[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] H [/yt_dropcap]istorically speaking, the promotion of intelligence culture in France has been required to clash with both a problematical and controversial linguistic orientation and a much deeper and more influential attitude: France’s inability or unwillingness to reason in terms of power, and therefore take a position on economic warfare one way or another.
This reticence may be explained by the fact that on more than one occasion in its relatively recent past France has had to ally with its enemy, in this way stripping the word “patriotism” of its meaning. Every time a group committed to the conquest of power allied with the enemy, the French lost faith in patriotic ideals. This happened with the succession of Louis XVIII after Napoleon in 1815, with the support given to Bismarck against the Commune Uprising in 1870, and with the collaboration with Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Also the Colonial Wars and the Cold War contributed to creating a certain disillusionment with patriotism, while the concept of power came to be considered purely as an act of domination at the same time. In any case, not betraying the ideals that lie at the basis of the history of the French Republic – from those underlying the French Revolution of 1789 to those of the Nazi-Fascist Resistance of 1945 (these latter inspired by an economic system of Keynesian inspiration), and not forgetting the spirit and dedication of men who, like General De Gaulle, interpreted national power as autonomy while providing prospects for the economy as well – means empowering a nation that is both strategic and a partner to the nation’s most vital parts at the same time. This is what the experts and supporters of business intelligence in France have been trying to accomplish for the last forty years.
The ‘70s: reticence and defensive action
It is not easy to determine the real date of birth of the tradition of French economic warfare. Even if today it might be ranked among the most prominent on the European continent, in fact, the negative connotations attributed by French culture to intelligence operations, which are unjustly associated with spying, the violation of privacy, and deceitful campaigns, conditioned it and limited its development for a long time. The comparison with the public information policies – defined as a “body of laws, regulations, directives, interpretations and sentences of law that direct and orient the information lifecycle, [which] includes the planning and creation, production, collection, distribution, and disclosure of information” – enacted by the United States government after the Second World War undoubtedly provided an important incentive for French public authorities, which towards the end of the ‘70s began to understand the need to fill the gap that risked seriously penalizing France in terms of national (political) independence and strategic autonomy (in the economic field). It would take more than a decade, however, in order for the imperative of competitiveness in global markets, necessary at corporate level, to be fully comprehended also by the public administration and to take form in an evident expansion of the range of action of government intervention. If up until that moment the management of information throughout its entire lifecycle had been finalized exclusively for the internal purposes of the various institutions, starting from the end of the ‘80s it began assuming central importance in defining the government’s economic policy and creating a fundamental “alliance” between the public and private sectors.
The first to realize the importance of the advantage held by the United States in the management of information for social and economic development, around the end of the 70s, were Serge Cacaly, on one hand, and Simon Nora and Alain Minc, on the other. The former, an information and communication science researcher, published two studies in 1977. One, emblematically entitled Le révolution documentaire aux États-Unis, emphasized the importance of recognizing information as the driving force behind progress as closely linked to extraordinary developments in computer science and its increasing advances in qualitatively and quantitatively analyzing documents on the other side of the Atlantic. Information, even if still masked by the skirmishes of the Cold War that preceded military and space research, was becoming the one most important sector on which world supremacy could be based.
In the wake of these studies, in 1978 the high functionary Nora and the younger political advisor Minc presented the President of the French Republic with the report entitled L’informatisation de la société, which for the first time, together with the acknowledgement of the United States’ ambition for world supremacy in science and technology based on information management, revealed the French fear of such domination and its potential impact on society and the control of power. It is symptomatic that this attitude transpires from a document of political orientation and here lies the origin of the French government action to stimulate the activities of collecting, processing, and distributing information. Nora and Minc, in fact, repeatedly emphasized the government’s role as the holder of a power of influence derived directly from the social contract and national unity based on guarantees, a power that must be applied also to the new technologies and the control of the same. Public intervention in the information field is therefore not only fundamental but even necessary for society in order to avoid the risk of domination concretely posed by US supremacy in the field of information. The words that the two authors used to express this concept are strong indeed: “[…] it is the entire future of the French-speaking world and the identity of France that is being placed at risk” . On the other hand, these considerations were supported by constant reference to real data: the number of computers imported (more than 80% of the entire fleet of French information technology equipment was produced by the USA), but above all the control of the reference databases (seven out of eleven databases controlled by the United States) . This latter element, in particular, is crucially important as databases are essential in economic, technical, scientific, and academic activities, because they are sites of conservation of information that can be accessed only under determined conditions and enable research also from far away. Real power does not come from merely knowing data and information but controlling it, with the possibility to manipulate and decide who else can do this as well. The fact that such power was left nearly exclusively in the hands of foreign powers was therefore deemed a highly alarming loss of sovereignty by Nora and Minc. Hence, these two authors proposed that the government take action and develop a vigorous policy in supporting research, forming a national industry in the information field, and developing telecommunications infrastructure, stimulating these activities from both the juridical and financial points of view.
Analyzing the government’s real situation in the moment that these proposals were made, or in other words, which public institutions were effectively involved in managing information, a fairly varied panorama is revealed. First of all, we see the INSEE (National Statistics and Economic Studies Institute), the nearly exclusive producer and distributor of statistical and economic data and the direct heir to a concept that stood at the origin of the modern state itself, when back in the 17th century, “statistics”, in other words “whatever regards the state”, began supplying an indispensible tool for the exercise of government. As regards instead the management of information on the international situation, every single government department handles the task by itself: the Defense Ministry’s Evaluation and Forecast Center, the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Analysis and Forecast Center, the Ministry of Industry’s Observatory on Industrial Strategy, the General Commission on the Plan, International Information and Forecast Study Center, and the Ministry of the Economy’s Forecast Directorate. In any case, this picture only confirms what had already been confirmed above: a similar structure was destined exclusively to responding to the needs for information and analysis inside the administration. The comparison with the United States, where the distribution of the information collected by public and private organisms working in the sector in favor of the nation’s economic operators was a well-consolidated practice instead, and economic crises such as the oil crisis of the ‘70s would emphasize the need for imperative of competitiveness that the French government would no longer be able to ignore and that would bring it to modify its structures and methods of action in the information field. Information policy, which was still uncertain , consisted of a system that tended to privilege defensive actions more often than offensive actions, even if performed in the logic of national independence and strategic autonomy. The imperative need for competitiveness clearly revealed all the limits of an approach such as this one.
The ‘80s: the first change
The first attempts at a change of direction in government action were made in the ’80s in the system of aids given to companies: instead of interventions that privileged direct subsidies, a system of indirect aid based more on supporting innovation was adopted. Furthermore, whereas previously government aid was concentrated on the larger industrial groups, the new system was characterized by the shifting of importance to small-and-medium sized companies. These new methods of government intervention associated with the introduction in France of new business strategy tools destined to anticipate the changes in the environments finally succeeded in launching the diffusion of information culture, particularly in regard to scientific and technical information, which in the time of a decade would lead to the effective adoption of a business intelligence policy.
The French Ministry’s Evaluation and Forecast Center may be considered the party most responsible for this new partnership between the government and the nation’s businesses and the important stimulus given to information culture. Envisioned at the start of the 80s by the current Minister of Technology and Research on the model of the above-mentioned Defense Ministry’s Evaluation and Forecast Center and initially directed by Thierry Gaudin and Marcel Bayen, the CPE was dedicated to evaluating research, industrial strategies, and forecasts but above all to so-called “technological monitoring”. This term was rendered popular by Jacques Morin, a technology transfer consultant, to indicate a company function in support of real business activities that represented “[…] the testimony of the determination to supervise the technological business environment for strategic purposes and to identify the threats which – if intelligently anticipated – might even be transformed into opportunities for innovation. It also implies that an internal system of appropriate information exists for the exploitation of the results” .
Comparison with the United States, but also with Japan, where the culture of adapting company behavior to changes imposed from the outside is an integral part of the managerial mentality, continued to be in France’s disfavor. The nation’s delay was once again made clear, especially in regard to its scarce use of databases, which were considered merely as archives and not as active instruments of the monitoring function. Hope arose for the assignment of such function to highly specialized managers capable of developing a strategy, at the very least, as well as substantial information science development in the field of documentation. The environmental monitoring approach had already been anticipated by Humbert Lesca . It consisted in a systematic approach to the company’s openness to the regional, national, and international environment with the explicit intention, from the organization’s bottom to its top, of not being caught off guard by change and evolving along with it or even before it in the implementation of a structured device finalized to receiving the signals coming from outside. The monitoring, according to the definition provided by Lesca, would therefore be a “system by means of which the company scrutinizes its own ‘external’ surroundings and anticipates the changes, as far as possible, [transforming] the raw information it has on its environment into a form of business intelligence serving its own future.”
The Evaluation and Forecast Center was therefore actively committed to monitoring activity at national level and gathering information on the international scene regarding questions of scientific and technical interest, technological innovation, and the multinationals. The beneficiaries of this activity were, above all, a number of sectors deemed strategic, such as materials development, information technology, and biotechnologies. In addition to the development of these skills by itself and directly at the service of the Ministry of Research and Technology, this Center was also involved in distributing its studies and analyses in the private sector, especially to the advantage of consulting companies and other public actors. Its objective was to achieve independence, once again, from the US power that appeared threatening also in the context of strategic studies and monitoring operations, thanks to the spread and activities of its own consultancy companies. The institution halfway through the ’80s of the Aditech Association, the nerve center in the development of business intelligence in France, was the work of the Center’s directors for the purpose of facilitating this activity of external diffusion and the signing of contracts with companies in the private sector.
