OPINION: Why does SA take part in the WEF?
South Africa will once again be represented at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos by a high level and multi-stakeholder team. Team South Africa, as we refer to this team, will bring to the 2,500 participants at the summit the message that South Africa is open for business and remains an attractive and reliable investment destination.
You may ask why does this message have to be delivered physically in an age where we can communicate across borders and oceans very conveniently?
A melting pot of thought leadership and innovation
Firstly, Davos brings together business leaders, senior government officials and policymakers, and social-change advocates to tackle the biggest issues of our times, amongst others, inequality, climate change, a sustainable economy, youth employment, underdevelopment and building global competitiveness of nations.
Attending Davos does not necessarily result in agreements on co-operation and trade, but it does enable participants to have the right conversations about how to tackle some of these challenges. It brings minds together to respond to these challenges innovatively and creatively. After all, we cannot continue to do the same things to address stubbornly resistant problems and hope that we will get different results.
Doing things differently in the interests of growth and development
Despite differences in tactics and approaches, I have no doubt that South Africans are fiercely committed to the growth and development of our country. In this regard, we are increasingly cognisant that we must work together as a national collective to respond innovatively and urgently to the triple challenges of poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment. History teaches us that multi-stakeholder approaches are necessary to enable sustainable and durable solutions. Gatherings like the WEF in Davos enable the formulation and the implementation of such solutions.
It has become fashionable to talk about building a community of people to enable innovative solutions. There is also the term 'crowd sourcing and funding' which talks to putting a problem out there and looking at the responses that follow to determine how to address it.
WEF Davos and other such platforms enable such a spirit of co-operation and community building. Such an approach to the complexities of common challenges is essential in this day and age.
Davos is not the United Nations
The WEF is not the United Nations, the International Criminal Court or any other multilateral institution that yields resolutions to respond to political and social challenges in the world.
However, precisely because of the non-threatening, collaborative spirit of this event, it has been the site of many ground-breaking moments in history. There are many instances where actionable ideas to tackle global challenges of our time have emerged from the gatherings at this small Swiss village.
For instance, it is at Davos in 1992 that President Mandela met with President de Klerk in their first public appearance outside of South Africa.
In addition, the presence of the Greek and Turkish leaders in 1988 resulted in the Davos Declaration being signed, which averted war between the two countries and in 1994, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat reached a draft agreement on Gaza and Jericho, again at Davos.
The WEF at Davos has therefore been able to provide the environment for foes to come together in the interests of their countries and people. By providing such an environment the event is able to give expression to its motto: "Committed to improving the state of the world."
What will SA take to Davos?
South Africa will communicate on this global platform that it is open for business.
We have challenges as a country (and which country doesn't?) but we are committed to addressing these to improve the lives of the millions of our citizens. The National Development Plan is part of our solution to the triple challenge of poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment.
We are keen to welcome international partners who are supportive of our developmental agenda.
South Africa is a committed advocate of the African developmental agenda. Our fortunes are integrally intertwined with those of the continent and our growth and development must contribute to the overall competitiveness and reputation of the continent.
Miller Matola is the CEO of Brand South Africa. Follow Team South Africa at WEF Davos on @SAinDavos