2024 World Economic Forum in Davos: Key takeaways

AI, climate, resilience, growth: the 54th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting explored the power of collaboration to rebuild trust in a fragmented world.

The 2024 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos welcomed close to 3,000 leaders from government, business and civil society from more than 125 countries. With 350 heads of state and government, ministers, heads of international organisations, central banks, business leaders, universities and young leaders, participants came together to foster dialogue and partnership.

Trust, cooperation and security emerged as key priorities. World leaders called on participants to rebuild trust and work together to tackle global challenges. More than 50 high-impact initiatives emerged or progressed during the forum’s sessions and workshops with the stated aims of increasing resilience and security, reviving economic growth, and protecting the climate and nature.

Rebuilding trust

The forum addressed four main themes to rebuild trust – security and cooperation in a fractured world, growth and jobs for a new era, artificial intelligence as a driving force, and long-term strategy for climate, nature and energy.

Founder Klaus Schwab emphasised the forum’s purpose of finding common ground to generate positive impact. President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen highlighted the risks of disinformation and polarisation and called on audiences to deepen global collaboration – between public and private sector players – more than ever before.

Building a new growth model for an uncertain time

The recent WEF Global Risks Report highlights the potential risks over the coming decade – climate change, conflict, economic uncertainty, technological advancements.

In this uncertain economic environment, participants at the Davos forum called for a new growth model to address these challenges. The need to balance the drivers of growth and productivity with the complexity of innovation, inclusion, sustainability and resilience was considered a priority. This will mean matching investments in the economy, technology and the environment with investment in people – jobs, skills and health – and equitable opportunities.

Experts at BNP Paribas Markets 360 indeed expect a landing for the economy in 2024, but the extent remains uncertain. According to Luigi Speranza, Head of Markets 360 and Chief Economist: “Following the steep monetary policy tightening and the unwinding of a number of once-in-a-generation shocks, the Markets 360 analysts continue to think that there will be a landing. However, as the downward trend in inflation seems sufficiently established, major central banks are likely to feel confident enough to begin cutting rates in the not-too-distant future, reducing the risk that this landing will be a hard one.”

Fostering closer global cooperation

The Forum’s new Global Cooperation Barometer 2024 looks at five dimensions of global connection – trade and capital, innovation and technology, climate and natural capital, health and wellness, and peace and security – and shows resilient global cooperation for a large part of the past decade. This is particularly the case in trade and capital, innovation and technology, and climate and natural capital, but a sharp drop in cooperation on peace and security.

The forum offered an opportunity to develop new trade-facilitating initiatives and for trade ministers to agree on a common agenda for sustainable growth. In a context of growing fragmentation and geopolitical instability, supporting and financing trade will be more important than ever.

Artificial intelligence dominates the agenda

Generative AI dominated this year’s forum agenda. Participants noted the opportunities from these technologies to drive productivity gains and fuel innovation going forward, and corporations across all sectors are exploring how to incorporate AI into their businesses. French GenAI start-up Mistral offers a clear example of the potential of generative AI and its applications. This startup has a transparent, open-weights model approach, allowing customers to easily customise their models and also self-deploy them on their own premises, without any customer data leaving the premises. It raised €385 million in its latest funding round just before the end of 2023, with the participation of BNP Paribas.

Experts expect generative AI to affect all industries, albeit with large variations, in a revolution that is just beginning. Analysts at BNP Paribas Markets 360 see three major impacts from AI as a whole: “Since the Covid-19 pandemic, AI and generative AI in particular have accelerated incredibly fast [and we] expect three main effects over the years ahead: a potential 1pp productivity boost by 2030; uneven distribution of benefits, with advanced countries better positioned to lead on AI; a potential reduction in inflation of up to 1pp a year.”

Politicians and business leaders discussed the need to balance these multiple opportunities with concerns on security, privacy, and inclusion. In the EU for example, the AI Act seeks to ensure responsible innovation, set guardrails and regulate high-risk uses while making sure businesses have scope to innovate.

Climate, nature and energy

The Davos Global Risk report gave a clear indication that climate risk remains at the top of the agenda in the long term. Investment from and cooperation between both public and private players will be critical to supporting the energy transition. This will require mobilising capital across financial institutions and governments to stage the transition towards net zero. 

With nature, biodiversity and water key concerns for the future, the annual meeting saw the announcement from the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) that 320 organisations from over 46 countries have committed to start making nature-related disclosures based on the TNFD Recommendations published in September last year.

Initiatives that developed and progressed over the course of the event covered areas from food and plastic to scope 3, mobility and human health.