, Patel, and the Secretary General of AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene. The panel highlighted the importance of driving a South-South collaboration and how the private sector, as the actual importers and exporters of goods, are the key drivers and beneficiaries of the African Free Trade Area. Brand South Africa also hosted an ‘SA Night’, to showcase the diverse arts and cultures of South Africa its people, products, and places to global audiences with an interest in the country.
As South Africa took center stage at Davos, it emerged not only as a competitive business and investment destination, but also a nation committed to global collaboration and sustainable development. The World Economic Forum provides a crucial platform for Team South Africa to share its success stories, address challenges, and actively contribute to shaping a resilient and inclusive global future. Brand South Africa plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the nation’s positive narrative resonates on the international stage, providing brand visibility that fosters interest and garners support for South Africa’s journey toward economic transformation and sustainable development.
Other members of the South African delegation included partners Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, CEO of Naspers, Richard Treagus of Old Mutual and Zoleka Lisa, Corporate Affairs Vice President at South African Breweries as well as luminaries, including the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Lesetja Kganyago and filmmaker Anant Singh, producer of the iconic Cry the Beloved Country.
DISCLAIMER: Brand Voice is a paid program. Articles appearing in this section have been commercially supported.