Davos, Switzerland. It’s hard to imagine that in normal circumstances there is usually a public swimming pool in at the Davos World Economic Forum meet up. For now, it is skillfully covered with boards and a soft carpet.
More than 70 heads of state and government came to Davos this year with only around 3,000 participants admitted to the venue. For this event you can’t just sign up to participate and pay a fee. To attend the World Economic Forum you have to be invited.
It is a momentous logistical undertaking to accommodate the thousands of participants and their staff in the small Swiss village. Many participants had to accept long journey times as it snowed so much that a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) journey from the neighboring Klosters could take 7 hours. Buses and trains were canceled. Participants who stayed in one mountain hotel got stuck on a steep-grade rack railway. Extra help had to be fetched to clear the track.
Anyone looking for comfort at the World Economic Forum is at the wrong place. Everything is cramped and expensive. A small tomato soup costs 28 Swiss francs (Ksh 3000) and up. In the hotels, every available space is rented. Even bathrooms were turned into meeting rooms; those who were able to rent a small dusty copy room to use as an office were lucky. CEOs of multi-billion-dollar companies were forced to sit on tiny stools in crowded, dim hotel lobbies in an effort to answer emails.
“No, it’s not fun, but where else can I meet so many business partners from around the world in such a short space of time,” said a CEO who has been coming to Davos for many years. He also gets a quick grasp of what is going on in the world, because it’s not only business people and politicians who come to the World Economic Forum. The conference also lures representatives of NGOs, refugee organizations, scientists and tech pioneers.
The mood regarding the condition of the world economy was surprisingly good. International Monetary Fund boss Christine Lagarde expects worldwide economic growth to continue for the next few years. A major financial crisis is not in sight as long as there are no major political crises.
But since showing too much optimism is also not good, Lagarde also warned against resting on laurels. Investments in digitization, for example, are needed with the demand also supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The consequences of climate change were discussed at many podiums in Davos and categorized as a major risk to the global economy.
Discussions about unequal pay for women or sexual discrimination were well attended. After all, 21 percent of the conference participants were female. The next World Economic Forum in Davos in 2019 is unlikely to be any different.