SA punches above its weight at Davos

South Africa punched above its weight at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum that came to a close in Davos, Switzerland on Sunday, with President Jacob Zuma and the International Marketing Council of SA driving a high-profile presence at the gathering of global business and political leaders.

davosThe country’s biggest ever delegation, a public-private partnership led by President Jacob Zuma, attended the meeting, where South Africa was featured as a theme, as well as the host of the official Soiree dinner for Davos delegates on Saturday.

‘Experience South Africa’

Under the theme “Experience South Africa”, leading international economic and political decision-makers were exposed to the best of South African art, cuisine and fine wines, as well as a number of sessions on the official Davos programme focused on “South Africa 2010 and beyond”.

Saturday’s soiree, organised by the International Marketing Council, featured the cream of South Africa’s musical talent – the likes of Freshlyground, the Afrotenors, Jimmy Dludlu and Sibongile Mngoma – and nine of the country’s top chefs.

Works by nine major South African artists, drawn from the Standard Bank Corporate Collection of South African Art, were on show in main Davos venue for the duration of the event, while the colours of the South African flag were ever-present in the woolen hats and scarves handed out as gifts to all the delegates.

The 20:80 principle

Anitha Soni, chairperson of the International Marketing Council, told Moneyweb’s Alec Hogg that South Africa’s Davos campaign had been “driven by the 20:80 principle, and that is to focus on the 20% of the decision-makers out there that we hope to influence.

“And these 20% really put us here in Davos for the next three to four days, and we want to be top of mind to them – not only as a 2010 destination … but more especially for what 2010 will do for us as a country.”

Leading “Team South Africa”, President Zuma used the opportunity to assure the international community of the country’s readiness to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup, and to market the country as a destination for business, trade and tourism.

Zuma said the World Cup offered an opportunity for the world to see and experience Africa in a different way.

“It is an opportunity to tackle stereotypes and preconceptions, and explore new frontiers of interaction and cooperation. It is an important milestone in the regeneration of the continent.”

‘A Conversation on South Africa’

Zuma also participated in a special plenary session entitled “A Conversation on South Africa”, which looked at the achievements and challenges of South Africa 20 years after the release of Nelson Mandela.

Zuma told the world’s movers and shakers that the country had built a resilient economy which was now beginning to show signs of recovery following the global economic crisis.

He said growth in the South African economy required a mixture of public and private investment. The challenge was to find the right balance between state intervention and market-driven economic activity. The two should reinforce each other, he said.

Zuma also joined leaders from Mexico, Canada, Korea, Vietnam and Spain in a plenary discussion on “Global Governance Redesigned”.

Zuma said a major problem with global decision-making was that poor countries did not have a say in important decisions that affected them, and called for an overhaul of multilateral institutions like the UN Security Council, World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

He also held bilateral meetings with Soros Foundation chairman George Soros, former US President Bill Clinton, UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron, Swiss Confederation President Doris Leuthard, the Duke of York HRH Prince Andrew, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews