Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 24, 2023 – Prominent leaders from the world of finance and business convened in Riyadh for the seventh edition of the Future Investment Initiative (FII), where they issued a stark warning about the multifaceted challenges currently facing the world.
These challenges include geopolitical conflicts, economic uncertainties, soaring inflation, and the pressing issue of climate change. Despite these daunting obstacles, attendees at the forum emphasized the potential for positive change through a heightened awareness of human needs, global collaboration, and the transformative power of artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
In his opening remarks, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, Public Investment Fund, acknowledged the global economy’s 15-year stint of historically low interest rates and almost free money. However, the financial landscape has shifted dramatically, with central banks worldwide now tightening monetary policy. Concerns are growing over the potential for a looming debt crisis, high interest rates, and the disruptive impact of geopolitical conflicts on the global oil market.
Al-Rumayyan, who also chairs the FII Institute, highlighted the unprecedented speed at which interest rates are rising, emphasizing the necessity for businesses and governments worldwide to adapt to this new reality.
Leaders convene to address changing norms
A panel discussion titled “Board of Changemakers: Navigating New Norms” brought together 11 influential leaders from the financial sector. Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase; Jane Fraser, CEO of Citigroup; Noel Quinn, group CEO of HSBC; David Solomon, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs; and Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder and chairman of The Blackstone Group were among the participants.
The discussion also featured Shemara Wikramanayake, managing director of Macquarie Group; Patrice Motsepe, executive chairman of African Rainbow Minerals; and Neil Shen, founder and managing partner of the Chinese capital-venture giant Hongshan.
HSBC’s Quinn highlighted the impact of geopolitics on China’s exports and emphasized the need for supply chain resilience and diversification. China itself faces “near-term pressures” as it undertakes significant policy corrections to stabilize its economy.
Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, expressed a pessimistic outlook on interest rates, predicting their persistence at high levels for an extended period.
While some expressed concerns about the economic landscape, Yasir Al-Rumayyan remained optimistic. He pointed to technology, particularly AI, as a driving force for positive change. Al-Rumayyan emphasized that we are witnessing unprecedented changes, with AI playing a pivotal role in shaping the future. He noted that approximately 70% of all companies are projected to adopt at least one form of AI technology by 2030.
Al-Rumayyan asserted that AI, if harnessed for good, has the potential to create a more inclusive society. He stressed the importance of global collaboration, internationally aligned regulations, and governance to ensure AI’s responsible and ethical use. Al-Rumayyan, who also chairs Saudi Arabian Oil Group, Saudi Aramco, underlined the significance of a data-driven approach in reducing carbon footprints.
Global Cooperation in the Face of Geopolitical Tensions
Ajay Banga, president of the World Bank Group, identified geopolitical tensions as the most significant threat to the global economy. He stressed that risks are dynamic and urged cooperation among governments to address the challenges faced by the Global South. Banga emphasized the importance of international organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank working closely with countries to foster inclusivity in AI technology.
In a collaborative effort, the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, signed an agreement to co-finance multilateral development banks working on various projects. These projects encompass areas such as food security, water resources, climate change mitigation, clean energy, youth empowerment, and gender equity.
Banga called for a united approach, asserting that the world’s issues are too significant to be addressed in isolation. He encouraged global stakeholders to work together, synergizing efforts and resources to achieve collective goals.
The seventh edition of the Future Investment Initiative, themed “The New Compass,” serves as a platform for world leaders, policymakers, CEOs, academics, NGOs, entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists, activists, and media representatives to discuss and strategize solutions to the complex challenges facing the global economy. The forum, which runs from October 24 to October 26, aims to guide investors through a rapidly changing economic landscape.
As the world grapples with evolving economic realities and geopolitical tensions, the call for cooperation, technological innovation, and responsible AI usage remains a beacon of hope for a more inclusive and sustainable future.