#FRONTROW: Attending the 2018 WEF meet? Book today!

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By LARRY MADOWO
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If you want to get a hotel room in Davos for the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting in January 2018, reserve now or forever hold your peace. If you wait until next week, it will be too late, unless you want to put in all your life’s savings, sell your kidney and leave your grandmother’s teeth with a shylock for a hole in the wall. You would also do well to book a flight to Zürich immediately if you won’t be using your private jet to land at the nearby airport with your minions in tow. Then go to a store and buy all the sweaters, jackets, gloves, scarves and thick clothing they have. Your regular shoes will be no good either, so if you can’t find any whose soles are roughly the size of a tractor’s tyres, you’re unprepared for the snowmaggedon.

WORLD’S MOST INFLUENTIAL GATHERING

The WEF’s Annual Meeting in the popular ski resort deep in the Swiss Alps is probably the world’s most influential gathering, which means that getting in is as easy as walking on fire barefoot. Even getting accredited as a journalist almost requires you to make a sacrifice during a full moon and bathe in the tears of an infant. This is especially if you only start following up on that press badge in November like I did, months after applications closed. Luckily, the people who issue those critical passes were sufficiently impressed by my ability to sound both convincing and detached on email that they gave me one. Like the good Kenyan I am, I proceeded to do nothing more until two days after the meeting actually began, at which point I went into complete panic mode.

I must have looked at the websites of at least 137 hotels within a 50km radius of the Davos Congress Centre, found all of them fully booked before giving up and cursing each of my ancestors by name. Actually, that’s not entirely true. There was a hotel about 10km away which had one room available for the three nights I was going to be there. They were charging a reasonable Sh438,000 for a single room for those days after a small discount. That is how I ended up on the Airbnb website, which allows ordinary people to rent out spare rooms, beds or couches in their houses. Everything in the area was sold out as well, except for a room in a “charming chalet” in the next town called Klosters. I took it up even though it meant I couldn’t afford to eat anything fancier than kale for the next three years, and that is without adding the cost of the flights.

DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA

You need to change trains twice from the Zürich Airport to get to Davos the cheap way though there is a limo offer too if you’re looking for the premium experience. On the day we arrived, British Prime Minister Theresa May was the star attraction, reassuring the global elite that Britain was open for business even after they all collectively lost their minds with the Brexit vote. A day earlier, Chinese president Xi Jinping had given a surprisingly progressive speech that left people wondering why the Divided States of America was still a superpower. Everyone resolved to learn Mandarin and move to Beijing with their mouth and nose covers before the Chinese enslave us all. In January, Davos is extremely cold and any amount of warm clothing you wear is still painfully inadequate.

WIFI STRONGER THAN THE BUSINESS HANDSHAKES

Thankfully, the Wifi is stronger than the business handshakes all around. Almost 4,000 people from 100 countries descended on the city to talk shop over 400 sessions about just about every business issue you haven’t paid enough attention to. From simulations of the life of a refugee to the economic outlook for Africa, billionaires, presidents, global executives and talking heads of every range made their voice heard. At lunch one day, Trade and Industrialization Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed came to stand-eat with us at our table as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world. Next to us were South African billionaire Patrice Mosepe and the president of an American Ivy League University, all blending in. There’s a world leader, obscenely rich person, famous face or government official everywhere you turn in Davos.

It almost makes up for the Sh1.2 million a friend and two colleagues paid to rent an apartment nearby for a week. You walk into sessions and bump into Bill Gates, Shakira, Matt Damon or Joe Biden gazing into their crystal balls. You share the shuttles with Americans whining about electing Orange Mugabe, brilliant youngsters working on dizzyingly complex challenges, civil servants on joyrides and more languages than the Tower of Babel. You run into Richard Quest roaming the corridors or the prime minister of a country with an unpronounceable name giving an interview and you know you’re in the bubble. WEF is equal parts overwhelming and disappointing.

Send your comments to lmadowo@ke.nationmedia.com

HOW TRUMP LOVES TO BEND THE TRUTH

I watched US President Donald Trump ramble though his first official event, not with exasperation like many people, but with growing amusement. Here was a man who had just become possibly the most powerful individual in the world arguing about crowds at his inauguration. On any other occasion it would have been in poor taste, but standing in front of a wall that commemorates CIA agents who were killed in the line of duty, it was absurd. His first comment was about how Fox News had treated him nicely the previous day. When he eventually confirmed his support to the intelligence community, he declared that nobody was more committed to them than him.

That same day his Press Secretary Sean Spicer stretched the truth even further, declaring that “It was the largest crowd to ever witness an inauguration, period.” Not only is that wildly inaccurate, it seemed so desperate that the new administration would spend its first full day trying to prove it was more popular than former President Barack Obama’s. Both ignored the historic Women’s March, which had much larger crowds. It’s going to be a long four years.

WHAT MAKES CITY ATTRACT SO MANY?

What is it about the Nairobi governorship that everyone wants it? Current governor Dr Evans Kidero is defending his seat against a long list of people seeking to take over from him. The significance of the capital city cannot be overstated but when you look at everyone who’s interested in that seat, it certainly raises some questions. It seems that Peter Kenneth, Johnson Sakaja, Margaret Wanjiru, Mike Sonko, Dennis Waweru, Eugene Wamalwa, my gardener, and the guy next door all want to be Governor 047.

The obvious follow-up to this is that are they genuinely interested in improving the lives of the city’s citizens, or are they in it for themselves? They’re busy out there asking people to register as voters in large numbers, hoping that they will be voting for them come August.

This is the time to nerd up and demand manifestos, concrete plans and a detailed plan for fixing the city from these people.

rn rn

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