View From The Alps: Davos 2024 A Bugle Call For Multilateralism

Published 3 months ago
By Forbes Africa | Sanjeev Gupta– The writer has 30-plus years of experience in corporate finance, strategy and board roles in Africa, the GCC and India, and has done significant global fund raising in these markets.                        
Day Three Of The World Economic Forum (WEF) 2024
An attendee writes on a 2024-Rebuilding Trust whiteboard inside the Congress Center on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024. The annual Davos gathering of political leaders, top executives and celebrities runs from January 15 to 19. Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images


“The forum offers a delightful vacation on the expense account.” – Quote: unknown, 1981.

Perhaps true but entertaining, nevertheless.


Let’s plod on.

Davos 2023: the word ‘polycrisis’ was on everybody’s lips as leaders deliberated the cascading crises of the moment.

Attitudes have now hardened further. New and old conflicts have flared up, deepening the schisms between and inside countries and communities.

Flashpoints galore as anger levels reach a crescendo.


Will the year ahead therefore be a period of ‘permacrisis’?

Into this valley of hope,

Davos and it’s ski slope,

Rode the few of us resolute,


In quest for something absolute.

Will the leap year be a time for: ‘Rebuilding Trust’?

Whose trust and whose future though? A preponderance of received wisdom laced with dominant Anglo-Saxon paradigms interspersed with voices from the South can’t cut it.

Did I finally detect fear?


Not greed. Not guilt. Not anger.

A lurking suspicion permeating across I thought.

That the hubris and the presumptions that have dominated the world post World War 2 was not forever.

Alternative axes of powers throwing new arcs of hope to the impoverished and unrepresented.


I listened to President Emmanuel Macron talking of “de-risking, not decoupling”. A tacit admission that the East and the South cannot be ignored.

Heard European Commission President Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen speak on the need for solidarity and announcing how “Russia is militarily, diplomatically and technologically isolated and wholly dependent on China”; while news suggests it is perhaps not yet.

Even the mighty United States until today imports a fifth of its enriched uranium from Russia.

At the BRICS panel discussion, erudite ministers from India, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa extolled the virtues of choices in a fickle world of geopolitics. Unity in diversity to manage the common challenges of poverty, climate and health, among others. President Xi Jinping said: “China’s economy is like the Swiss Alps, undulating with peaks and troughs.”


To appreciate the Alps, you need to zoom out and admire from afar.

Same with China.

Broaden your vision and see what it exudes and promises. Profound!

What is then the true test of multilateralism? To smaller countries, it’s about protection. For the powerful, a litmus test to fulfil their obligations. For the international community, it’s how to monitor and create balanced priorities. Davos 2024 aimed to restore collective agency, and reinforce the fundamental principles of transparency, consistency, and accountability.

The goal ostensibly is to back a spirit of open and constructive dialogue to help connect the dots in an increasingly complex and fractured environment.

Déjà vu.

Why now this cry from the developed world?

An attempt to remain on the saddle and lure back the disenchanted who has flown?

My conclusion is simple.

A truly multipolar world based on trade, choices, efficiencies and fair negotiations is well underway.

And therein lies hope and salvation.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, together with UNDP, launched Timbuktoo, a startup fund with an initial $1 billion target to leverage Africa’s youth and dynamism.

An ingenious name.

Timbuktu has long been used to describe long, difficult journeys.

A boulevard of broken dreams for European explorers of the past who tried to reach it.

As masters of our own destiny, we in Africa will succeed through new partners and along with the old that still remains good.

Insanity is when you keep trying the same thing and expect different results.

We don’t have the time for that.

And indeed, as they say: You get what you negotiate. Not what you deserve.

Davos told me we have room to dream and space to maneuver.

Most of all, we have choices now to make.

As the world needs us as much as we need them.

A ‘win-win’ finally.

So, let’s seek that perfect world of collaboration focused on global extension and not its extinction.