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Day 1 #SpecialMeeting24: Key insights and what just happened

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Anwar Ibrahim, Prime Minister of Malaysia; Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of Nigeria; Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum; Faisal Alibrahim, Minister of Economy and Planning of Saudi Arabia; Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Washington, DC; Maroun Kairouz, Head of Middle East and North Africa, World Economic Forum; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Peter Orszag, Chief Executive Officer, Lazard, USA; Speaking in the Opening Plenary: A New Vision for Global Development session at the Special Meeting on Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy for Development 2024. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 28 April 2024. King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center, Plenary.Copyright: World Economic Forum/Deepu Das


Gayle Markovitz
Acting Head, Written and Audio Content, World Economic Forum
  • The World Economic Forum's Special Meeting on Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy for Development takes place in Saudi Arabia from 28-29 April 2024.
  • Here's a snapshot of everything you need to know about Day 1.

That's a wrap for the first day of the World Economic Forum's Special Meeting in Riyadh. Read on for insights from leaders on the global economy, inclusive growth, human capital, artificial intelligence, the geopolitical recession, the energy transition, prospects for the Middle East and North Africa, and more.

Tomorrow, we'll bring you a rundown of what to expect, key quotes, announcements and the sessions to keep an eye on, with live updates along the way.

Special Meeting: Where to start

A good place to start is with this overview of the programme themes, the key sessions and participants, from Forum Managing Director Mirek Dušek and Maroun Kairouz, Head of Middle East and North Africa.

At the opening Press Conference, Forum President, Børge Brende, emphasized the urgency of dialogue at this 'consequential meeting', as the world grapples with a deepening 'geopolitical recession'.


Faisal Alibrahim, Minister of Economy and Planning of Saudi Arabia, stressed the need to resolve regional issues in the Middle East as an opportunity to revive global growth, "We believe a stable Middle East is crucial for a stable and prosperous, world, and for us to revive global economic growth", he said.


To learn more about each of the meeting themes and follow the sessions, pre-reads and launches aligned with the three priority areas, head to our series of Deep Dives.


Energy for development: Everything you need to know and live coverage from #SpecialMeeting24

Catch up on the opening press conference here.


Live: Highlights from key sessions

All times below are in UTC+3.

Mohammed Al-Jadaan, Minister of Finance, Ministry of Finance of Saudi Arabia, and Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, joined Tengku Zafrul Bin Tengku Abdul Aziz, Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia; Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director, World Economic Forum Geneva; and Bloomberg News anchor, Joumanna Bercetche, to look at how we can reignite growth while ensuring equality.


Georgieva talked about the outcomes of the recent Spring Meetings, highlighting the key messages: resilient growth; but divergence on growth between country blocks; and alarmingly - low income countries falling dramatically behind.

She stressed three economic priorities on inflation, fiscal buffers and geopolitical fragmentation, and encouraged the diversification of supply chains. On industrial policy, she warned, "Don't go overboard. Don't throw this beautiful trade baby out with the bath water!"


President of the World Economic Forum Børge Brende was joined by the Presidents of Rwanda and Nigeria, Paul Kagame and Bola Ahmed Tinubu; the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim; Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva; and Peter Orszag, CEO of financial services group Lazard, to discuss how to reignite the momentum on development and economic convergence.

The focus on people, human capital and inclusive investment as key to reviving growth emerged as a common thread. President Kagame revealed priorities on, "investments in education, health and technology", which "have been the focus of developing human capital in Rwanda".


Prime Minister Anwar reiterated the priority, highlighting governance and fiscal responsibility to tackle inequality.


Following the Opening Plenary, Mahmoud Abbas, President, Palestine and the Palestinian National Authority, delivered remarks to the delegates, urging an immediate end to hostilities in Gaza and calling for humanitarian aid to be allowed to reach those in need.

