Hassan Hachem: Internet in Africa is really specific
Europeans and Africans have an interest in jointly achieving the digital transformation of their economies by taking advantage of their respective endogenous characteristics and assets to co-invent a model of responsible and inclusive development. Design thinking at work.
A new economic and societal paradigm
Technological and usage innovations, accompanied by a phenomenon that is both individualistic and community-based, call for a rethinking of the organization of society and the reinvention of a living. together. Shocked by a radical paradigm shift, citizens sometimes feel helpless or helpless in the face of a blank page written before their eyes. No one can pretend to ignore the importance of the effects of the digital transformation on their lives, nor be able to reasonably anticipate the future.
By embracing the movement towards a digitized world, it is necessary to accompany it with ethical measures, territorial continuity, universality of access and to be careful not to allow the emergence of new, even harder inequalities. Although heckled, sometimes 100-year-old companies have lasting and proven qualities that can not simply disappear in the digital age. But one has to take into account that internet giants capture the value created by users and often store the data thus generated across the Atlantic or in East Asia. This raises the question of the economic sovereignty of hundreds of millions of Europeans and Africans in the short, medium and long term.
An ambitious and fair Europe
Indeed, the digital revolution accelerates the rebalancing of forces on a planetary scale in favor of the so-called emerging countries, although emerge. In a world that is less and less American, more multipolar, and a context of economic war that is partly being played out in cyberspace, countries like the United States, Israel, China, India, Russia have understood for a very long time the strategic challenge of technological progress and education to ensure the future of the country and its fellow citizens. An attractive high-tech ecosystem and the preservation of endogenous capacities for innovation and leading creation contribute to the defense of the sovereignty, jobs and identity of the territories.
That is why, without necessarily wanting to counter the American and Chinese supremacy of the Internet, Europe should give itself the means of a real ambition to facilitate the emergence and the development of large endogenous digital platforms, in a fair market.
To defend one's own interests in a global market, the scope of analysis and regulation can not be other than the European level. The Digital Single Market of the European Union will be the spearhead. The protection of companies' economic data and respect for privacy should be better ensured. The defense of European values should also pass through a taxation of wealth created in Europe to participate in the effort of solidarity, social justice. The OECD proposes recommendations to this effect. Similarly, fair remuneration of copyrights on all economic forms should be defended. The one who creates should be more rewarded than the entity that transports the creation to the final consumer.
The construction of a fair and loyal framework would make Europe fit for itself and for European citizens. But this work would only be productive if it could define what the specific characteristics of a European added value in the digital transformation of the planet could be.
European Digital Power
The existence of reinforced European skills in the field of artificial intelligence, or smart cities, is for example a first axis of development of a power strategy to invent. Data management and ethics are a second area of strong hope for Europe. Each person's data has a certain weight and their intangibility for each use increases their value. And since their assembly makes it possible to work in networks, they will define the world of tomorrow. By adopting a very unique position Europe could stand out and change the rules surrounding the ownership of data. The sender who receives the commercial message should be partly a beneficiary of the data it generates. This is not the case today. By respecting privacy and introducing a form of monetization of consumer data, a major European player could perhaps emerge. Europe's place in the world is at stake. Becoming the continent that delivers digital services that respect citizens by protecting data could improve Europe's position.
Learning from African disruptive innovation
"European digital entrepreneurs should also seize the tremendous opportunity for knowledge exchange and learning with Sub-Saharan Africa” advises Hassan Hachem a leading entrepreneur operating across Africa. The Continent is at a crossroads, everything is accelerating in Africa. 10 years after the launch in Kenya of the M-Pesa mobile payment system that disrupted an inegalitarian system of scarcity, Africa is looked at differently. The success of M-Pesa innovation is a global case study that is less popular than Bitcoin whereas it is a really, useful, concrete succces story of virtual currency/payment system”, pinpoints Hassan Hachem. Bitcoin is no real money and just another speculation tool. M-Pesa a daily used by millions and solved a real problem. Africa was the first continent to disrupt banking and currency systems. It allowed financial inclusion and contributed to economic development in a country where less than 7% of Kenyans had a bank account.
The rise of the mobile Internet, e-commerce, the growing use of the sharing economy, the incredible demographic growth, the desertification of the Sahelian band which worries and strengthens the economic flows to the North already intense, are all reasons to urge Europe to work closely with its southern neighbors to co-invent a model of responsible and inclusive development.
To analyze digital innovation in East Africa, I observe that African disruptive innovation capacity sometimes resides more in the use of digital tools than in technology itself. Seriously taken by Silicon Valley, the net giants from across the Atlantic are very active. The internet of tomorrow in Africa may be American, maybe not African. The effervescence of local start-ups, however, seems to see a glimmer of hope to eventually reverse this trend. For Europe to be better regarded by African consumers, investment in innovative African start-ups and SMEs should partially supplant bilateral development aid. Today, sub-Saharan Africa is no longer based on old schemes of aid plans with public money put on the table. A culture of Angel investing emerges. It seeks to attract investment in its businesses, increase performance, profits and give work to its young people.
The remarkable book “L'Afrique des possibles”, the challenges of the emergence of Pierre Jacquemot, published by Karthala is a reference. Neither Afro-optimistic nor Afro-pessimistic, very synthetic, but dense, he tries to show that Africa possesses the genius of hybridization and the mixing of genres. By working jointly European and African could invent the internet and the trades of tomorrow.
Inclusive future in the service of humans
On a path of light to invent, no one can show an optimism or pessimism seriously argued. “But the obvious is that the digital is a fundamental stake of sovereignty for Europe as for Africa which have many assets to emphasize their respective innovation, their creativity” share Hassan Hachem who is both french and lebanese and mainly worked in Africa the last two decades. Africa and Europe have reasonable alternatives to seizing these opportunities without delay. By working hand in hand to create ecosystems that are both open and protective, European and African will have to build the rules of law that will govern the digital world.
New digital uses represent tremendous economic and societal opportunities. It is therefore partly on youth that the duty of not resisting change and inventing an inclusive future in the service of human beings rests. Evolution is inevitable. And in the inevitable process of digital transformation, it is imperative to keep citizens at the heart of the concerns. As the Chairman of Publicis Group, Maurice Levy aptly stated at the Medef University of Digital Science, "robots and artificial intelligence can never replace human emotions, what is more beautiful and more valuable. "