Davos Diary Day One – Snowed under but lessons everywhere

JOHANNESBURG — They say the early bird catches the worm, and in this case it seems the early birds beat the snow. Both Biznews founder Alec Hogg and deputy managing editor Gareth van Zyl made it to Davos despite what is said to be Switzerland’s biggest snowfall in almost two decades. With Davos mayor Tarzisius Cavieze telling the team over two metres of snow fell in the town this week alone. Not even the avalanche risks have put a dampener on the team’s excitement, who’ll be bringing you the best of what Davos has to offer in 2018, learning many lessons in the process. This is Alec Hogg’s Davos Diary Day One. – Stuart Lowman

This podcast was made possible by BrightRock, the company that introduced the first-ever needs-matched life insurance. Well, it’s Day Zero here at the World Economic Forum and as always, this is Alec Hogg reporting for you. I’ve got a different coloured badge this year – a nice, golden badge. Maybe they’re trying to put a bit of colour into the way that Davos works, but it’s been a fabulous first day for us. It hasn’t been as many people as we’d anticipated – yet – and the reason for that is the snow in Switzerland has been the worst in more than 20 years. The trains have been locked between Zurich’s airport and Davos, on the way here we had to bail off halfway at a place called Landquart, take a bus for 20 minutes and then get onto the train again. Some of the people who’ve been coming through by bus, took seven hours. What hasn’t changed is the cost of everything here. Friends who have hired a house for five of them – paying R450,000 for a week.

We’re paying R70,000 for a week and we thought that our little one-bedroomed flat was exorbitant but they have been profit-gougers. The rest of the day though, has been interesting. As always, you bump into fascinating people – people who can teach you lots of things. That’s what Davos does. I met a guy called Nobu who works in Singapore and his job is waste management of things in the atmosphere (satellites). What he does is; he goes up, finds the old space rockets that have been left up there so that Elon Musk & Co don’t bash their rockets into them. They pick these things up and put them together with magnets, bring them into the atmosphere and then burn them up. My colleague, Gareth van Zyl, went on an all-electric bus here in Davos. They are working hard to clean things up.

Then we got to talking to the Davos Mayor about the excessive snowfalls and he says they’re having a real problem because as they scoop the snow away, more falls overnight and they can only scoop the snow when it isn’t snowing. They have been trying to create avalanches. What they do is, they explode gas bombs in the snow to try and release it so that it gets out of the way but it’s been a real pain. What that has meant, is we haven’t yet seen the crowds descend on the World Economic Forum. They’ll be here tomorrow, no doubt. The helicopters can’t land yet. They’ll only be landing – probably tomorrow – or the next day, if the weather breaks but it’s once again, going to be a fascinating five days. We did manage to get to a press conference with Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.

The good news there is that the growth forecast for the IMF is slightly higher for this year. The bad news is, it’s a cyclical upturn and as a consequence; unless you’re reformed, we aren’t going to see this as sustainable. So, what are we doing here? Why are Gareth and I here? Why are we filming in this amazing place? Well, Gareth is trying to scan around me here before the PwC people arrive. This is their event. They are holding their annual CEO survey. I think it’s the 21st year. I saw it on the board there, that it’s the traditional opener for Davos and we’re looking forward to hearing from the CEO Bob Moritz on exactly what’s happened this year and seeing if there’s any South African angle to it. If they did the survey today, I can assure you that in Johannesburg and Cape Town, the confidence levels would have been a whole lot higher than before 18th of December at the Elective Conference.

This is Davos Day Zero (or Day One, I guess). I look forward to bringing you this update every day for the week. Well done Gareth, for keeping your hands very steady through this rather extended edition. Cheers. This podcast was made possible by BrightRock, the company that introduced the first-ever needs-matched life insurance.