Various critics have questioned the forum’s purpose, calling it a talk shop of the rich and powerful.
However, with thousands of leaders from several spheres, including business, government and academia gathered together this is the perfect platform to highlight South Africa as a key destination for foreign direct investment. The World Economic Forum takes place less than two weeks after the Paris terrorist attacks and amid a shift in global power politics caused by the plunge in oil prices.
Many of the development partners at the World Economic Forum, especially global business, are key to the achievement of the goals for moving the country forward. South Africa attracted around 24% of all the FDI projects in Africa between 2007 and 2013. In this light, and notwithstanding the challenging global economic conditions, the UK’s Global Financial Times Magazine (in August 2013) voted South Africa overall winner for best investment destination in Africa for 2013 and 2014.
The South African Agenda
South Africa used this platform to market and gain support for their new flagship project, Operation Phakisa, especially the component dealing with promoting the ocean economy. South Africa's oceans have the potential to contribute up to R177-billion to the GDP and create over one million jobs by 2033, two decades from now.
Areas of focus are marine transport and manufacturing activities, such as coastal shipping, trans-shipment, boat building, repair and refurbishment, offshore oil and gas exploration, aquaculture and marine protection services and ocean governance.
South Africa’s presence at the WEF meeting was critical to help grow our countries reputation as a global investment and business destination. It offers a unique opportunity to share with the world the vision for the future and new developments within the country.
Networking and sharing of information
On the other hand, world events and trade partners hugely affect the local economy. These are China’s slowdown and its consequences, the impact of falling commodity prices, and the prospect of US monetary tightening. Many attendees to the WEF highlight the insight into world economic events and information sharing between countries and economic leaders of the world as the most valuable part. The WEF brings in so many Young Global Leaders, and so many passionate Social Entrepreneurs that the spirit and the program ends up leading to great knowledge exchange and lasting commitments that go on beyond the close of the conference.
Although many question the importance of the WEF amidst the immediate challenges, we are facing in South Africa with economic growth and the energy crisis. The reality is that for South Africa the value in attending is the ability to efficiently conduct global business through building the right relationships and managing South Africa’s reputation as an attractive market for foreign investment.
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