Driving Trade To Drive Progress

World Economic Forum (WEF) veteran, Dr Iqbal Survé, shares his thoughts on the eve of the organisation’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland which runs from 22-26 May.

Nearly 2500 leaders from politics, business, civil society and media from around the globe, are expected to participate in WEF’s first in-person annual meeting in more than two years.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) annual gathering gets underway this weekend. Whilst the work the forum does has not stopped in the intervening two years since we last met in person, it will be good to resume face-to face meetings and discussions, and I for one, am looking forward to the discourse to come.

Of particular interest, is a session addressing the growing services industry. This has also caught the eye of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), who for the first time in 20 years, has developed a framework to facilitate trade in services, an industry that accounts for more than two-thirds of global GDP.

It is also the fastest growing sector of the global economy.

Examples of these services include the likes of banking, telecommunications, tourism, and professional services. Access to these are essential – for everyone on the planet (along with food, water and shelter).

The WEF’s 2022 theme, Working Together, Restoring Trust punctuates where we find ourselves as a world at present, post pandemic and with an even greater challenge to advance long-standing economic, environmental and societal priorities and to forge a strong and everlasting egalitarian society.

One way in which we can advance solutions, is to work within a flexible framework for a multilateral trading system, as one size will not always fit all. Consequently, the WTO session to which I have been asked to contribute at next week’s WEF, will be a forum in which to discuss investment facilitation for developing and emerging market economies to take advantage of the growing services trade.

South Africa is not a signatory of the WTO’s Joint Services Domestic Regulation declaration which aims to increase transparency, predictability and efficiency of services providers to do business in foreign markets. So, to be invited to participate in this session, is a great honour, but it is also necessary.

Africa as a developing continent stands to benefit from the services industry, both as a generator and as a receiver of these facilities. It must have a seat at the table.

Underwriting all progress for Africa and Africans, will be access to financial services, without which, the continent will remain dependent on external support. Now is the time for us to work together, collaborate, learn from one another, and develop the skills with which to build a better future – for all of us.

Survé continues to be a regular Davos participant and served as the first chairman of the Global Growth Companies Advisory Board and vice-chairman of the Global Agenda Council (GAC) for emerging Multinationals, including his contributions to the Forum Advisory Board. Under his leadership, the Sekunjalo Group, has been recognised by WEF as one of the world’s fastest growing companies, aka ‘WEF Forum Members’.

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