In Latin America, Responsive and Responsible Business and Political Leadership is Needed More Than Ever

  • Government and business leaders have to embrace the future and defend the liberal order to rebuild trust
  • Bridging Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance would be an important step in deepening Latin American integration
  • The World Economic Forum on Latin America 2018 will take place in São Paulo, Brazil
  • For more information on the 2017 meeting:

Buenos Aires, Argentina, 7 April 2017 – In a fast-changing world of heightened uncertainty, strong but responsive and responsible leadership is needed in both the public and private sectors, business and government leaders concluded in the closing session of the 2017 World Economic Forum on Latin America.

“We need to embrace the future and have a positive attitude in light of the tremendous changes taking place,” advised Marcos Peña, Chief of Cabinet of Ministers of Argentina.

“Business and political leadership has never been more important. We need to remake the arguments for the liberal order. They are complex, and society has begun to lose its trust in the establishment,” added Michael Rake, Chairman of BT Group Plc.

The political and ideological divide between left and right no longer applies, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, told participants. “The divide is between those who embrace the future – and who know that sometimes you may have to make short-term sacrifices for long-term advantages – and those who do not.” Government leaders who implement the necessary reforms are not the only ones who have to provide agile leadership, Schwab remarked. “Business leaders too have to be responsive and responsible and fulfil their obligation to interact with those who may feel left behind in this fast-changing world.” On the same theme, Eduardo S. Elsztain, Chairman of IRSA Inversiones y Representaciones, and a Co-Chair of the meeting, said that “A true leader is one who gives a boost to others.”

More than 1,000 business, government and civil society leaders participated in the 12th World Economic Forum on Latin America in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 5 to 7 April 2017. The theme of the meeting was “Fostering Development and Entrepreneurship in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

With Latin American countries returning to growth after two difficult years, sustaining recovery during this period of uncertainty is both a great challenge and a big opportunity for the region. Argentina, for example, “is in the midst of transition,” Peña explained. “We are a country that was closed down but is now discovering that the world is an opportunity.” For Argentina and other countries in the region, that means implementing necessary structural reforms and finding ways to deepen regional integration. “Institutions that were designed fora world that no longer exists must change,” Peña noted.

Regional integration is critical, especially at a time when there are growing concerns about protectionism around the world. “Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance need to find a way to rework their relationships and walk together,” reckoned meeting Co-Chair Marcos Bulgheroni, Executive Director of Pan American Energy LLC, referring to the two major trading blocs in Latin America.

Another key challenge for Latin America is to address the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the rapid technological changes that are disrupting all aspects of life. Education, of course, is important. “But we are not giving the right education to our young people,” Rake cautioned. “Leaving people without the right education is going to be a bigger problem.” Meeting Co-Chair Asheesh Advani, President and Chief Executive Officer of JA Worldwide, agreed. “We need education to make young people more resilient.” He called for studies to determine the appropriate balance of investment in technology and investment in young adults. He supported the need to ensure that social enterprises are given their due as part of civil society and are able to receive the funding they need.

“The big challenge for the world will be the issue of employability,” Geraldo Alckmin Filho, Governor of São Paulo, Brazil, declared. Latin American countries have to address inequalities and come up with ways to ensure that people can find good jobs. “Our region cannot fall into the trap of populism and isolation. The way to go is to consolidate our democracies, drive greater competitiveness and strengthen foreign trade, seeking opportunities in the world.”

Earlier, accompanied by Marcos Pereira, the Minister of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services of Brazil, Alckmin announced that the World Economic Forum on Latin America 2018 would be held in São Paulo.

The Future of Economic Growth and Social Inclusion: Organized in collaboration with Argentina’s ministry of production, a competitiveness workshop brought together 50 government officials to launch actionable agendas for competitiveness and inclusion. Following the workshop, Brazil expressed a desire to launch its own lab to address its competitiveness challenges.

Social Entrepreneurs: 25 social entrepreneurs gathered to discuss the way forward for social entrepreneurship in a systems-driven world, the cross-fertilization between impact investors and social entrepreneurs, and to honour the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs for 2017. “Being a systems entrepreneur requires a profound shift in mindset to go beyond your direct service model and let go in order to change a whole system driven by purpose and values,” explained Patrick Struebi, CEO of Fairtrasa, one of the social entrepreneurs.

Gender Parity: The World Economic Forum, the Inter-American Development Bank, senior ministers and private sector leaders announced a plan to set up a Gender Parity Task Force in Argentina. The task force will use a model of public-private collaboration developed by the Forum to achieve workplace gender parity, and will aim to increase the numbers of women entering and progressing in the labour market and to help change gender stereotypes.

Travel and Tourism: The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 was launched at the Meeting in Buenos Aires. Spain came first in the index, ahead of France and Germany. Mexico, the highest ranked Latin American country, came in 23rd position, and Argentina rose six places to 50th globally and 6th in Latin America.

Trade: Trade ministers from Pacific Alliance and Mercosur regional groups told participants that better regional integration is essential, and that the region “needs to move beyond trade” to include more investment among countries. “We must send the world a message that we need to be more liberal, more open and have more trade,” Marcos Pereira, Minister of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services, Brazil, said.

New Vision for Agriculture: Six South American ministers of agriculture recognized the strategic value of the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture (NVA) initiative as a way of achieving food security and sustainable agricultural development. The ministers joined private sector leaders, regional organizations, civil society and farmers associations committed to accelerate sustainable agricultural production Latin America through NVA initiatives currently underway in Mexico, Colombia and Nicaragua.

Digital Quotient: Children in Argentina will be able to measure their ability and command of digital media – helping to combat their exposure to dangers such as radicalization, fake news, online grooming and cyber-bullying – with a new online platform launched at the World Economic Forum by Esteban Bullrich, Minister of Education. The online platform is part of #DQEveryChild™, a new global alliance that aims to increase young people’s digital intelligence quotient (DQ).

400 Young Global Leaders (YGLs) and alumni joined the 14th YGL and Alumni Annual Summit in Buenos Aires. The summit focused on exploring the challenges the world faces at a local and global level and how the YGL community could work together to find new inclusive solutions and have a greater collective impact. Several new projects were seeded during the summit as well as countless collaborations. Some of  these new collaborations and projects include: Cheryl Perera received financial support from a fellow YGL to help hire her first two staff members to scale and formalize her organization, One Child, which tackles child sex slavery; Esteban Bullrich and Lorna Solis are partnering to provide 1,000 scholarships to Syrian Refugees to study at universities in Argentina; Jon Alexander is partnering with Amy Cuddy to develop a Citizen Confidence Index; David Hertz and Ivan Vatchkov are launching Solidarity Food Trucks,  a social gastronomy movement; Bruno Sanchez Andrade Nuno will work with Justin Finnegan to optimize his company’s operations to help tens of thousands of smallholder farmers in Bhutan.

More than 1,000 participants are taking part in the 12th World Economic Forum on Latin America in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 5 to 7 April 2017. The theme of the meeting is  “Fostering Development and Entrepreneurship in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

The Co-Chairs of the World Economic on Latin America are: Asheesh Advani, President and Chief Executive Officer, JA Worldwide, USA; Hans-Paul Bürkner, Chairman, The Boston Consulting Group, USA; Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Germany; Alejandro P. Bulgheroni, Chairman Bridas Corporation, Argentina; Marcos Bulgheroni, Executive Director, Pan American Energy LLC, Argentina; and Eduardo S. Elsztain, Chairman, IRSA Inversiones y Representaciones, Argentina.