An Oxfam report revealed that the collective wealth of the world’s five richest individuals surged to $869 billion since 2020, doubling, while five billion people experienced increased poverty. The report coincides with the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, where business elites gather.
Oxfam emphasised the rise of billionaires as key figures in major companies, stating that 7 out of 10 of the world’s largest corporations are either led by or primarily owned by billionaires. The anti-poverty group called on governments to curb corporate power through measures like breaking up monopolies, imposing taxes on excess profit and wealth, and exploring alternatives to shareholder control.
Quoting Oxfam International interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar, “This inequality is no accident; the billionaire class is ensuring corporations deliver more wealth to them at the expense of everyone else.”
The WEF, which initially aimed to advocate for “stakeholder capitalism,” defined as corporations contributing to societal aspirations, has faced criticism for failing to address rising wealth inequality. Oxfam’s report, utilising data from various sources, including the International Labour Organisation and Forbes, underscores the unfulfilled aspirations of stakeholder capitalism.
Max Lawson, Head of Inequality Policy at Oxfam, criticised the current system of shareholder capitalism, stating, “Today’s extreme system… is driving inequality.”
The report detailed a 52% increase in profits among 148 top corporations, totalling $1.8 trillion, with hefty payouts to shareholders. In contrast, millions of workers experienced a cost of living crisis due to inflation-driven wage cuts.
The top five billionaires, including Elon Musk, Bernard Arnault, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, and Warren Buffett, saw their wealth surge in real terms. Simultaneously, nearly 800 million workers faced stagnant wages amid inflation.
In a related context, Abuja reported that Vice President Kashim Shettima departed for Davos to attend the WEF meeting. Shettima, among other global leaders, will participate in discussions shaping global, regional, and industry agendas. He is set to co-chair the launch of the Private Sector Action Plan for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) and engage in high-level talks with international leaders.
As part of his agenda, Shettima will chair a roundtable dialogue on Nigeria’s economic path and attend a session dedicated to building trust in the global energy transition programme.