I AM LOOKING forward to the Annual World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos, which takes place between January 21 and 24. I am delighted that I will be accompanied by Independent Media staff, Ellis Mnyandu (Business Report editor) and Karima Brown (chief content officer) this time, who will also be providing their insights and views on this gathering.
When I reflected on the 2014 Davos meeting, I considered the allegation that this annual get-together of the rich and powerful, is a waste of time.
Is it, as is claimed, a gathering of elites having a pointless talk-shop which has no positive impact on the world at large?
Well, I for one do not believe that this is true, mainly because the majority of those that gather in Davos do indeed have the ability and the power – political or financial – to make a positive contribution to creating a more just and equitable world environment.
Ironic as this may seem, I do think that there are few global forums that can influence world affairs in this way.
In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set at the turn of the century are due for review as the 15 years set for their achievement have been reached. Davos is a good space in which this assessment can take place, especially as the UN has released their report indicating the degree to which these eight development goals have been met.
Davos, through the network that attends, can and will engage with this issue and many others. Why this is important is because global political and social stability are at stake. Davos offers the opportunity to provide input into the post-millennium agenda. Just last week, we witnessed acts of terror committed in France and Nigeria with the tragic loss of life which ensued as a result.
I am not commenting or providing an analysis of the whys or wherefores of these acts of terror – but it suffices to say that it is very apparent that they are on the rise in a world that is increasingly polarised, unequal and in desperate need of change. As we assess whether we have achieved the MDG, we cannot do so in isolation. We have to question whether at a few fundamental levels, the world – socially, economically and environmentally – has improved or deteriorated since the MDGs were implemented.
The recently released report shows substantial progress and I am sure we shall be engaging vigorously with that.
Last year I stated that Africa is emerging from the shadows and is taking on more of a leadership role at Davos.
This is correct – as we cannot participate fully in the margins – from the fringe as it were. The world is interconnected and what happens in one country or continent inevitably affects all others. Africa used to be associated with images of starving children, wars, disease and every other negative stereotype that one can imagine.
Of course this was a mono-narrative which dominated the view of our continent. Like any other continent, Africa does have its fair share of issues to deal with, but there is also growth and development. Which brings me to another reason for being at Davos.
It’s been just over a year, since Independent Media changed ownership. I stated previously that media in Africa can play a major role in driving change, development, innovation and good governance. This is a position I will reinforce as I and Independent colleagues engage at this forum. I indicated last year that I would use the opportunity at Davos to meet with my counterparts from media organisations across the world.
That was as much about finding out how the global media landscape was changing as a result of a number of factors, including technology so that we could learn from this – but also how we contribute to the shifting narrative of our country and continent. I see this as an opportunity to do precisely that. Africa is, after all, the birthplace of human civilisation, going back at least 7 million years. It is a rich continent, but its wealth has not always been to its benefit, especially as far as its mineral wealth is concerned.
This sad history is well documented and I shall not dwell on it here. However, it is something which I always hold in my mind as we work to ensure that Africa takes its rightful place on the global stage.
The re-positioning of the African story through our media is part of our responsibility and I will be taking this multi-narrative forward in my engagements at Davos.
We attend Davos to inform as well as to learn; to engage and make an impact. It is not a forum to be ignored – as to do so means that we contribute to marginalising ourselves from a powerful platform for global change and social upliftment.
Dr Iqbal Survé is executive chairman: Sekunjalo Investments Holdings and Independent Media, the publisher of Business Report and other newspaper titles.