Globalisation is irreversible, say CEOs at The CEO Agenda gathering


While rising anti-globalisation rhetoric in the west has led to widespread market uncertainty, globalisation is irreversible and innovation, sustainability and diversity will continue to be key tenets in business for the foreseeable future. This was the key takeaway from The CEO Agenda: the new rules for global business, recently held in Sandton in Johannesburg.

Business leaders from across Africa discussed various economic, socio-political and technology trends and the impact on global business, with a focus on the future of emerging markets.

Speaking in her opening address at The CEO Agenda, Irene Mia, global editor of thought leadership at The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), said, “While there is geopolitical uncertainty, I think we all agree that globalisation and the work that has been done over 35 years cannot simply be reversed. Innovation in technology shows how unstoppable globalisation is.”

Pat Thaker editorial and regional director for Middle East and Africa at the EIU, unpacked the key global themes for the 2018. “The world economy is looking its healthiest for some time. Global trade remains upbeat despite the rise in populism. Emerging markets are leading the way and we expect this year to end fairly strong, but it will be defined by bad politics and uncertain economics. The political outlook is deteriorating. We are seeing the highest level of political risk in years and 2018 will be another year of anxiety and market jitters,” Thaker explained.

This geopolitical environment, Thaker said, meant it was important for multinationals to review and reassess strategies and address major risk factors.

While Asia will continue to see solid economic growth, driven by China and India, Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, will experience slower growth in 2018.


A key debate centred around the inclusion of women in senior management positions. While patriarchy was highlighted as a major challenge globally, Africa is making strides when it comes to empowering women in business.

Ayodele Odusola, chief economist and head of strategy and analysis at the Regional Bureau for Africa, United Nations Development Programme New York, said, “Gender equality in Africa is improving but we are not where we need to be. The inclusion of women is generating many positive effects. What is important for us to realise is that it is not only an economic imperative but also a development imperative.”

Odusola said South Africa has set a good example by empowering women, growing the number of women in the boardroom from 7 to 17 % in the private sector and from 7 pto 34% in the public sector from 2004 to 2013.