As the 2017 World Economic Forum kicked off yesterday, the so-called 1% were in the spotlight again after Oxfam announced that the 8 richest men in the world have as much wealth as 3.6 billion people – roughly half of the world’s population.
These statistics, shocking as they may be, lie at the core of the problem with wealth disparity in the world, and this is also one of the key issues to be addressed at the WEF in the coming days.
What is the World Economic Forum?
The WEF was started in 1971 as the European Management Symposium, after founder Klaus Schwab returned from spending a year at Harvard to study US management systems and wanted to share this newfound knowledge with a group of 450 people.
In the time between then and now, the symposium has opened up to include world leaders, executives in the business sector and, more recently, even celebrities. This year the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, plays host to everyone from the King and Queen of Jordan to Shakira, provided they are one of the 3 000 invited attendees.
Whilst the WEF highlights the various economic, environmental and social issues that the world face at a given time, it is often criticised for being a platform for discussion, but not for viable solutions. The WEF also frequently comes under fire for the gender imbalance in its attendees – only 20% are women.
So, what’s being discussed?
The WEF’s theme this year is “Responsive and responsible leadership”, and consists of 400 sessions, of which almost half will discuss social inclusion and development. Yesterday, South Africa’s deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, was part of a panel that discussed possible solutions to bridge the energy gap in Africa by 2030.