The first international meeting of the year has already come to an end. The 49th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland ended on Friday and was attended by 40 organisation leaders, 1,700 business executives and over 60 heads of states. The theme for the prestigious four-day event was Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Although a variety of issues were discussed, President Cyril Ramaphosa did not shy away from tackling artificial intelligence, tech innovation, globalization and economic growth on the continent.
Discussions at the WEF ranged from climate change, Brexit, migration, globalisation, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and much more. Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe said the country’s new policy on ‘Womenomics’ helped up to two million women enter the workforce in Japan since 2012. The move led to the boosting of their economy, and generated further demand for employment, creating a “long-awaited positive feedback cycle”.
Mohammed Hassan Mohamud, a Somalian refugee, delivered an address during one of the sessions. He currently lives in a refugee camp in Kenya with 185,000 other refugees. “We’ve been waiting for 25 years for a place to call home,” he said. “There’s so much human suffering and I feel like I’m on the sidelines, not only me as an individual but also those I represent,” he said in an emotional address.
President Cyril Ramaphosa took on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and talked about how blockchain and artificial intelligence would allow the African continent to “leapfrog” into the new era. “We’ve got the skills, we’ve got the technology, we should now have the courage to be ahead of the curve,” he said.
“We are implementing reforms to increase investment in mobile and fixed broadband infrastructure, through strengthening competition among internet service providers, and improving the quality and reducing the price of Information and Communications Technology services,” said Ramaphosa.
According to a statement released by Khusela Diko, Spokesperson for the President, Ramaphosa assured the international community and potential investors that South Africa is on a path of renewal and growth as the country strengthens partnerships and collaboration domestically and internationally for inclusive economic growth and development.
“[WEF]was a platform for South Africa to contribute to global debates and to help shape responses to challenges in the global economy, while presenting South Africa as an investment destination, trade partner and advocate of multilateralism that is undergoing a process of renewal and growth,” reads the statement.
Talkin’ bout a revolution
Leaders at the WEF spoke on the real and potential global impacts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the disruption of the old world order. They also considered how technology and information sharing would reshape the physical world and improve the quality of human life. But there was great concern around privacy, identity, morality, climate change and global ethics as the world begins to see an increase in fake news and information warfare.
The WEF describes the Fourth Industrial Revolution as “new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even our human bodies [including] genome editing, new forms of machine intelligence, breakthrough materials and approaches to governance that rely on cryptographic methods such as the blockchain.”
Talks at the WEF also centered on the impact on economic growth, employment, and the nature of work, consumer expectations, data-enhanced products and technological innovations. Other factors that were considered include national and global impacts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on governments, countries, regions, and cities as well as international security and issues around inequality and poverty.
WEF organisers said the event this year made an impact on the world in 33 ways and measured impacts on public-private cooperation that pointed to the redistribution of global wealth. It also exposed many politicians for their technological ineptitude and gave hope that the future belonged to the millennials.
It was also widely acknowledged that the Fourth Industrial Revolution must be accompanied by a social revolution and that the struggle for the ownership and control of the means of production by the working masses will continues.
The move to the next industrial revolution demands a multi-pronged approach to its management and all world leaders need to be on board to ensure no one is left behind. In an age of fake news, drones, autonomous aerial mobility and cyber-war, it is an exciting but indeed dangerous world. The next revolution demands co-operation whether humanity is ready for it or not.