Many of the thousands of delegates at Davos, Switzerland, wonder how long this gathering of the world’s elite can go on in its present form, in what must be one of the world’s strangest locations for an economic conference. It must have looked a great venue, albeit from left field, when it was planned here back in 1971, but then again gas guzzling cars and Richard Nixon also seemed a good idea at the time. The face of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos is changing. In the last decade, the number of delegates from countries like Germany and Britain has fallen, while those from China have increased by 283% and Russia by 57%.
One of the big hitters at this year’s Davos was Narendra Modi, who became the first Indian prime minister to attend in 20 years. He made a stentorian speech defending globalization, criticizing protectionism and urging swift action over climate change. Surely, it is only a matter of time before WEF will be hosted by emerging markets like India, Russia and China.
Davos, a small village in the Alps of eastern Switzerland, is perfect for skiing and even better for taking photographs for a Christmas card – the snow-topped forests cascading down the steep mountainsides are a wonder to behold; the crisp air is as refreshing as a cool drink on a hot day. It is a place where you can clear your head, in seconds, with a lung full of Alpine air.
Yet, as the years wear on, it looks ill-suited for the gathering of the clans of globalization. Thousands of delegates and heads of state from 70 countries, plus more billionaires and business owners than you can poke a stick at, packed out the village this year. Throughout the day, you could see European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and his cohorts picking through the snow, or highly-paid executives slipping on the ice, or Bill Gates sliding through the sludge as the long, cold Alpine night gripped the streets.
Most of the people who live in Davos threw their hands up years ago in the face of the annual invasion by the suited elite. They rent out their homes and flee to better climes. It is a good job that they do because in WEF week Davos is bursting at the seams. This year the traffic jammed around the conference; security was as high as the mountains, with soldiers and police everywhere; there were more snipers on the roof than there were golf carts on the ground transporting delegates over the packed snow the like of which many people in Davos said they hadn’t seen for years. The heavy snow was a reminder that extreme weather and natural disasters were the top concern among delegates this year, according to a WEF survey, followed by cyberattacks and data theft.
One of the reasons for the tight security, in this crowded village, was the visit of the controversial leader of the free world Donald Trump. It was a surprise visit to say the least; for years Trump derided the intellectual globalists of WEF. Now he wanted to come and sell his “America First” policy as the first US president to set foot in Davos since Bill Clinton in 2000. Along with an 827-strong US delegation – out of 3,000 delegates – he came to laud his tax cuts and reforms that delivered growth, forecast at 2.7%, this year, a fillip for the world economy after a decade of torpid growth.
It is a bright spot, on a brighter horizon, unveiled by the great and the good at Davos. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts global growth of 3.9% this year and next; 0.2% higher than expected thanks to US tax cuts and a sterling performance from emerging economies like Russia and Brazil. Better, but no time for complacency says IMF head Christine Lagarde, who wants to push growth harder by cracking down on tax evasion and corruption.
“When the sun is shining it is time to fix the roof,” says Lagarde. “Or when the snow stops it is time to clear the road. That is how it seems to work in Davos.”
Despite this glimmer of hope you get the feeling optimism is running out at WEF. For a start, you could argue that Trump’s strident one-nation populism – that appears to have spread to a score of other countries – is one reason why the liberal WEF ethos of working together to ease investment and fix the world is struggling to stay afloat.
“It is America First meets We are the World,” quipped the Wall Street Journal on the eve of the visit.
Before Trump set foot in Davos, he ruffled feathers with disparaging remarks about Africa. Many of the African delegates told me they were going to boycott his speech in protest.
“There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States,” says Trump in his speech that this time took a swipe at the press instead of Africa.
“It wasn’t until I became a politician, that I realized how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be.”
If you want to get an idea of how far Africa is under the US radar right now, you should have been at the press briefing held by the urbane US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. I asked about the future of Power Africa under the Trump administration; a fair question given the America First policy and the power plan’s origins. It is a legacy of Barack Obama and aims to blend US aid with private investment to create 30,000MW of electricity, enough to power an industrialized nation like South Africa. The fast-talking US lobby correspondents whipped around to look at me as if I had asked the source of the Zambezi.
“It is still going. We have created about 400MW in Ghana, which it not even 1%. But we are going to visit in the second quarter,” says the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross without much interest.
I was encouraged by Nigerian multi-millionaire Tony Elumelu who later assured me African investors would see Power Africa through.
