Africa takes centre stage in Davos

The Trade Minister says African issues are on the main agenda at the World Economic Forum.

FILE: South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies

JOHANNESBURG - African issues are no longer deemed a 'sideshow' at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Wednesday.

Davies is part of a South African delegation, which includes Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and several business leaders.

The forum's main meeting is held in the Swiss town each January as politicians, captains of industry, social activists, academics and analysts discuss some of the world's greatest problems.

Davies said Africa's "fortunes" has dramatically changed in recent changes.

"One of the features of Davos in the time I've been coming, which has been since 2009, is that African issues have moved from being a sideshow to very much something on the main agenda.

"I think that most dynamic investors are very well aware that Africa is a place they need to increase their involvement in and that South Africa plays a pivotal strategic role in the African role. I'll be seeing a number of investors who are talking about increasing their role and presence in the South African economy, rather than withdrawing," he told Stephen Grootes on the Midday Report.


Responding to a question about concerns over industrial action, Davies said government was working hard to ensure there was stability in all sectors.

"We think there ought to be stability and if there is any industrial action it needs to follow the letter of the industrial relations law."

The minister said many African leaders recognised the need to industrialise in order "to add value to our mineral products".

More than 100,000 workers from Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin are set to go on strike from Thursday. They are demanding a minimum salary of R12,500.

The industrial action is expected to have a major impact on the already fragile platinum industry.


While Davies was quizzed about some tough matters, he did say he would be attending the screening of Anant Singh's Long Walk to Freedom, which the Trade and Industry Department helped to finance. The movie documents Nelson Mandela's life and political struggles.

"I think [the film] demonstrates our capacity for film making, and I'd like to take that message further forward. South Africa is a growing and an important destination for film making."

Click here for a special feature on this year's World Economic Forum in Davos.