There is no better stage on earth at which the world’s most economically powerful meet than the World Economic Forum (WEF).
It is the platform where the most influential business and political leaders meet to discuss world business in the ultimate sense. It is the finest business networking and marketing platform for the world. Some of the world’s biggest business and investment decisions are made there – at Davos, Switzerland.
Collectively, the 2 500 or so business leaders meeting this week at Davos have all the world’s capital and economy in their hands. Top political leaders, economists and journalists will join the business elite for the four-day, end-of-January event at the famous Swiss mountain resort.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa would be in such high-profile company. He is scheduled to leave early this morning for the event that starts tomorrow.
After 17 years of economic and political isolation, which, President Mnangagwa said in December, was neither splendid nor viable, his presence at Davos is a massive public relations coup for our country.
“I see the World Economic Forum at the same level as the United Nations in terms of global significance,” former World Bank country head in Zimbabwe Dr Mungai Lenneiye was quoted as saying in our sister paper, The Sunday Mail yesterday.
“The WEF is the UN Summit of global economics. It is the highest summit of economic branding. The UN is the highest level of political gathering and I know that Zimbabwe has taken its political branding to a high level before at the UN. Now is the time to achieve the same in the economic sphere. I believe that even if Zimbabwe gets its economic branding to half the level of its political branding, the country would have achieved milestones.”
Business, just like life itself, is all about strong networks and relationships. People with stronger networks have better chances to succeed in life than those who have weaker networks. People who are isolated tend to fail in their lives whereas those who aren’t often succeed. The networked among us rely on the assistance they muster from those in their networks to succeed. That is why vulnerable people such as orphans, widows and the elderly are prone to struggle more than children with parents, married women and younger, able-bodied people who can fend for themselves.
The same applies to business and economies.
Our country has been isolated economically and politically since 2000. Our networks were not strong enough to anchor our economy to prosperity. Not much by way of investment was coming into the economy over that period. Also, as a result of weak networks and relationships we weren’t able to trade freely with the world. The result is an economy that attracted only $319 million in foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2016 while South Africa and Mozambique – who have warm relations with sources of global capital – attracted $2, 5 billion and $3 billion respectively.
Special Advisor to the President Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa said of the President’s presence at the WEF:
“This is an important trip because for the first time, Zimbabwe’s focus is the world business investment community. Remember, most of the goods and services delivered in the world are in the hands of the private sector.
“Out of the US$90 trillion global GDP, probably 90 percent is accounted for — in terms of goods and services which are on the marketplace — by private companies. And there are a slew of private companies both from the East and West that all troop to Davos to exchange ideas on where the world should go.
These are the people to whom the President will be giving attention.
“These are the global-class investors of the world; 2 000-3 000 top class companies. Their chief executives and chairpersons will be there — a community that drives global investment. For the first time, Zimbabwe will be saying we have this attractive investment destination called Zimbabwe, well-endowed with resources, a very capable and well-educated population — the best in Africa; but more than that, a very stable political environment.”
President Mnangagwa’s presence at Davos this week should put our country back on the global map. It must underscore the fact that Zimbabwe is back, Zimbabwe is open for business. It should lay a base for better networks and relationships for our country. His administration, which turns two months old on Wednesday, has introduced a range of reforms that should help attract FDI. The indigenisation law is being relaxed, Government spending is being drastically slashed, tax reforms are in the offing and a foundation has been laid for reengagement talks with the international community. In addition, the President has made it clear that elections would be held this year as the national constitution commands. They would be free and fair, he said, and that he has no problem with observers from the West coming to witness the staging of the poll.
These are very important foundational positions that should help us start rebuilding beneficial networks and relationships with the international community. And Davos, the President’s first overseas visit since his inauguration on November 24, 2017, is an auspicious stage for him to make a case for his country.