Contrast that with the fire and enthusiasm of one of Africa’s future leaders who saw WEF as a stage to launch his campaign to clean up his country and bring back investors. Cyril Ramaphosa, the man set to be the next president of South Africa if the African National Congress wins the 2019 elections, is already behaving with that statesmanlike assurance of power. In many ways he was Africa’s man of the moment at Davos.
It was not always so. For more than a quarter of a century the lawyer-activist, who founded the biggest union in Africa, the National Union of Mineworkers, was the nearly man of South African politics. He nearly became deputy to Nelson Mandela in 1994 and went off to business instead. Now he is on the cusp of real political power and appears to respect this.
With a ready, beaming smile that could melt the Davos snow, Ramaphosa has a deft common touch. On the cold night we sat for dinner in Davos, Ramaphosa staged a charm offensive for the gathering of millionaires and a number of South Africa’s most powerful CEOs. These are among the people he needs to win over if the country’s economy is to slip back into gear. The sad story of the last year has been downgrades to junk status by the ratings agencies and minuscule growth from the once cooking, commodity-rich South African economy.
Avuncular and cracking jokes, the future president changed seats over and over again until he had spoken to everyone on the long table. It was more like a South African wedding than a formal dinner at which he hammered home his anti-corruption message.
“There are no holy cows. Anyone who is caught doing wrong things will end up behind the bars of a jail,” says Ramaphosa.
Most of the business types agreed that this was what they wanted to hear after years of economic struggle and a host of corruption scandals. Ramaphosa has been busy since his ascent, prompting corruption investigations and the freezing of assets. It was enough to send the rand soaring above 12 to the dollar, which warmed many South African delegates in the snow.
Ramaphosa helped the rand further by telling the world that the nuclear power deal – that the present incumbent is pushing – is off the table for now because it is too expensive. He also promised to sort out the disputed Mining Charter – the document that guides efforts to increase black ownership of the mines; uncertainty and court challenges over rushed amendments to the document have choked investment.
In all, according to Ramaphosa and finance minister Malusi Gigaba, their utterances at Davos had unlocked hundreds of millions of dollars from investors in South Africa who were holding back because of concern about corruption and political uncertainty. Ramaphosa believes the ratings agencies are likely to give South Africa a better score when he meets with them.
“We are going home happy with bags full of millions of dollars of promises from investors,” says Ramaphosa with a smile before he flew home.
Most around the dinner table in Davos agreed that Ramaphosa’s words were fine as a starter, but wanted to see the main course.
Elsewhere in Africa, Nigerian entrepreneur and former FORBES AFRICA cover Tonye Cole, the co-founder of the Sahara Group, was as optimistic as ever.
“Africa will play a role. The world has to look at Africa as the last place to make a difference and they will do that,” says Cole.
Rwanda was in fine fettle, according to its finance minister Claver Gatete in Davos, with 8% growth expected this year on the back of increasing exports – a rate that most countries in the world would do anything for right now.
“We are trying to remain an open and attractive economy,” says Gatete.
Nigeria, after years of suffering under falling oil prices and the decline of the naira, is looking up at long last. Growth is expected to be 1.4% this year, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Also expected is a 40% increase in exports, and better revenues from oil.
“It is a bullish period for us in terms of attracting business and we are excited,” says Osinbajo.
The words of hope that said it all for Africa on one cold Swiss afternoon came from South Africa’s Reserve Bank Governor, the tall and enthusiastic Lesetja Kganyago.
“This time last year I was pleading with investors to keep confidence in South Africa and keep their money in the country. This year I do not have enough time in the day to meet people who want to put their money into the country,” says a smiling Kganyago.
Bring on the main course – we’re hungry.
Climate Explained: How Much Of Climate Change Is Natural? How Much Is Man-made?
How much climate change is natural? How much is man made?
As someone who has been working on climate change detection and its causes for over 20 years I was both surprised and not surprised that I was asked to write on this topic by The Conversation. For nearly all climate scientists, the case is proven that humans are the overwhelming cause of the long-term changes in the climate that we are observing. And that this case should be closed.
Despite this, climate denialists continue to receive prominence in some media which can lead people into thinking that man-made climate change is still in question. So it’s worth going back over the science to remind ourselves just how much has already been established.
Successive reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – mandated by the United Nations to assess scientific evidence on climate change – have evaluated the causes of climate change. The most recent special report on global warming of 1.5 degrees confirms that the observed changes in global and regional climate over the last 50 or so years are almost entirely due to human influence on the climate system and not due to natural causes.
What is climate change?
First we should perhaps ask what we mean by climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines climate change as:
a change in the state of the climate that can be identified by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer.