The famous Study No. 100 written by two experts, Bernard Nadoulek and Christian Harbulot, who made important contributions to the business intelligence in France, was published as part of Aditech research activity. The former was a professor of the French Karate Federation who had begun teaching martial arts at Club Montagne Sainte Geneviève in 1971, in addition to being acclaimed for publishing articles and books about the struggle against power and strategy (a subject on which he became a consultant in 1986), such as Du karaté à l’autonomie politique or Désobéissance civile et luttes autonomes. The latter was a close associate of his, a former Maoist militant and member of the same karate club with whom he signed articles entitled Le Conflit gradué and Affrontements de théâtre et verrou panaméricain. In particular, Christian Harbulot, who would fill the role of aggregating the three prevailing models of intelligence at the time – military, diplomatic, and police – establishing the unity of economic patriotism and society’s revolution through the notion of economic warfare for which business intelligence would serve as a vector. On the other hand, the term “economic warfare” is an expression that was often and willingly used also outside the restricted specialized field of business intelligence in those years, particularly by politicians. One example, Lettre à tous les français written by President François Mitterrand in 1988, even contains a section entitled “Le guerre économique mondiale” in which he emphasized the ferocity of competition between companies in the international market.
It is therefore L’intelligence stratégique that marked the real change of pace, at least in intentions, in the context of business intelligence in France, given that the instruments proposed by its two authors referred entirely to military strategy and ideological warfare. A change in terminology was suggested in order for the strategic actions of the companies and the state to be able to finally shift from a defensive position to authentic offensive action thanks to a new approach to competition based on the study of the dynamics of competitive behavior upon which to establish principles of action for company managers. Practically speaking, this study provided a key to interpretation and a functional method for the development of business strategy devised around three matrices directly inspired by combat techniques . The latter were: direct action on the situation and relationships of force, short-term business plan strategy; indirect action on the system, the protagonists, and relations, mid-term strategy that acts on the scenario in which the company seeks partnerships and alliances but also diversification in regard to competitors; taking anticipatory action on the context, on the rules of the game, and on the forces, and long-term strategy that is merely the business plan.
The ‘90s: the definitive consecration
The second half of the ‘80s had already given significant propulsion to the development of business intelligence in France thanks to the re-launching of a national policy in favor of the aforementioned scientific and technical information, which was further increased by the activity of its leading competitor nations: the United States and Japan. It was, however, the radical change of the international scenario , with the fall of communism, the end of the Cold War and the dynamics of the face-off between the two power blocks that had characterized the international – also economic – relations of the past forty years and the consequent dominance of the mechanics of globalization with its questioning of the autonomy and power of the national state, that led to the definitive consecration of business intelligence in France. The Martre Report, drafted by Philippe Baumard, Philippe Clerc and Christian Harbulot, among others, was the milestone. Published in February 1994, the report from the General Commission on the Plan defined business intelligence as follows: “the aggregate of the coordinated actions of research, processing, and distribution of information useful to economic operators for the purpose of capitalizing on the same. These various actions are conducted legally with all the guarantees of protection necessary for the conservation of the nation’s business heritage, in the best conditions of quality, time, and cost. Useful information is deemed that which requires various decision-making levels of in the company and the community for the development and coherent implementation of the strategy and tactics necessary to achieve determined objectives with the purpose of improving their positions in the context of the surrounding competition […]. The notion of business intelligence implies transcending the single actions designated with the terms of documentation, monitoring […], and the defense of the nation’s competitive heritage and influence […]” . In other words, business intelligence was defined as the chain of operations that range from the collection of useful information from open sources to the transmission of material to the governmental decision-makers assigned to the formulation of strategies for national defense and the reinforcement of the nation as a system, actively involving the private sector. Before presenting the tangible processes to be marshaled by the protagonists of business intelligence in France (the state, banks, companies, and other local agencies), the report summarized a number of previous studies that made comparisons with the business intelligence systems of other nations considered as models and that should inspire in certain ways the future French development in this sense. The United Kingdom and Sweden represented the two precursor nations. The former was the home of intelligence also from the lexical point of view, and there it is immediately understandable and its integration in any system political decision-making is natural. The latter, instead, was strong on the basis of a collective effort at national level and favored by its cultural homogeneity, for the construction of strategic information engineering in which public (university) and private (companies) institutions work together.
