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WEF 2023: 3 things SA must do now for tomorrow, says Survé

Dr Iqbal Survé. File photo

Dr Iqbal Survé. File photo

Published Jan 20, 2023


FOUR days is not enough to solve the challenges that face the world, and no-one expects to.

The point of the World Economic Forum though is to take a health check on how the world is doing, collectively share experiences and then collaboratively find the solutions, as generally speaking, we all share the same issues, and we all want the same outcome – a sustainable future.

This year has been pivotal in defining the interwoven tapestry of challenges we all face, and during which certain home truths must be taken on board by South Africa if it is to ever create the space our hard-won freedom dreamt of for our people.

Clean energy

If you are in South Africa, any energy will do that will enable us to switch on a light, cook a meal or take a warm shower. But, as much as the current situation is aggravating the country’s economic recovery, progression, and interrupting sleep patterns, it is also a golden opportunity to reimagine and implement greener ways of generating our energy – but fast. Lest we not forget, in 2020 South Africa committed to reach net zero by 2050.

Note: Net zero does not mean no power, but energy where greenhouse gas emissions are carbon neutral.

The WEF also demonstrated that it is not only an emerging economy problem either, but that more developed nations are also learning the lessons of having to switch to alternative, cleaner, diversified and more affordable means of power supply.

In terms of developing economies though, South Africa could take a few lessons from India, whose population this year is on track to exceed that of China, and who has made climate change, clean energy, and its access a priority. According to the WEF website, “India is the world’s third-largest producer of solar energy and enjoys the lowest renewables’ costs. Plans to increase renewable energy as part of the mix remain in place, and India is pioneering green hydrogen (hydrogen made using renewable energy).”

India’s slogan of “One earth, one family, one future,” says it all. It’s time to put the politics that divide us in South Africa aside and concentrate on uniting the population for that one family and one future.

South Africa’s political voice on this at the WEF was, however, resoundingly silent.


The WEF in Davos 2023, highlighted how technology continues to grow its influence and shift the world into the digital era. In order not to be left behind, South Africa must urgently put the measures in place with which to ensure we have the skills and capacity to “talk” this new language.

Technology opens the doors to better healthcare, education, industry, and ease of living and working. But how ready is South Africa to embrace things like artificial intelligence (AI) that will seriously threaten the jobs we know today?

With one of the largest youth populations in the world and therefore, tomorrow’s job seekers, there is an urgent need for South Africa and the rest of the continent to develop and adopt clear and concise policy frameworks that will encourage innovation and new income generation opportunities, with technology at their foundation.

However, this is also going to require universal access to the internet and affordable communications, something we are working on, but still, there are 2.7 billion people around the world who are not part of the digital conversation. We must do more to include our people.

However, as we already know, technology is a double-edged sword, and the growing threats of a cyber storm and meltdown were high on the agenda at the WEF this week. Although South Africa has a Cyber Crimes Act and has made steps in the right direction, the speed at which this gathering storm is approaching, leaves us vulnerable and woefully under resourced.

Collaborate – authentically

Underpinning everything, is the need for ongoing and honest collaboration, and co-operation to build this better future for all, and it starts at home.

The WEF in 2023, called for a dawn of stakeholder geopolitics. Its theme of “co-operation in a fragmented world” was set against the backdrop of escalating global competition and conflict. Is it too late for us to turn the tide? I hope not, and if the sessions I attended and the people I spoke to during this week are anything to go by, there is more resolve than ever to ensure that Earth remains the planet we call home.

But, as I stated before WEF 2023 got under way, none of this will occur if the world cannot adopt some form of peace and instead of profiting from war and doom, profits are generated through doing good.

This is a key lesson for South Africa to take on board. Imagine if those who are currently stripping the country and pocketing its profits, could turn their efforts to building it instead… Perhaps then we could be on that world stage once again showing the world how it is done.

However, it is not just South Africa that can lead the way, but a united continent. Africa is the key to unlocking the world’s sustainability. It has vast amounts of uncultivated arable land, not to mention its natural resources as a renewable energy central generator.

Caution though. Africa has a long history of being colonised and its spoils removed for others’ benefits. Memories are long, so this new spirit of co-operation will need to be authentic and proved through results. Every civilisation throughout the eons of time progresses, flattens, and then regresses, will this be Africa’s century?

It’s up to us.