I had never imagined that we social entrepreneurs -- innovators for the bottom economies -- would be sitting in Davos at the annual World Economic Forum where global business, governments, philanthropists and the various exciting new champions communities of the World Economic Forum gather to ponder and share insights to the world's greatest challenges under the theme Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business. But here we were sharing, learning, challenging and imagining how we could solve world challenges and collaborate for scale. Exciting!
So what did I take home from Davos?
It was truly refreshing to see that the Africans are at the global table of big business and global governance and the world recognizes -- finally -- our potential. Whether it is South Africa, as part of the BRICS, or Nigeria and the MINTs, emerging African economies, however fragile, are clearly significant world players.
Too few women! That was, my first impression when I got to the Congress Center. Sure there were some great women speaking here and there but certainly hardly enough! It's not all bad news though. I attended a great conversation "Women Empowering Women" that had business and political leaders plus more who made a pact to lift the lot of women wherever they were.
On day one, I was pleasantly surprised to hear leaders lament about how inequality and unemployment, in particular youth unemployment is the greatest challenge of our time. For the first time, I recognized the significant impact of the Arab Spring on the world and that no one wants another fateful and expensive uprising that is preventable!
The coolest thing about the World Economic Forum, are the youth delegates who confidently engaged the International Business Council on how to deal with youth unemployment. I attended a conversation convened by Microsoft and the Rockerfeller Foundation where together social entrepreneurs, business and NGOs explored how to strengthen this work even more and reach many more youth in innovative ways.
Elsewhere, big business shared their enterprise development programs like Coke and the five by 20 Program or Goldman-Sachs 10,000 women entrepreneurship initiative and numerous others. I left Davos with the honest belief that a Jobs and Enterprise Compact compelling business in the world to commit significant resources to enabling jobs, enterprise and skills development is a no-brainer investment because the alternative -- more Arab Springs everywhere -- is unthinkable and preventable.
The other related conversation was on Education and Skills. As a start there was a strong criticism of the MDG 2015 goal of education focusing only on primary education and leaving glaring gaps in the secondary and tertiary level necessary to prepare youth for jobs and enterprise.
And then there was a most exciting conversation around innovation and the use of technology in education and skills development. The MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) led by Coursera, Edx and Udacity were there in full force participating in conversations alongside Universities and discussing how blended learning is becoming the norm in the U.S.
I find this conversation quite fascinating for two reasons. The first is that entrepreneurs and innovators have disrupted the university learning norm and forced a new standard and way of learning giving students more control and input into their own learning.
The second is that online and mobile learning has the potential to revolutionize education and skills development in countries where less than 15 percent of students ever go to Tertiary institutions. Watch this space.
And there was so much more that was really inspiring at the World Economic Forum. You had to be selective. But what fun to bump into Aliku Dangote, Matt Damon or Bill Gates and simply stop to have a chat because we all had an -- almost -- equal place at the table.
For those of us coming from the warmer south, I so get why the meetings are held in that beautiful, picturesque but oh so, so cold skiing resort town of Davos. Now how else would you get us all to sit through four very full days of conversation after conversation knowing full well that we won't sneak out to bask in the sun or go shopping. The cold and falling snow outside made sure that we all walked briskly to and from the Congress Centre determined to keep our bodies and brains warm with all that great and passionate sharing and exchange of ideas. Nice!