The causes of climate change can be any combination of:
- Internal variability in the climate system, when various components of the climate system – like the atmosphere and ocean – vary on their own to cause fluctuations in climatic conditions, such as temperature or rainfall. These internally-driven changes generally happen over decades or longer; shorter variations such as those related to El Niño fall in the bracket of climate variability, not climate change.
- Natural external causes such as increases or decreases in volcanic activity or solar radiation. For example, every 11 years or so, the Sun’s magnetic field completely flips and this can cause small fluctuations in global temperature, up to about 0.2 degrees. On longer time scales – tens to hundreds of millions of years – geological processes can drive changes in the climate, due to shifting continents and mountain building.
- Human influence through greenhouse gases (gases that trap heat in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide and methane), other particles released into the air (which absorb or reflect sunlight such as soot and aerosols) and land-use change (which affects how much sunlight is absorbed on land surfaces and also how much carbon dioxide and methane is absorbed and released by vegetation and soils).
What changes have been detected?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report showed that, on average, the global surface air temperature has risen by 1°C since the beginning of significant industrialisation (which roughly started in the 1850s). And it is increasing at ever faster rates, currently 0.2°C per decade, because the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have themselves been increasing ever faster.
The oceans are warming as well. In fact, about 90% of the extra heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases is being absorbed by the oceans.
A warmer atmosphere and oceans are causing dramatic changes, including steep decreases in Arctic summer sea ice which is profoundly impacting arctic marine ecosystems, increasing sea level rise which is inundating low lying coastal areas such as Pacific island atolls, and an increasing frequency of many climate extremes such as drought and heavy rain, as well as disasters where climate is an important driver, such as wildfire, flooding and landslides.
Multiple lines of evidence, using different methods, show that human influence is the only plausible explanation for the patterns and magnitude of changes that have been detected.
This human influence is largely due to our activities that release greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, as well sunlight absorbing soot. The main sources of these warming gases and particles are fossil fuel burning, cement production, land cover change (especially deforestation) and agriculture.
Most of us will struggle to pick up slow changes in the climate. We feel climate change largely through how it affects weather from day-to-day, season-to-season and year-to-year.
The weather we experience arises from dynamic processes in the atmosphere, and interactions between the atmosphere, the oceans and the land surface. Human influence on the broader climate system acts on these processes so that the weather today is different in many ways from how it would have been.
One way we can more clearly see climate change is by looking at severe weather events. A branch of climate science, called extreme event or weather attribution, looks at memorable weather events and estimates the extent of human influence on the severity of these events. It uses weather models run with and without measured greenhouse gases to estimate how individual weather events would have been different in a world without climate change.
As of early 2019, nearly 70% of weather events that have been assessed in this way were shown to have had their likelihood and/or magnitude increased by human influence on climate. In a world without global warming, these events would have been less severe. Some 10% of the studies showed a reduction in likelihood, while for the remaining 20% global warming has not had a discernible effect. For example, one study showed that human influence on climate had increased the likelihood of the 2015-2018 drought that afflicted Cape Town in South Africa by a factor of three.
Adapting to a changing climate
Weather extremes underlie many of the hazards that damage society and the natural environment we depend upon. As global warming has progressed, so have the frequency and intensity of these hazards, and the damage they cause.
Minimising the impacts of these hazards, and having mechanisms in place to recover quickly from the impacts, is the aim of climate adaptation, as recently reported by the Global Commission on Adaptation.
As the Commission explains, investing in adaptation makes sense from economic, social and ethical perspectives. And as we know that climate change is caused by humans, society cannot use “lack of evidence” on its cause as an excuse for inaction any more.
The Rage And Tears That Tore A Nation
Snapshots of the outrage against foreign nationals and protests against sexual offenders in South Africa in recent weeks, captured by FORBES AFRICA photojournalist Motlabana Monnakgotla.
As the continent’s second-biggest economy, South Africa attracts migrants from the rest of Africa. But mired in its own problems of unemployment and political instability, September saw a serious outbreak of attacks by South Africans on foreign nationals and foreign-owned businesses. And they have been ugly.
The spark that fueled the raging fire was in Pretoria, the country’s capital, when a taxi driver was shot dead by a foreign national who was selling drugs to a youngster in the central business district (CBD).
The altercation caused a riot and the taxi industry brought the CBD to a standstill, blocking intersections. It did not stop there; a week later, about 60 kilometers from the capital in Malvern, a suburb east of the Johannesburg CBD, a hijacked building caught fire, leaving three dead. As emergency services were putting out the fire, the residents took advantage and looted foreign-owned shops and burned car dealerships overnight on Jules Street.
