The five things you need to know about Davos 2013

, 26.01.2013

After a week in the Alps attending the World Economic Forum it is tempting to think – so, what was all that about?

An EU referendum for Britain and business in Africa were two key topics at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

By Kamal Ahmed

26 Jan 2013

A lot of people fear that the heaters peppering the conference centre may not be the only things generating hot air.

But, through the blizzard of position papers and risk reports, sustainable-development plans and faith-leadership huddles, Igwels (informal gatherings of world economic leaders) and Nightcaps (late night parties, invite only), there are some big themes that are well worth teasing out.

So, as they say in the X Factor, in no particular order, here they are:

Russia is interesting, Africa is better

The Prime Minister of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, used Davos to launch Russia’s chairmanship of the G20.

The big message from the country is that it is a place to do business. The Russian economy is expected to grow from $2 trillion (?1.3 trillion) in 2011 to more than $3.2 trillion in 2017. It also has one of the lowest levels of public debt of any major economy. In order to polish its credentials, Russia handed out small branding booklets called Invest in Russia! They even put an exclamation mark at the end to show they meant it.

Many are sceptical, with one business figure with strong links to Russia saying that the country needed major reform to allow entrepreneurialism to flourish. It’s very hard starting a small business in the country. Others say that much of Africa, particularly with many historic links to the UK, is a better option despite the political instability.

The Russia Direct Investment Fund, something George Osborne, the Chancellor, should look at for the UK, has an unpaid board of big hitters in finance, including Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive of Blackstone, Lou Jiwei, chief executive of the China Investment Corporation, and Bader Mohammad Al-Sa’ad, managing director of the Kuwait Investment Authority. Their reputations will be on the line if it fails to operate transparently.