Leaders from the public and private sectors looked at the opportunities of AI, and also the risks that need to be mitigated: Tiit Riisalo, Minister of Economic Affairs and Information Technology, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Information Technology of Estonia; Øyvind Eriksen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Aker ASA; Thomas L. Friedman, Columnist, Foreign Affairs, The New York Times; Hiroaki Kitano, Executive Deputy President, Chief Technical Officer, Chief Executive Officer, Sony Research, Sony Group Corporation; Paula Ingabire, Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation, Ministry of Information Communication Technology and Innovation of Rwanda; and Abdullah Alswaha, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of Saudi Arabia.

Ingabare sees potential in AI to help 'level up' the workforce. She said one of the things that excites her most about AI, "is the up-levelling effect that it has on the workforce, particularly for least skilled professionals... they stand to benefit the most when it comes to generative AI."

Sony Research's Kitano put the spotlight on science. He said the way we do science is going to "fundamentally change" and that "the next phase of AI development is going to be on the creativity tool, particularly for... scientific discovery".


Join Vicki Hollub, President and CEO, Occidental Petroleum Corporation; H.R.H. Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Minister of Energy, Ministry of Energy of Saudi Arabia; Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, Minister of State for Energy Affairs of the State of Qatar, President and CEO of QatarEnergy, Qatar Government; Kadri Simson, Commissioner for Energy, European Commission; Darren Woods, Chairman and CEO, ExxonMobil; and Børge Brende, for a session exploring the balance between energy security and energy equity.

Al-Kaabi spoke of the responsibility to do the right thing for the next generation, but stressed that currently there are 800 million people who don't have access to basic electricity. He said, "we shouldn't be selfish and just talk about what we want in our house, yet forget about the neighbourhood", suggesting that demonizing oil and gas is not the solution. He highlighted the potential instead for emissions reduction, methane abatement and carbon capture and sequestration.

Hollub spoke of the potential for technology to scale up these efforts, with digital twins and AI acting as game changers. She said, "we don't have to discontinue oil - it can become an emission-free part of the energy mix".


H.H. Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia joins the Forum's president Børge Brende; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, M.U.M. Ali Sabry; and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; Vice-President, European External Action Service, Josep Borrell Fontelles, and Qian Liu, Founder and Chairwoman, Wusawa Advisory, to discuss how the Global North and Global South can revitalize cooperation to open up solutions to today's most critical challenges.

Borell stressed the need for cooperation, "From climate to technology, everything requires more cooperation". Ali Sabri said alignment on access to low-cost funding, debt relief, the latest technology and the digital divide must happen. He added, "I think this is time for the Global North to walk the talk and collaborate with the Global South."


Publication launches to look out for

Agritech: Shaping Agriculture in Emerging Economies, Today and Tomorrow

Agritech services are reshaping the agriculture and food sector by enabling sustainable farm operations and efficient supply chains. This report aims to highlight emerging technologies from a macro agriculture system perspective, from farm planning to consumption, and takes a broader view on the previous paper’s four-point approach – intelligent crop farming, smart farming, farmgate-to-fork and data – to drive the adoption of technology in farming, especially by the most vulnerable smallholder and women farmers.

Have you read?

Shaping the Future of Learning: The Role of AI in Education 4.0

This report explores the potential for artificial intelligence to benefit educators, students and teachers. Case studies show how AI can personalize learning experiences, streamline administrative tasks, and integrate into curricula. The report stresses the importance of responsible deployment, addressing issues like data privacy and equitable access. Aimed at policymakers and educators, it urges stakeholders to collaborate to ensure AI's positive integration into education systems worldwide leads to improved outcomes for all.

Strategic Cybersecurity Talent Framework

Today, there is a shortage of nearly 4 million cybersecurity professionals worldwide and, with a consistent year-on-year increase in demand for qualified practitioners, the deficit shows no sign of abating. This paper is intended to serve as a source of reference for public and private decision-makers concerned by the industry workforce shortage and committed to developing and nurturing robust cybersecurity talent across their respective sectors.

Special Meeting: Where to startLive: Highlights from key sessionsPublication launches to look out for

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