🌎 What happened at the World Economic Forum Summit in Davos

🌎 What happened at the World Economic Forum Summit in Davos

And: South Africa shows off its diplomatic independence

Hi there Intriguer. Happy Lunar New Year! 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit – ancient lore has it that the Jade Emperor called a race of animals on his birthday to determine the order of the Chinese Zodiac. When crossing the river to the finish line, the rabbit cleverly used a log to float across, rather than risk swimming. Thus, the rabbit symbolises intellect and cautiousness, meaning 2023 is a year for you to rest and reflect. Or at least that’s what you can tell your boss.

Today’s edition is a 5 min read:

  • 💼 We read everything about Davos so you only have to read this.
  • 🇿🇦 South Africa hosts China and Russia for military drills.
  • ➕ Plus: Tech’s big layoffs, how the papers are covering the deadly protests in Peru, and some light-hearted news to start your week.

– VC & EP

  1. 🇯🇵 Japan: Japan’s core inflation rose to a 41-year high in December 2022, up 4% from a year earlier. The Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda will retire in the next few months.
  2. 🇲🇩 Moldova: Moldovan President Maia Sandu asked Western allies for air surveillance and defence systems to strengthen the country against potential threats from Russia.
  3. 🇵🇪 Peru: Thousands of people marched on Lima as the ongoing protests against Dina Boluarte’s new government reached the capital. Some analysts say the collapse of her government is inevitable – the big question is whether the military will step in.
  4. 🇮🇳 India: India’s government is seeking an expanded role in selecting the country’s senior judges, a move that could threaten its judiciaries’ independence.
  5. 🇮🇷 Iran: At least four Iranian government platforms were targeted by a Chinese hacker group looking to gather sensitive intelligence, according to a new report.

A collection of scenes from this year’s WEF Davos Summary. Clockwise: Achinoam Nini and Gil Dor performing a coral-themed song, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the Bitcoin car, and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

What happened at the World Economic Forum Davos Summit

Briefly: Every year, political and business leaders descend on the picturesque Swiss town of Davos to discuss the global economic outlook, and strike multibillion-dollar deals. Caviar canapès and save-the-coral musical interludes are just added perks, apparently.

Notably absent from last week’s World Economic Forum summit were Russian officials and oligarchs, who were barred from attending for the second year in a row*.

The highlights:

  • ☀️ The economy will be ok: Most economic predictions for 2023 are gloomy, but on-the-ground reports suggested the mood was cautiously optimistic. A week in a Swiss ski resort will do that. But not everyone thinks things are on the mend – WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala declared herself “very concerned” about the current “re-imagining of globalisation”.
  • 🌿 The EU announced massive green subsidies: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the bloc would turbocharge its green subsidies to help European businesses remain “competitive” on the world stage. The proposal aims to counterbalance a $500B green package offered by the US.
  • 👍 China’s back in business: Chinese Vice Premier Liu He had one job at Davos – convince the global business community that China’s back in the game. Despite emerging from an economic slowdown and a huge spike in Covid-19 infections, Liu is “confident that growth will most likely return to its normal trend, and the Chinese economy will make a significant improvement in 2023”. Chinese stock indices reacted positively following his speech.

Intrigue’s take: Davos allows the people who make globally-important decisions to be in the same room to discuss the biggest issues facing the world. Of course, very few people actually affected by those problems are present to give their views, but you don’t need us to tell you Davos is deeply flawed.

The most useful thing about Davos might be its function as an economic ‘vibe check’. And on that front, the President ​​of JP Morgan Daniel Pinto painted a middling picture: “Things are not great, but they are much better than they could have been.”

Also worth noting: 

  • India raised its visibility and profile at this year’s Davos summit, with Indian booths taking up top spots around town.
  • The founder of crypto exchange Kuna, Michael Chobanian, was heavily criticised for “giving the industry a bad name” after he parked his orange ‘Bitcoin Mercedes’ on the Davos Promenade.

*Last year’s WEF Davos summit was hosted in May, after the start of the Russo-Ukraine War.


How newspapers are covering: the ongoing protests in Peru, during which at least 55 people have been killed.

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South Africa is trying to make friends across the geopolitical divide. Via: Giphy.

South Africa confirms joint drills with Russia and China; more evidence we’re heading into a multi-polar world?

Briefly: On 19 January, South Africa confirmed plans to conduct 10 days of joint military exercises with Russia and China. The drills will take place near the city of Durban, and coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Russo-Ukraine War on 24 February.

Backlash: The US Embassy in Pretoria was quick to condemn the decision and encourage South Africa to “cooperate militarily with fellow democracies that share our mutual commitment to human rights and the rule of law.” South Africa has conducted regular military exercises with NATO and the US since 2011.

Intrigue’s take: Emerging economies – including democratic ones like South Africa – don’t like being forced to take sides in the ‘battle between democracies and autocracies’. In fact, many countries see framing the world in such binary terms as a Western diplomatic ploy.

South Africa wasn’t likely to burn bridges with Russia, regardless of its view of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; it is the ‘S’ in ‘BRICS’ after all. Nevertheless, holding joint military exercise with Russia and China on the anniversary of the invasion is a clear message to anyone wondering how South Africa sees the world.

Also worth noting: 

  • South Africa has allowed sanctioned Russian oligarch Alexey Mordashov to dock his $500M superyacht in Cape Town’s port.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives in South Africa for bilateral talks today; US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen arrives in South Africa for talks tomorrow.

Google joins Amazon, Meta, and Microsoft in layoff trend

On Friday, Google’s parent company Alphabet laid off 6% of its global workforce (12,000 employees). After pandemic-era hiring sprees spurred on by low-interest rates, tech companies have cut ~200,000 jobs since the start of 2022.

Oddly enough, these tech layoffs tell us very little about the wider economy or the labour market. In the US, where most of these companies are headquartered, non-tech layoffs are near historic lows. And despite the Federal Reserve’s best efforts, the US job market remains red hot.


Some light-hearted news to start your week off on the right foot:

  1. A Canadian court has ruled a complimentary cinnamon rolls scheme did not sway Pouce Coupe’s mayoral election.
  2. Human waste is not as useless as you might think: scientists are now proposing we use it as fertiliser.
  3. Hong Kong’s consumer watchdog warns shoppers they’re better off eating real chicken instead of high-end ‘chicken essence’ products selling for ~US$217 a pop.
  4. Researchers found a record-breaking ‘Toadzilla’ cane toad in Australia (but of course, where else?) weighing six times more than an average toad.

Would you attend the WEF Davos summit if given the chance?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Friday’s poll: Which election are you most intrigued by this year?

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🇳🇬 Nigeria, 25 February (9%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🇹🇷 Turkey, 14 May (58%)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🇵🇰 Pakistan, no later than 12 October (11%)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🇦🇷 Argentina, 22 October (12%)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🗺️ Somewhere else! (10%)

Your two cents: 

  • 🇹🇷  L.S: “Will there be a change of government? A strong-man leader is hard to unseat.”
  • 🗺️  C.K: “Peru, if it happens…”
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