The lootings extended to the CBD and other parts of Johannesburg.
To capture this embarrassing moment in South African history, I visited Katlehong, a township 35 kilometers east of Johannesburg, where the residents blocked roads leading to Sontonga Mall on a mission to loot the mall and the foreign-owned shops therein overnight.
Shop-owners and workers were shocked to wake up to no business.
Mfundo Maljingolo, a worker at Fish And Chips, was among the distressed.
“This thing started last night, people started looting and broke into the mall and did what they wanted to do. I couldn’t go to work today because there’s nothing to do; now, we are not going to get paid. The shop will be losing close to R10,000 ($677) today. It’s messed up,” said Maljingolo.
But South African businesses were affected too.
Among the shops at the mall is Webbers, a clothing and footwear store. Looters could not enter the shop and it was one of the few that escaped the vandalism.
Dineo Nyembe, the store’s manager, said she was in disbelief when she saw people could not enter the mall.
“We got here this morning and the ceiling was wrecked but there was no sign that the shop was entered, everything was just as we left it. Now, we are packing stock back to the warehouse, because we don’t know if they are coming back tonight,” lamented Nyembe, unsure if they would make their daily target or if they would be trading again.
Across the now-wrecked mall are small businesses that were not as fortunate as Webbers, and it was not only the shop-owners that were affected.
Emmanuel Nhlane’s home was robbed even as attackers were looting the shop outside.
“They broke into my house, I was threatened with a petrol bomb and I had to stand outside to give them a chance; they took my fridge, bed, cash and my VHS,” said Nhlane.
Nhlane had rented out his yard to foreign nationals to operate a shop. He does not comprehend why his belongings were taken because he doesn’t own a shop. Now, it means that the unemployed Nhlane will not be getting his monthly rental fee of R3,700 ($250).
Far away, the coastal KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, was also affected as trucks burned and a driver was killed because of his nationality. This was part of a logistics and transport industry national strike.
Back in Johannesburg, I visited the car dealerships that were a part of the burning spree on Jules Street.
The streets were still ashy and the air still smoky, two days after the unfortunate turn of events.
Muhamed Haffejee, one of the distraught businessmen there, said: “Currently, we are still not trading.”
Cape Town, in the Western Cape province of South Africa, which hosted the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa from September 4 to 6, was also witness to protests by women and girls from all walks of life outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre, demanding that the leadership take action to end the spate of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.
There were protests also outside Parliament. What set off the nationwide outcry was the shocking rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old film and media student at the University of Cape Town, inside a post office by a 42-year-old employee at the post office.
There was anger against the ghastly crimes and wave of GBV in the country that continues unabated. According to Stats SA, there has been a drastic increase of women-based violence in South Africa; sexual offences are up by 4.6%, from 50,108 in 2018 to 52,420 in 2019.
A week later, on a Friday, Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile and one of the biggest economic hubs, was shut down by hundreds of angry women and members of advocacy groups from across Johannesburg. They congregated by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), the cynosure of business, singing and chanting, to demand “a 2% levy on profits of all listed entities to help fund the fight against GBV and femicide”.
Among the protesters was Cebi Ngqinanbi, holding a placard that read: “I’m not your punching bag.”
“We came here to disrupt Sandton as the heart of Johannesburg’s economic hub. We want to make everyone aware that women and children are being killed every day in South Africa and they [Sandton] continue with business as usual, sitting in their offices with air-conditioners and the stock exchange whilst people on the ground making them rich are dying. That is why we are here, to speak to those that have economic power,” said Ngqinanbi.
She added that if women can be given economic power, they will be able to fend for themselves and won’t fall prey to abusive men, since most women stay in abusive relationships because men are more financially stable.
Amid the chanting and singing of struggle songs, Nobuhle Ajiti addressed the crowd and shared her own haunting experience as a migrant in South Africa and survivor of GBV. She spoke in isiZulu, a South African language.
“I survived a gang rape; I was thrown out of a moving car and stabbed several times. I survived it, but am I going to survive xenophobia that is looming around in South Africa? Will I able to share my xenophobia story like I can share my GBV story?” questioned Ajiti.
She said as migrants, they did not wake up in the morning and decide to come to South Africa, but because of the hardships faced in their home countries, they were forced to come to what they perceived as the city of opportunities. And as a foreign national, she had to deal with both xenophobia and GBV.
“We experience institutionalized xenophobia in hospitals; we are forced to pay huge amounts for consultation. I am raped and I need medical attention and I am told I need to pay R5,000 ($250).
