Kofi Annan: business education ideal in ‘uncertain world’

Former UN secretary general also ‘surprised’ that EU’s strength in maintaining security did not feature in Brexit debate. John Elmes reports from Lausanne

July 1, 2016
Source: John Elmes

Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, has said that those with a scientific or business education background “have an advantage” in an uncertain economic world to deal with crises before they materialise.

Responding to a question from Times Higher Education during a keynote appearance at a conference organised by IMD, a business and management school in Lausanne, Switzerland, Mr Annan said that in a post-Brexit world, those with business school educations can “anticipate the changes coming”.

“The world is changing and changing very fast. Those that have scientific skill[s] in a way, have an advantage. In some situations those with skills with vocational training will have the advantage,” Mr Annan said.

“Those who have had this sort of education you’re having, going to business school, anticipating these changes, have a major advantage because you can see these changes coming. Some companies are forward-looking, they could see the changes coming and are trying to adapt and prepare for it.”

He also voiced his concerns about peace in Europe, which he said could be threatened if other members of the European Union follow the UK’s lead and decide to leave the bloc.

Responding to a question by Mike Wade, professor of innovation and strategy at IMD, Mr Annan told the Orchestrating Winning Performance event: “What is remarkable is that the impact of the European Union on peace in Europe never came up [in the debate]. The union came out of two world wars, and in my judgement and those outside Europe, we believe that in many ways the union has been a triumph.

“For most people, a major war in Europe is unthinkable today, and I think it’s one of the achievements of the union, but nobody seems to talk about it.”

When asked if the UK’s leaving was a challenge to a peaceful Europe, he said: “I think if it were to lead to an unravelling of the union, it could be. But I really hope it doesn’t. I hope this is one more urgent reason for the remaining 27 countries to work harder, stay united and build a stronger Europe. Because you don’t want to see it unravel. I think it is a wonderful achievement.”

Mr Annan said that the Brexit outcome was a “shock” but that it was not a mystery given the disparity in prosperity that exists in the UK. He also said that the government should take some blame for anti-EU feeling in the country.

“You will notice that the prosperous parts of the country, London for example, voted to remain,” he said. “All of the other regions which are industrially deprived areas, [have] difficult economic conditions, voted [Leave]. Their conditions have been developing since the ’80s.”

He said he felt that politicians “have to take some blame. As I travel around Europe and talk to people, everything that goes wrong [gets blamed] on Brussels and the EU. They never explain things to their citizens, and [the people] are so far away from Brussels [that] they think it’s Brussels interfering with [their] welfare, [their] life…and now you see what has happened.

“The problems they blamed on Brussels will persist.”


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