By Chinenye Monde- Anumihe
To most people, Davos is just a place where the rich and famous meet to pretend to care about
the world’s challenges. Among my peers, wanting to attend is more about wanting to schmooze
with the most prominent people of industry and politics. But having been a member of the
Global Shapers Community (an initiative of the World Economic Forum) since 2016, I knew that
the opportunity to attend this global gathering would mean something more. I was selected as
the only Nigerian Global Shaper to attend the 50 th Annual Meeting an opportunity I took with a
strong sense of responsibility. I had to keep in mind that I was one person representing millions
of people. Every conversation at this gathering would be strategic, carrying more weight than
just a quick selfie with my favorite philanthropist.
As a member of the Global Shapers Lagos Hub, I am well-versed in the work of the World
Economic Forum, its commitment to improving the state of the world, and its long history of
providing a platform for young activists and grassroots-level agitators to engage world leaders
and decision-makers on critical topics such as climate change, poverty, food insecurity, and the
Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The notion of speaking truth to power mattered here. Davos was an opportunity to confront
world leaders about the crude reality of their decisions. I welcomed the opportunity to speak
on behalf of the marginalized communities of not just Sub-Saharan Africa, but the Global
South–including the millions of women, young girls, persons with disabilities and rural-town
dwellers. When the topic of climate change was brought up, I would speak about the farmers,
rural communities, and women who are the most affected by heat waves, droughts, floods, and
pests. When the topic of the future of work came up, I could easily speak about the enormous
young population across Africa, and equally rising unemployment rate. When the topic of
equity and inclusion came up, I would speak about how millions of young girls are out of school
due to the near-insurmountable challenges they face on a daily basis. And when the topic of
security and instability came up, I could speak on how insurgency and militancy, proxy wars
fought across the continent are killing thousands, displacing millions, and destroying
communities. If I didn’t speak about these things, I would have been doing my people a
disservice. It might sound dramatic, but this is the level of seriousness I believe is essential.
Africa should not be an afterthought.
The theme of the 50th Annual Meeting at Davos was “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and
Sustainable World”. It sounds good, but beyond the surface, what is truly needed is cohesive
partnership between world leaders and grassroots-level activists to address the world’s most
pressing challenges, and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The belief that
grassroots initiatives should have nothing to do with government leaders, business executives,
and academia is, in my opinion, counter-progressive, and not reflective of the issues
themselves. The multi-faceted nature of our most pressing challenges requires collective,
unified action. In these battles, every experience matters.
I return home to Nigeria, with an even stronger sense of duty and a call to action. If attending
the 50 th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum taught me anything, it was that we
cannot expect change if we are not present in the rooms where decisions are being made. But
more importantly–we cannot be in these rooms if we aren’t prepared to speak up.