From meeting Bill Gates to Jack Ma: Two WEF Global Shapers tell us more

DAVOS — Zimbabwe’s Tinashe Mashungu and South Africa’s Shamiso Kumbirai are two young Southern Africans who have really mingled with the who’s who of Davos. As WEF Global Shapers, the pair told me about their experiences at Davos 2018. It’s an incredible privilege that they have as they’ve had several private sessions with top leaders, ranging from Alibaba founder Jack Ma to Microsoft’s Bill Gates. As future leaders, this interview with Mashungu and Kumbirai left me feeling inspired and hopeful about South Africa and Zimbabwe’s futures. – Gareth van Zyl

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Hi my name is Shamiso Kumbirai. I am a Global Shaper with a Tshwane hub in SA and I am a water engineer.

I am Tinashe Mashungu. I am a Global Shaper with a Bulawayo hub in Zimbabwe and I’m a software developer with Websmith Design Collective.

So what does it mean to be a Global Shaper? Does that mean that you’ve got free reign at WEF and lots of perks?

No, so being a Global Shaper is being part of a network, an organisation of about 7,000 people across the globe. We have a base in about 358 cities around the world, and to be a Global Shaper means that you’re just committed to living out the ideals of the WEF, and that’s being committed to changing and/or improving the state of the world within your communities.

Yes and apart from that our presence here at Davos 50 is kind of a burden actually. We’re carrying to Davos the aspirations of all youth, and youth in Africa, and not just in our individual hubs. We’re not here for serving our individual interests but we’re doing this for the youth of Africa and of the world.

Impressions at the Annual Meeting 2018 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 25, 2018.
Copyright by World Economic Forum / Greg Beadle

That’s a huge responsibility to carry, isn’t it?


It is.

Do you feel the weight of that? Do you feel like when you go back home you want to take what you’ve learnt here and apply it?

Absolutely yes. We are here to represent the interests of the youth in Zimbabwe, in Mozambique, Namibia, SA, and every single one of them around Africa. We’re here to push their agenda and their aspirations for an open Africa. We need frictionless borders. We need to increase intra-African change. All of that is in our purpose to be here.

Yes and I think we are also here to take in a lot of the learnings and see where the world is going and how best we, as the youth, can align with that and make sure that we stay within the trend and not get left behind.


You guys were telling me about some of the people that you’ve met in the last few days. Shamiso you said that you met Jack Ma yesterday, and Bill Gates today – that’s incredible.

Yes it’s been absolutely incredible. I was sitting in the front row looking at Bill Gates, who was less than 3 steps away from me and just hearing this man speak. Jack Ma as well – such humility and they really understand the responsibility that they have towards improving the state of the world.

I should say that Bill Gates – there is so much depth to the man. Every single one of his responses to the questions was so considerate and showed so much nuance and knowledge of topics. He did encourage us that this Fourth Industrial Revolution and its intersection with education is going to do so much for highly motivated people and highly motivated learners. Not so much learners who are not motivated, and we need to figure out a solution for that, but for highly motivated people I think there is so much potential for us to acquire so much knowledge easily and freely using online courses, etc. I think that is something we can use to catch up to the rest of the world as the African Continent.

Bill Gates gestures as he speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, on January 24, 2018.  Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

I think it was so nice to see the jostle of position between Jack Ma and Bill Gates because Bill Gates comes at the approach of really impacting change in the world through using data and the facts so he is such a knowledgeable man. Whereas Jack Ma, really approaches it more from the heart and his approach was really like, ‘how best can I help serve humanity?’ He used the term, ‘a love quotient.’ So everybody has their emotional quotient, their intelligence quotient, but he’s added the term love quotient at the heart of everything because that is what really moves the world forward.

Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview at the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

What has been your most memorable encounter at WEF because it’s one of those places where you’ll walk and you’ll see Donald Trump walking past you, for example, or you’ll see presidents from all around the world and top business people. So for each of you, what has been your most interesting encounter and secondly, what memory will you take away from WEF 2018?

So my most memorable one was where we had a private closed-doors session talking about the new scramble for Africa 4.0 and we had Winnie Byanyima in there, she’s a director of Oxfam International. She has always been an inspiration to myself and I met her last year in Durban at WEF in Africa, and she was here today. We took a shuttle ride with her from the hotel where we were having the session and she expressed that she is hopeful for the future of Africa because she sees the youthful optimism that we have. She is at ease and she’s not as worried or not as concerned about Africa being left behind in this new wave of progress.

Flag map of South Africa

I think for me it was our encounter last night when we got a chance to hear what the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa had to say about the outlook of SA. I think it was the hope that was felt amongst all people that were there. The real sense of renewal that’s about to take place in that country and that was really exciting. In addition to that, I think he really did give the youth that were there a chance to interact and engage with him. I’m very hopeful in the fact that I think he takes the youth very seriously and he’s prioritised issues around education and employment in the country.

Thank you so much for chatting to me today, it’s been an absolute pleasure.

Thank you so much.

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