Annegret is passionate about contributing to the sustainable development of the global economy. In her current position at the International Trade Centre, she supports organizational innovation as well as the competitiveness of small- and medium sized companies from developing countries. Before, she was working for four years at an international management consulting company focusing on the strategic development of energy companies in Europe and China. Annegret studied Business and Chinese Studies in Oxford, Tuebingen and Beijing.
QX: Annegret, looking back on your path of life, apparently, “China” has been a leitmotif for you. How come?
Annegret: I have always been interested in exploring different cultures and already as a teenager I went out to explore the world. During a holiday to China, I became intrigued by the mix of the modern and traditional culture and that it was so different from what I had seen before. Hence, I decided to study Mandarin – and could not let go of it ever since.
QX: What topics did you mainly work on during your time in China?
Annegret: I went to China many times, first as a student, then as an intern and most recently to work for an international consulting company. Given my previous experience in the energy industry, my work there was focused on Chinese and international companies in this sector. This included for instance investment strategies into renewable energy technologies, digitalization of the electricity sector, and CO2 reduction. Against the backdrop of the 2015 Paris Agreement, it was very exciting to work on these topics in China.
QX: How has life in China coined you personally?
Annegret: The pace of change in China is mind-blowing. You have to be very agile to keep up with it. In addition, learning Mandarin not only taught me persistence, but also gave me a differentiated understanding of how societies can work.
QX: You have been accompanying China and its development for quite some time. In a few lines, where do you see the country heading to?
Annegret: Talking about change: Both the young and old generations are very open to innovation. For instance, in the cities hardly anyone uses cash anymore to pay – it’s all mobile money simply accessible via your cell phone.
What ancient China has been famous for are the four great inventions: papermaking, gunpowder, movable type printing and the compass. So looking at the current pace of innovation, there is definitely more to come!
QX: Last year you moved back to Europe and started your current position as an Associate Expert at the International Trade Center in Geneva, a joint agency of the WTO and UN. What drove that decision?
Annegret: My dream has always been to work for an international organization. What attracted me was the ideal to work for the “greater good” and to make a contribution towards a more sustainable and inclusive world. I truly believe that to achieve these goals, public-private partnerships are crucial, as nothing drives development more than a functioning economy. Hence, working in the public sector with a private sector background has created an interesting mix.
QX: In 2016 ITC celebrated its 50th anniversary, so it has been around for a while now. What’s the idea behind it?
Annegret: Whilst ITC’s founding organizations mainly work on the policy and regulatory level, ITC is a very practical organization. We help small and medium-sized companies from developing and transition economies to become competitive in global markets. For instance, we help to connect smallholder farmers to international buyers, support companies to digitize their offering and participate in international e-commerce, or promote sustainable production methods.
QX: Can you give us a project example you are currently working on?
Annegret: In my current position I am working on a variety of topics. On the one hand, I have supported the set-up of and am now providing workshops in ITC’s Innovation Lab to help unleash the full potential of creativity at ITC - helping the organization stay ahead of the curve.
On the other hand, I am working on a China-Africa Investment Promotion project. Whilst previously Chinese investment was mainly focusing on energy and resources, this project aims to link Chinese private investors with African entrepreneurs to boost local manufacturing, shift to higher productivity activities, and create local jobs.
QX: Transitioning from Beijing to Geneva, have you already become settled again with the European lifestyle? Or is it not that different in the end?
Annegret: Honestly, it could not be more different – whilst both places have their own advantages. Of course I miss my Beijing city life (and food!) as well as the friends that I have made in China over the years.
But then I love spending time in nature: at and in the lake in Geneva or climbing the high peaks of the Swiss Alps. On top, brushing up my French is a new and welcome challenge.
QX: As always, tell us about your personal Vanity!
Annegret: Silk fabric. I love making my own clothes and I never get past a fabric market without buying their best silk.
Thank you for the talk!