印有博主姓名（高德思）的挂牌 / Tom Gorman name badge
Back To Africa (Part Two)
What’s really the purpose of a high-level conference like the Global Forum? I think it has various objectives: to educate and inform. participants; to stimulate dialogue among opinion leaders; to create a networking platform. for top corporate management, government officials, and NGO leaders; to promote a country’s trade and investment as well as cultural, sport and soft power interests; to provide a highly targeted environment for sponsors to advertise within; to make a profit for the organizer and build their brand image in the process, and so on.
When all of the above elements are combined and executed in just the right way, and the timing is right, the result is something out of the ordinary and even a bit magical. What then happens is that within a fairly short period of time, the way a group of very influential people think about something important is changed for the better. It is very hard to put a value on changing important people’s minds on important issues, or, in effect, enlightening a group of opinion leaders.
Based on my own experience and from talking with other delegates, I think the Global Forum in Cape Town changed a lot of minds about Africa’s current reality and future potential.
With speakers and panelists like South African President Jacob Zuma (via satellite from the G20 meeting in Toronto), former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela’s wife Graca Machel, African business and civil society entrepreneurs Mo Ibrahim and Cyril Ramaphosa, former President of Ireland and E.U. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson, E.U. Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard, NBA Global Ambassador Dkembe Mutombo, Auma Obama of Sports for Change Social Initiative (who is also U.S. President Obama’s sister), and a host of other African and international leaders from the social and environmental sectors, the meeting was about much more than just business.
In fact a dominant theme throughout the program was what African and international businesses are doing and can do in Africa in terms of social responsibility as an integral part of successful and profitable business strategies.
China-Africa trade and investment commanded several spots in the program agenda, which is understandable given the importance and timeliness of the topic. What was striking and unexpected, however, was the degree to which questions and comments about China repeatedly surfaced in panel discussions and Q-and-A sessions on a whole variety of non-China specific topics. This reflects the sea change in the importance of the China market in the eyes of global business leaders which has occurred during the past few years, as well as some of the issues which China’s trade and investment in Africa in recent years has given rise to.
The other side of that coin was the presence of the largest delegation of Chinese CEOs to ever attend a Global Forum outside of Greater China, as well as a group of more than 20 journalists and representatives from Chinese media.
中国2020圆桌会议封面扫描件 / The cover scan of China 2020 Roundtable Discussion
The Global Forum’s China Roundtable brought leading Chinese CEOs together with their global and African counterparts, featuring a lively panel discussion before a standing-room only crowd, which included Chairman Wang Jianzhou of China Mobile, Taikang Life Insurance Chairman and CEO Chen Dongsheng, Shanghai Electric Group Chairman and CEO Xu Jianguo, Astra Zeneca PLC CEO David Brennan, FORTUNE Asia Editor and China Bureau Chief Bill Powell, Minister of the Publicity Department of the Chengdu Municipal Committee He Huazhang, and Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer of Keywise Capital Zheng Fang.
China Mobile Chairman Wang dazzled participants with China Mobile’s numbers, starting with their mobile subscriber base of 550 million, growing at about 5 million per month, with the fastest growing segment (60% of new subscribers) being from rural China. With mobile phone penetration rates in major Chinese cities as high as 120%, China Mobile (currently #99 on the FORTUNE Global 500 list) is focused on growing new business, including rural subscribers, data and information business. Their acquisition of a 20% stake in Shanghai Commercial Bank is a clear signal of confidence in the future importance of online banking — a subject which was to figure prominently in later discussions during the Global Forum in the context of Africa’s mobile future.
Taikang Insurance Chairman and CEO Chen provided very insightful comments not only on the growth story of his Taikang into a very significant player in China’s financial services sector (especially noteworthy as a non-State-owned enterprise); but also of the opportunities and challenges facing China’s small and medium-sized enterprises. He founded Taikang in 1996, starting with several dozen employees. Its revenues have increased 20-fold since 2000, and employees now number 25,000. He too places great priority on the growth of China’s rural sector for financial services, commenting that the urban Chinese consumer’s dream is now to own “a car, a home, and life insurance” while the rural consumer’s dream is to own “a motorcycle, a mobile phone and life insurance.” His view is that the growth and development of the small and medium-sized company sector, and the non-SOE sector in general, are key to addressing China’s unemployment issues.
Shanghai Electric Group’s Xu spoke about his group’s experience in managing more than 100 joint ventures with international companies, including some with majority ownership stakes and others without.
Astra Zeneca’s Brennan told of his company’s growth in China from 500 employees to 4,000 in roughly 8 years, with China revenues growing in the 37-38% per year range in recent years; and of their establishment of an R&D facility in China as well as developing exports from their China manufacturing plants to other Asian markets.
Chengdu’s Minister He spoke of Sichuan Province’s 15% GDP growth in 2009 and of the average GDP growth of 13.5% in western China, making it the fastest growing economic region in the country and increasingly the focal point for further investment and development.
This observation was echoed by Taikang’s Chen, who added that in the 10-20 year time span, western China would still be engaged in the phase of industrialization and urbanization which characterized eastern China’s development during the economic reform. and opening era, whereas eastern China would enter a new phase of economic development; and that the dual-track progress would ensure the health and vitality of China’s economy throughout the period.
(To be continued…)