People worry about all sorts of irrational things, but – according to the experts at least – what should we really be focussing our ‘anxiety muscles’ on worrying about?

Annually the World Economic Forum publishes a very handy document entitled, the Global Risks Report, which to be honest – if you are thinking of doing a scenario planning exercise as part of your 2018 / 2020 strategy sessions – wouldn’t be a bad place to start if you are looking for a few key uncertainties to lock ‘n load into your scenarios framework.

At least thinking about how you, or your organisation, would respond to an escalation of any one of these threats would certainly not be a waste of time.

Global risks

These then are the WEF’s Top 5 ‘most likely to happen’ and Top 5 ‘most impactful’ global risks for 2017.


Already this year we have clearly witnessed how extreme weather has affected many regions of the world – not forgetting the fact that Cape Town is facing an extreme weather event of our own. Understandably – WATER CRISIS – is listed 3rd in their Top 5 risks that will have the most impact on society in their 2017 synopsis; a reality which we are all too well aware of.

Looking at the changing of the global risks since 2007 – it’s interesting to note how issues relating to the risks posed by environmental threats have steadily increased over the last decade.

South African risks

Focussing just on South Africa – these are the Top 10 Highest Risks for doing business in South Africa from a global perspective.

Each one of these appears to be increasing in strength as this year progresses and are clearly all interconnected. For example – as the issue of unemployment / inequality intensifies – the government in its wisdom is forced to resort to riskier financing options to keep at least some financial relief for the unemployed millions going, which is manifesting in the escalating fiscal crisis that we are now witnessing and putting the state at risk


All systems have a limit to their growth. For us – the global risks outlined here are a result of decades of excessive levels of resource-led economic growth and globalisation coming home to roost. There is only so much growth a system can handle before it is forced to rebalance…and often in not a very dignified manner.

What we really should be worried about is how we see the world.

We should worry about how we as society value hitting record highs on the stock market and our rampant consumerist culture above the eminent danger imposed by climate change as a direct consequence. We should worry that unemployment and inequality and the unjust socio-economic system that we have created isn’t something that we actively explore more deeply to try solve. We should worry that we are quite happy to see how far we can push these global risk factors without worrying about their long-term consequences.