“As a mere migrant, where am I going to get R5,000? I get abused at home and the police officer would ask me where I’m from because of my accent, I sound Zimbabwean. What does my nationality have to do with my husband beating me at home or with the man that just raped me?” she asked.
Addressing the resolute women outside was the JSE CEO Nicky Newton-King who received the memorandum demanding business take their plight seriously, from a civil society group representing over 70 civil society organizations and individuals.
The list of demands include that at all JSE-listed companies contribute to a fund to resource the National Strategy Plan on GBV and femicide, to be launched in November; transport for employees who work night shifts or work after hours; establish workplace mechanisms to provide support to GBV survivors as part of employee wellness, and prevention programs that help make workplaces safe spaces for all women.
Newton-King assured the protestors she would address their demands in seven days. But a lot can happen in seven days. Will there be more crimes in the meantime? How many more will be raped and killed in South Africa by then?
Quality Higher Education Means More Than Learning How To Work
When people talk about quality education, they’re often referring to the kind of education that gives students the knowledge and skills they need for the job market. But there’s a view that quality education has wider benefits: it develops individuals in ways that help develop society more broadly.
In Zimbabwe, for example, the higher education policy emphasises student employability and the alleviation of labour shortages. But, as my research found, this isn’t happening in practice.
University education needs to do more than produce a graduate who can get a job. It should also give graduates a sense of right and wrong. And it should instil graduates with an appreciation for other people’s development.
Tertiary education should also give students opportunities, choices and a voice when it comes to work safety, job satisfaction, security, growth and dignity. Higher education is a space where they can learn to be critical. It must prepare them for participating in the economy and broader society.
This isn’t happening in Zimbabwe. Graduate unemployment is high and employers and policy makers are blaming this largely on the mismatch between graduate skills and market requirements.
Investigating Zimbabwe’s universities
My research sought to examine how a human development lens could add to what was valued as higher education, and the kind of graduate outcomes produced in Zimbabwe. I investigated 10 of the universities in Zimbabwe (there were 15 at the time of the research). Four were private and six public.
I reviewed policy documents, interviewed representatives of institutions and held discussions with students. Members of Zimbabwe’s higher education quality assurance body and university teaching staff were also included.
I found that in practice, higher education in Zimbabwe was influenced by the country’s socio-political and economic climate. Decisions and appointments of key university administrators in public universities and the minister of higher education were largely political.
In addition, resources were limited and staff turnover was high. Universities just couldn’t finance themselves through tuition fees.
Different players in the higher education system – employers, the government, academics, students and their families – have different ideas about what “quality” means in higher education. The Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education understands quality as meeting set standards and benchmarks that emphasise the graduates’ knowledge and skills.
To some extent, academics and university administrators see quality as teaching and learning that gives students a mixture of skills and values such as social responsibility.
But lecturers must comply with the largely top-down approach to quality. They tend to do whatever will enhance students’ prospects of getting employment in a particular market.
The educators and students I interviewed acknowledged that developing the ability to work and to think critically were both central to higher education. But they admitted that these goals were hard to attain. This was because of the country’s constrained socio-political and economic environment. Academics and students felt that they couldn’t express themselves freely and critical thinking was suppressed.
Stuck on a road to nowhere
The study illustrates how an over-emphasis on creating human capital – skilled and knowledgeable graduates – limits higher education’s potential to foster broader human and social development.
University education should do more, especially in developing countries such as Zimbabwe that face not just economic, but also socio-political challenges. Before building more universities and enrolling more students, authorities and citizens should consider what quality education means in relation to the kind of society they want.
It’s possible to take a broader view of development, quality and the role of higher education. This broader approach – one that appreciates social justice – can equip graduates to address the country’s problems.
The road ahead
Universities can’t change a society on their own. But their teaching and learning practices can make an important difference.
Because quality teaching and learning means different things to different people, people need to talk about it democratically. Institutional and national policies must be informed by broad consultations to identify the knowledge, skills and values they want graduates to have.
University teaching and learning should emphasise freedom of expression and participation so that students can think and act critically beyond university.
Also, academics don’t automatically know how to teach just because they have a PhD. Universities should therefore ensure that academics learn how to teach and communicate their knowledge. Curriculum design, student assessment and feedback, as well as training of lecturers should all support this goal of human development.
When universities see quality in terms of human development, their role becomes more than production of workers in an economy. It gives them a mandate to nurture ethically responsible graduates. These more rounded graduates are better equipped to imagine an alternative future in pursuit of a better society, economically, politically and socially.
–Patience Mukwambo: Researcher, University of the Free State
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