A chance to meet Bill Gates | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 19.01.2016
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A chance to meet Bill Gates

They are young, dedicated and want to make a difference: the Global Shapers. Fifty of them are at the World Economic Forum this year, and DW's Manuela Kasper-Claridge talked to them in Davos.

“We want to make the world aware that young people can shape the world. After all: 50 percent of the world population is young."

There is such passion in his eyes as Lokesh Todi says these words, he can hardly contain himself on that rocky barstool. The 27-year old Nepali is sitting in the ostentatious Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvedere as all around him, last-minute construction is still underway for the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The hotel is one of the main venues for this year's meeting of politicians, business tycoons and opinion leaders. Todi has come to Davos from Kathmandu and he can hardly believe that he is here now, participating in this event as an equal among equals, this event that his idol, US billionaire Bill Gates is expected to attend as well.

Cruel earthquake

The year 2015 was tough for Todi. This past April he was watching television when his home suddenly shook. Horrified, he crawled underneath a massive desk and remained unharmed. "It was so violent, I can't find words to describe it," he said. In his hometown of Kathmandu, 1,729 people died, many buildings were destroyed.

After the strong earthquake, nothing was as it had been. Help was needed everywhere and together with other young people, the Nepali founded an organization to support the reconstruction. He raised more than $150,000 (137,000 euros) in donations for the construction of schools and health centers using crowdfunding.

At the same time he made sure his family business could continue to operate. The cement factory didn't close and the company continued to produce PVC flooring as well. The Reliance Group employs around 2,000 people. And as if that wasn't enough, Lokesh Todi is also involved in the local Global Shapers group, an initiative launched by the World Economic Forum.

Global Shapers change the world

There are a total of 454 so-called "Global Shapers Hubs" by now, local groups of young people between the ages of 20 and 30 years old, who contribute to society. Entrepreneurs, young politicians, environmental activists: It is a very diverse group.

Carolina Hadad (right), Lokesh Todo, Manuela Kasper-Claridge

Carolina Hadad (right), Lokesh Todo meeting DW's Manuela Kasper-Claridge in the Swiss mountain resort

All of them can access the network of the WEF. Contacts are passed along, advice given for contributing to society and regular meetings are organized. This year, 50 young Global Shapers have come to Davos at the invitation of WEF founder Klaus Schwab.

Young, smart and dedicated

Lokesh Todi came from Kathmandu, Carolina Hadad from the 35-degree heat of Buenos Aires. The Argentinian is a software expert.

"Technology can improve our lives," the 27-year-old says. "We only have to use it right." She studied computer science and is in the process of democratizing politics in Argentina. On behalf of the public, she publishes information ranging from the local government in Argentina's capital to the salaries of politicians on an Internet platform.

Now she is working on a countrywide data project. At the same time, she is training young woman to use software. "In our group, we have shown 15-year-old girls how to program an app in just four days," she said proudly. "For them, dealing with data suddenly had a completely different significance." Carolina is proud to be one of the Global Shapers.

"Every single one is so incredibly dedicated and every one does something different. It is amazing to be part of this community. I had the chance to meet so many people who think alike but do so many different things."

Using GPS in Addis Abeba

As Carolina Hadad speaks, Feleg Tsegaye nods in agreement. He is considered one of the leading innovators in Ethiopia. He is only 27-years old as well. Tsegaye launched the first online delivery service for food in the Ethiopian capital Addis Abeba.

"I don't cook. I just wanted to be lazy, that's why I started the business," he says laughing. "Deliver Addis" is the name of his company, which already has 600 regular customers with more joining every day. But how do you organize a delivery service in a city without street names or house numbers? A tricky task for Feleg Tsegaye but he found a solution. His drivers make deliveries using a motorcycle and a mobile phone.

The customers relay their location via GPS. A remarkable achievement in a city where mobile phone service quality fluctuates a lot. "We also provided a digital literacy training for our drivers." Tsegaye wants to help his country advance, just like the other Global Shapers. "We can shape things," they say proudly.

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