The power of the poor and the Davos jamboree - CNBC Africa

The power of the poor and the Davos jamboree


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Chris Bishop.

The Davos Jamboree was underway again this week in the bitter cold of the Swiss mountains. All too often it has been dismissed as a talk shop for the rich.

The yearly event provided 1,500 bottles of champagne and 1,350 chocolate covered strawberries to pander to the rich and garrulous – and that was the inventory for just one hotel. Helicopters buzzed through the cold blue skies to hammer home that his is indeed a gathering of the powerful. Fifty heads of state were there along with 2,500 delegates from 100 countries.

The theme this year was reshaping the world economy in favour of emerging economies. About time too, I say.

For too long the attention has been concentrated on the old economies in the north rather than the light-footed tigers of the southern hemisphere. Times are changing faster than many people can blink. In 1990, Britain’s economy was 2.5 times the size of China; this year, China’s economy is 3.5 times the size of Britain. It is high time the hard working emerging economies of Africa, India, South America and Asia where given their head. Maybe then, the idea that where you live in the world dictates how rich or poor you are will be consigned to the dustbin.

Sadly, Davos is always the time for the world to take a sobering look at how far it has to go to end inequality. For a start, Africa is 261 billion dollars in debt to the rest of the world. It is estimated 8% of the world’s people earn 50 per cent of its income – I doubt that 8 per cent includes journalists – and in Africa the poorest people earn a mere 365 dollars a year.

Oxfam - the veteran charity crusaders against poverty – dropped a bombshell report on the eve of Davos saying 85 people of the planet’s richest people own more than half of the world’s population. A truly mind blowing statistic; now, the simplest solution  to think like Adolf Hitler, or Idi Amin, and take the wealth, or tax it away ,from the 85 richest and the bereft half of the world will be ok.

This is the economics of the mad. I have spent more than 20 years writing about business and can tell you that if you give two men 100 dollars each; one will have 1,000 dollars by the end of the month, the other will have nothing. That is just the way it is. People have to work hard and take chances if they want to be wealthy - if you want to know how, read FORBES AFRICA every month.      

At Davos it was the words of Matt Damon that resonated with me.

“The power of the poor, not as recipients of charity, but as citizens and consumers; if someone is prepared to give them a small loan they can take their fate into their own hands…for them it is literally a lifeline a pathway to a better life,” says Damon.

Hear hear Matt; I didn’t understand the Bourne Identity, but I get you now.