Davos 2013

Is the honeymoon of the unofficial Africa-China wedding over?

Last week, the Nigerian Central Bank voiced its discontent about the unfavorable trade balance with China – and made it clear Nigeria was already looking elsewhere for friendship (and maybe more). 

How do you tackle corruption? To that age-old question, Rahul Bajaj, the Indian billionaire businessman, has some unconventional answers: “Stop prosecuting givers of small bribes, ban criminals from standing for election, and use the e-ID to transfer benefits directly from the government to the receiver.”

Bajaj was addressing a meeting at the World Economic Forum on how to achieve EM growth in a global slowdown. Corruption was the biggest issue singled out – and the Indian subcontinent figured large. 

Free trade warriors: stop wasting your time on battling trade tariffs from emerging markets. Streamlining your own supply chain is what you should focus on.

That is, in short, the message of a new WEF report, Enabling Trade, released this week in Davos. 

The sales are on this month in Europe – and Mahindra Satyam wants to go shopping.

Speaking to beyondbrics in Davos, CP Gurnani, CEO of the Indian IT giant, said his company would be actively looking for M&A opportunities in Germany and France this year. “I want to make an acquisition this year,” Gurnani said, “Germany and France are on my radar.” 

As the Chinese proverb says, you must cross a river one stone at a time. And, according to WEF participant John Quelch, dean of the Chinese European Institute of Business Studies (CEIBS), the time for some Chinese state owned enterprises to cross the first stone towards privatization will come in 2013.

At the core of the privatization question lies the increasing cost of social security and health care in China, Quelch told beyondbrics in Davos. 

“Don’t be afraid of the Middle East.” That, in short, is the message of private equity investor Mustafa Abdel-Wadood at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.

“Despite the headlines, there are a lot opportunities in the region,” Abdel-Wadood, whose Abraaj Group has $7.5bn EM assets under management, told beyondbrics. “It comes with challenges, and the perception may not always be positive, but our investments have done well.” 

Emerging Markets across the world should be in a hurry to grow richer, according to Jonas Prising, president of recruitment company ManpowerGroup. “Otherwise they’ll lose the a race to get rich before they get old,” he told beyondbrics at Davos.

Whereas countries like Sweden, the UK or the US had several generations to adjust to new levels of economic growth, and could adjust their institutions so everyone could benefit from the countries’ increasing wealth, EMs won’t have that luxury, according to Prising. 

The star turn at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday belongs to Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, who will once again try to convince sceptical business people why they should invest in his country, writes Stefan Wagstyl.

It will be the third such appearance by a Russian leader in Davos in just five years. There’s not much chance that the foreign investors’ views will change that much – but Medvedev is likely to have interesting things to say about Russia’s $10bn privatisation programme. Meanwhile, here, below the break, is a guest post from his WEF hosts, spelling out Russia’s economic challenges. 

If Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Ministers David Cameron and Mario Monti came to Davos this week to convince the world the worst is over for Europe, they’ll get an approving nod from at least one Indian participant: “Kris” Gopalakrishnan, the chairman of IT giant Infosys.

“I’m very optimistic on Europe,” Gopalakrishnan told beyondbrics in Davos. “Europe has some great global businesses, and they seem to be doing much better than the overall economy. At some point, Europe will continue to grow. 

Watch out for the Fed tightening. That’s the message from the Institute of International Finance, the bankers’ club, to investors ploughing funds into emerging markets.

Speaking in Switzerland on his way to the World Economic Forum in Davos, IIF managing director Charles Dallara warned that investors had “underanticipated” sudden turns in monetary policy in the past – and might do so again. He said: “Are we adequately risk aware? Are we adequately risk sensitive?… I am not at all sure that we are.” 

Monday’s news that India is to raise taxes on gold imports from 2 to 6 per cent to curb its trade deficit got a welcome as chilly as the weather in Davos, where more than 100 of India’s richest and most influential business men are gathering for the World Economic Forum.

One of the most prominent, Rahul Bajaj, chairman of the Bajaj group, was particularly unimpressed by the measure and made a proposal of his own. “The government should raise taxes to 100 per cent,” he told beyondbrics from his hotel. “Only then you’ll see a real effect on gold imports.” 

Forget IQ. And while you’re at it: forget EQ as well. If you’re looking for an executive to lead your emerging market operations in 2013 and beyond, it’s all about CQ – the cultural quotient. Or so says Kevin Kelly, CEO of executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. He spoke to beyondbrics before heading to the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, where the issue of how to capitalise on the relative strength of emerging markets over developed ones will be a major theme.