Ramaphosa has his work cut out at Davos to shift mindset of investors
The world’s economic and political elite will soon gather at the snowy Swiss alpine resort of Davos to engage on ways of creating a shared future in a fractured world, the official theme of the 48th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. Much attention will be on geopolitics and prospects for global economic growth.
The stand-off between North Korea and the US, the deteriorating relations between Iran and the US and the global controversy created by President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel loom large on the geopolitical front, as do the global migration crisis and the treatment of immigrants in host countries.
These issues are divisive in an era characterised by a conspicuous lack of unifying visionary leadership at a global and regional level, which in turn is a reflection of the conspicuous lack of common and shared norms and values among the current generation of world leaders. This is shameful.
Creating a better world for all requires leaders to embark on appropriate collective action to reduce and combat global poverty, inequality, unemployment, discrimination and environmental degradation.
This can and must be done. It requires leaders to summon and unleash the requisite political will and commitment.
SA has a key and strategic role to play in articulating and advancing a unifying and ethical brand of global leadership, at the core of which must be collective action and collaboration on key global challenges.
While it is perfectly acceptable that countries should promote their national interests, no country can prosper on a sustained basis if its region and the rest of the world are left behind in chaos, suffering and instability. Poverty and instability anywhere can be a real and serious threat to prosperity and stability everywhere.
That is partly why the focus on creating a shared future in a fractured world is appropriate. Trump will be there to promote his America First project. He will be the first sitting US president since former president Bill Clinton attended in 2000. Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama did not attend Davos; they sent their senior personnel instead.
Chinese President Xi Jinping was the headline act when he stole the show and positioned himself as a champion of globalisation, international trade and combating climate change.
His Davos performance was widely viewed as strategic positioning for China as a global superpower, while Washington was viewed as retreating from its traditional role as leader of the free world.
Will Trump’s Davos expedition counter China’s ascending global leadership? That remains to be seen. Three outcomes can be expected from Trump’s Davos pitch for his signature America First project. He can use Davos to reframe his engagement with the world in a positive and constructive way that can also reposition his administration in the concert of nations. This is an outcome that may be good for the US and the world at large. His performance at Davos may further alienate and isolate the Trump administration from the mainstream of global affairs.
His recent controversial comments on African and Haitian immigrants have resulted in an outpouring of anger and disgust not just from Africans and Haitians but from the rest of the world. Alienation and isolation of the Trump administration would occur if Trump projects an arrogant and egocentric posture at Davos. That would be a bad outcome likely to do more harm than good.
Alternatively, he could neither please nor upset people. Trump should at least hope for this possible outcome while aiming for the first.
SA will have a high-powered delegation of business and political leaders featuring new ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa.
His predecessor, Jacob Zuma, also attended the 2008 Davos meeting following his election as ANC president at the December 2007 Polokwane electoral conference. Zuma charmed the Davos elite when he commented that he was there to "listen and learn". That’s what Davos should be about, in addition to the great networking and party time it presents. From 2008, Zuma has led several Team SA delegations to tell all Davos men and women who cared to listen that SA was open and ready for business.
All eyes will be on Ramaphosa in 2018. What should he tell this gathering of the global power elite? He must call on international investors to look at SA very seriously. He must reassure them that investments in SA stand to accrue attractive and globally competitive returns. He should tell investors that SA is committed to creating and promoting an attractive investment climate on a sustained basis.
Ramaphosa should also assure current and prospective investors about policy certainty and predictability as one of the cornerstones to position SA as investment location of choice. SA can and must position itself as a magnetic force for the attraction and retention of local and foreign investors alike.
Ramaphosa must furthermore punt SA’s strong and growing commitment to the rule of law and sanctity of contracts, underpinned by an independent and credible judiciary. This is a key consideration to investors globally as it levels the playing field by ensuring fairness and justice.
Furthermore, Ramaphosa should emphasise the strong and growing business relations between SA and the African continent, as well as the powerful Brics grouping of emerging markets: Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA.
SA is the leading gateway to the increasingly attractive African market for most investors globally. That is a point that must be made often enough and emphatic enough at Davos.
Ramaphosa should emphasise SA’s commitment to the globalisation project, free and fair international trade and multilateral institutions of global governance and the Paris climate change accord. This is key to ensuring global solutions to global problems.
Global collaboration is as key as it is indispensable if effective and lasting solutions were to be found to the challenges of global security, climate change, immigration, poverty, inequality and growing unemployment, partly as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
• Dlamini is the chairman of Massmart and Aspen Pharmacare Holdings. He writes in his personal capacity.