WEF 2024: Things need to change fast, and African entrepreneurs can help lead the change

Rayhaan Survé is the deputy chairman of Sekunjalo, Consulting at ADL. Photo: Supplied

Rayhaan Survé is the deputy chairman of Sekunjalo, Consulting at ADL. Photo: Supplied

Published Jan 24, 2024


By Rayhaan Survé

After my third trip to the World Economic Forum (WEF), I remain convinced that there is nothing like it. Presidents, global business leaders, innovators and more are all brought together in snowy Davos to engage, resulting in fascinating conversations that can shape the global economy.

This year focused on AI+, Climate, and Africa. There is simply no denying that the future revolves around the topics, and here is why:

Artificial Intelligence +

As Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, rightly said, GPTs have paved the way for the mass adoption of AI. ChatGPT has become a common tool and many others have started building their own GPTs or interacting with AI in various forms. Bill Gates framed AI as the tool with the potential to impact every household and to create the productivity leap of our era. The adoption has opened the field for the next wave of innovation, whether that is GPT 5.0 or more importantly, the intersection of AI with other technologies.

Over a coffee chat with Daniel Doll-Steinberg, the author of “Unsupervised”, we discussed how the future would be shaped by how AI engaged with emerging technologies: Quantum Computing (QC), Blockchain, AR/VR, and 5G/6G. Imagine the products and services possible when AI is used for custom solutions that are delivered within a fraction of a second, thanks to QC, and require no local processing, thanks to 5G. And that is combining only the three technologies.

This photograph taken in Davos on January 14, 2024 shows the congress centre on the eve of the 54th Annual Meeting of The World Economic Forum. Photo: AFP


Global warming and climate change remained a hot topic of the forum as we continue to struggle with reducing our emissions and staying below the 1.5℃ target.

At a dinner with HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco, it was shocking to hear that on our current trajectory, by 2050, the entire belt 10 degrees on either side of the equator, would be disrupted. That means cutting out more than 90% of the coffee and chocolate production of the world.

While the statistics are depressing, the conversations at Davos around sustainability give hope that we can make a change.

In particular, I was reassured by the focus on enabling family-owned businesses, which make up more than 60% of global businesses, to drive a global shift to sustainable practices, whether through small actions in a community or global innovations.


Finally, the continent, my continent, has the power to change it all. Africa will be home to the most significant youth workforce by 2040, with more than 40% of the global youth, and is the only continent where the workforce will grow continuously in the next decades.

However, Africa has been tasked with solving a climate challenge that is not its own. Others relied on the industrialisation and advancement that fossil fuels provided but told Africa that it could not. At the same time, unemployment is at record highs, with wide variations across the continent. The youth are struggling and there needs to be a change.

I am a firm believer that African entrepreneurs will be that change and it is critical to develop the African start-up ecosystem and technological education to ensure that the entrepreneurs succeed.

There is no denying the role Africa has to play in the global economy, however, will that be shaped by Africans on other continents, or by African innovation in Africa? I certainly hope by African innovation.

Africa, now is the time!

Rayhaan Survé holds an MBA from the University of Oxford and a BSc in business, technology and finance from Babson College. He is an investor and entrepreneur with a focus on promoting African innovation through technology to tackle critical problems in sustainability, healthcare, and education.