Key trends at Davos

Prof Dr Uwe Krueger | 27 Feb 2015 | Comments

One year ago at Davos we were full of optimism with regard to the state of the world. Finally in most countries the recession was behind us. Then, just three months before this year’s Davos meeting, the world got more complex.

There is a lot more volatility today compared to just half a year ago. Clearly the dramatic drop in oil price is one of the major reasons. From a European perspective the war at our doorstep in the Ukraine is a major issue and how to deal with the collateral damage that is resulting. The advent of yet another crisis in the Middle East with Isis spreading its terror wings not only in Syria and Iraq, but in North Africa, added additional volatility. And clearly also the terrible terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen added to this sense of security crisis and volatility. That clearly had an effect on the mood at Davos and put a sobering atmosphere on the event as people struggled to understand the economic consequences of this instability.

On the other hand it was interesting to see more of a cohesion, realism and pragmatism in the discussions between the politicians and industry CEOs. There is a lot more will to cooperate and a real effort to really listen to each other.

Personally, this is my 12th year at Davos, in various CEO roles, and I have never yet seen so much positive, constructive interaction between politicians and industry and that I found very encouraging. It’s also a new generation of leaders on both sides of the aisle. We see a generation that is more willing to engage, more multilingual and that has seen more back and forth between individuals between politics and industry that clearly helps. Specifically this is true for leaders from the developing world who have had excellent educations often in western countries and are more akin to a content rich dialogue with industry.

How Davos influenced my thoughts about possible opportunities for the future

It clearly made me aware of the areas in the world where in our industry we can expect above average market growth. Specifically, this is true for Asia Pacific and for Sub-Saharan Africa and it is also true for the US. The US market is bouncing back big time and is probably one of the healthiest economies at the moment with the well reported revival of the US infrastructure and engineering market.

Sub Saharan Africa is also very interesting. Six out of eight of the fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. Arguably on an absolute level they are still at an early stage of development but the relative growth of these economies is stunning. The same is true for Central Asia and AsiaPac, countries like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan but also Indonesia and now India with the Government of prime minister Narendra Modi looking to attract more foreign investment.

Finally, the role that technology plays in our industry has much increased. That applies to digital asset management, BIM, and innovative business models that start to mushroom around transportation and infrastructure. The bottom line is that I came away from Davos recognising the world is more volatile and challenging but that there is an increasing demand for the kind of sophisticated engineering consultancy that we offer.

To find out what Uwe spoke about at the World Economic Forum, see here.