Davos: What can the world economic meeting offer to Africa?

by Emeka Chiakwelu

In the snowy winterland of Davos, Switzerland, eminent personalities and global leaders from diverse walks of life and different countries gathered for the annual economic summit. The August visitors to Davos include Presidents of countries, CEO of major corporations, civic leaders, top academicians and politicians. The purpose of the gathering is to review the state of the global economy.

The organizer of the conference, “The World Economic Forum is an independent, international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation. The organizer, “believe that economic progress without social development is not sustainable, while social development without economic progress is not feasible.”

African leaders and bureaucrats are never missing in the conference. These leaders especially Nigerian and South African presidents are always present together with their entourage of the central Bank chieftains, finance ministers and top government officials. It is impressive to see them engage in table conferences and discussions, an enlightened exercise that displayed the side of Africa that is rarely seen. African leaders must be pragmatic if not realistic and must separate the wheat from the chaff in order to bring a meaningful and tangible result to their people waiting for them in Africa.

Beyond brainstorming and intellectual exercise the leaders of the world should formulate ideas backed with practical steps to ease the burden of poverty in Africa and developing nations. The reason for poverty in Southern hemisphere has been analyzed enough, the time has come to do something reasonable that will improve the status quo and re-introduce a pragmatic capitalism.

A global fund for small business can be created that will directly lend small loans to small scale industries and medium enterprise in Africa and developing countries that will bye pass interference from governmental bureaucracy of respective African countries. Funding must go directly to small business owners that lack the conventional know-how and collateral security for raising capital from financial institutions.

As for African leaders they must be respectful but shun diplomatic shenanigans in Davos and tell leaders of international banks and corporations that African countries are in the midst of economic depression therefore creditors of African debts have to find effective methods to ease the burden of the debt. Africa needs injection of credits and grants to deter credit crunch in the market. African leaders can justify this by arguing that sound African economy is good for the stability of the world especially in their own hemisphere. The most important is the re-introduction of capitalism and free enterprise in Africa with fairness, efficiency and justice.

The world economic forum at Davos is not the venue for easy talk, tabloid and entertainment news. It was displeasing to hear about the issue of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and his wives. President Zuma was even compared to Tiger Wooden the fallen golf superstar. Davos is too important for the global community to have such news emanating from it. There is time for everything; President Zuma came to the summit to attract foreign investors to his country not to discuss the issue of polygamy in South Africa.

There have been good things happening in Davos and the conference is living up to expectation. In the 2008 forum, Bill Gates spoke about creative capitalism, emphasizing how free market and capitalism can work for average citizen and developing countries. The band front man of U2, Bono also spoke about debt cancellation for poor highly indebted countries that cannot continue to make payment on their foreign debt with burden of poverty, prevalence of AIDS and hyperinflation.

The application of creative capitalism can be a force in tackling instability in some restive regions of the world. Take for instance the case of Niger Delta, the big oil companies do not necessarily have to wait for the native government to act, they can aid in solving problems by acting responsible and providing technology, jobs, schools and amenities to the locals. “We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well,” Gates told an auditorium packed with corporate leaders and politicians at the 2008 meeting of the World Economic Forum.

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