South Africa country night rocks the house at World Economic Forum

The South African country night at WEF 2023 managed to showcase not only the potential and spirit of the country itself but also of that of the whole continent.


Image : Brand Leadership

If anyone needed their spirits lifting, you couldn’t have asked for more. South Africa “killed it” as one participant put it, hosting a cultural soirée on 18 January that brought to life a World Economic Forum meeting that had been dominated by headlines of gloom – wars, recessions and climate disasters.

The event, entitled Woza Mzansi (“come South” or “come to South Africa”) was a truly authentic South African experience, bringing to the mountains of Switzerland the warm spirit of Africa. 

Guests gather at the South Africa country night: L to R: Koos Bekker, chairman of Naspers; Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, Naspers South Africa CEO;  Thebe Ikalafeng, Brand Leadership CEO; WEF founder Klaus Schwab; Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice Group CEO; and Imtiaz Patel, chairman of Multichoice.

Guests were treated to an eight-course menu produced by chef Wandile Mabaso of Les Créatifs restaurant in Johannesburg. His menu showcased the culinary diversity of the country with inspirations from Cape Malay and KwaZulu Natal cuisine. The wine was from the vineyard of businessman Koos Bekker, Chairman of Naspers.

Patrice Motsepe, president of the Confederation of African football (L) and Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA (C) arrive at the event. (Photo by courtesy of Brand Leadership)

The host for the night was the glamorous actress Nomzamo Mbatha – who spoke with passion and emotion about the wonders of the continent and what it has to offer. Alongside her were two Afro-soul South African bands, The Soil and Mi Casa. They injected the place with energy in a way that only Africans know how to, capturing the imagination of all those present.

Patrick Njoroge (L), governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, chats to JSE CEO Leila Fourie. (Photo by courtesy of Brand Leadership)

Flying the flag

Participation of African delegations at this year’s Forum has been low by historical standards with many leaders preferring to deal with issues back home. So South Africa in many ways was representing more than a country, and the event managed to showcase not only the potential and spirit of the country but also of the continent itself.

South Africa is still Africa’s most diversified economy, with some of the continent’s biggest companies. Two of those – Multichoice and Naspers – were the sponsors of the evening, which was overseen by Brand South Africa and their agency, the pan-African branding and event agency, Brand Leadership.

Enjoying the evening: Enoch Godongwana, South Africa finance minister, Zimbabwe finance minister Mthuli Ncube and Brand Leadership CEO Thebe Ikalafeng. (Photo courtesy of Brand Leadership)

Prof. Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum and the world’s foremost convener of global leaders, reminded the guests that there is a long history between the Forum and South Africa – dating back to 1992, when both Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk attended the meeting, strengthening their growing rapprochement. According to the story, it is at Davos that Mandela decided to take a more free-market approach to business, binning his plans to nationalise much of the private sector.

Nonkululeko Nyembezi, chairperson of Standard Bank (L), with Patrick Dlamini, CEO of DBSA (C). (Photo courtesy of Brand Leadership)

Schwab also reminded guests of the lead role South Africa is playing internationally, with the country taking over the presidency of the BRICS in 2023. 

It was a night that the Davos crowd will cherish and remember for many years to come.

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