As regards Germany, Japan, and the United States, while the institution in the modern sense of business intelligence in the first two nations was traced back to the ‘30s and the presentation of the same reflected the content in large measure of the two works cited in the footnote, in the latter the more recent developments after the fall of communism and fervently desired by the Clinton administration were emphasized, and fervently desired by the Clinton administration, which by that point had made such an investment in economic security as to create an organization dedicated expressly to the purpose, the National Economic Council. France now has nothing to envy to these nations in terms of business intelligence, which in its own way benefits from a certain tradition and history. What has been lacking, however, is the passage to a collective and national information system. This has been hindered primarily by two factors mentioned previously but clearly and incontrovertibly illustrated in the report: firstly, the barrier existing between the administration and the companies, and secondly, a certain passivity in the actions of these latter, which were too often limited to technological monitoring in a defensive and protective sense.
The vocabulary adopted by the authors of the report addresses this second point in a decisive way. Based largely on the works of Christian Harbulot, the use of terms such as “offensive action”, “competitive aggression”, and “power relations”, indicates the hoped for and necessary evolution in the context of French business intelligence while shunning the use of the term “renseignement” due to its negative connotation that nearly always evokes dirty police practices. It is however restricted by the use of the concept of monitoring, which evokes an approach that is insufficiently dynamic that for as much as it is indispensible should also be supplemented by offensive actions in the field. As regards an action intended to overcome the limit represented by the first point, the authors themselves contributed to the construction of business intelligence and the formulation of these new elements of language and disclosed them to the public. One important example is a serious discussion dedicated to the theme “Business intelligence: information at the service of competitiveness” organized in Parliament in June, 1994, by ADIT with the presence of various representatives of the group of the General Commission on the Plan responsible for the drafting of the Martre Report, including Henri Martre himself, Jacques Villain, François Jakobiak, and Bruno Martinet .
A fundamental role was also played by the work begun at the end of 1994 by Philippe Caduc at ADIT and Rémy Pautrat at the SGDN (National Defense Secretary General) with the idea of transforming business intelligence into an object of public intervention. Pautrat, in particular, a former director of the Directorate of Territorial Monitoring and Prefect, attempted to effectively implement his vision of an administration at the service of the companies, given that his objective to create a National coordination structure was inspired by the model of operation of the United States National Economic Council. In the opinion of Pautrat, the efficiency of the state as the producer of data, analyses, and strategies depends on the depth of its awareness of the needs of its industries. For such purpose, together with the ADIT Director, he drafted an action plan composed of ten priority actions, ten new proposals to be added to the four made by the General Commission on the Plan , taking into consideration the international scenario and the development of Internet with greater awareness. In addition to re-appropriating a national approach that for various reasons had been neglected, the other actions proposed by the two experts regarded education and training. These included the institution of organizations ad hoc; the already repeatedly invoked creation of national databases to be marshaled against those managed by competitor nations in order to provide French companies with real knowledge of the sectors in which they operate and information on their competitiveness in foreign markets; and the development of skill centers specialized in Internet technologies, in light of its growing importance. They also included the presence of France in the international moments of standardization in this field, with a similar presence through key roles at the most important international organizations and two research efforts – one that recognized the sources available and their methods of diffusion in the United States and Japan, the other a list of foreign experts in the subject who had lived in France – both innovative and strategic in the sense of possibly anticipating the moves of competitor nations, and consequently, offensive and not merely defensive actions. The coordination of this action plan was entrusted to the CCSE (Committee for Economic Security and Competitiveness), an inter-ministerial structure open to qualified external experts so fervently desired by Pautrat and set up with an agreement signed on February 1st, 1995.
It is above all in the world of education and training, a fundamental field of action indicated in both the Martre Report and the CCSE action plan that concrete developments were made in the second half of the 90s. In order to respond to the new need for specialists capable of integrating business intelligence into company administration processes, thus enabling the challenges posed by global competition and the information society to be faced as protagonists, following a period of support provided from training centers more specialized in the organization of seminars, conferences, and specialization courses, as of 1995 many faculties of economy and commerce and polytechnic schools began providing specialization courses in “business intelligence” and graduate courses in Business Economics and Company Administration. One example is the CESD (Strategic Defense Studies Center) instituted at the University of Marne-la-Vallée for the purpose of promoting the study and research in business intelligence and creating a crucible of ideas regarding defense and security in modern society.
This process led to the establishment of a School of Economic Warfare at the Higher School of Applied Business Sciences in Paris by Christian Harbulot and the former director of EIREL (the Inter-force School of Intelligence and Linguistic Studies) in Strasburg, general Jean Pichot-Duclos, in 1997. For Harbulot, the creation of this school filled two specific needs: the study in greater detail and depth of the dynamics underlying the relationships between economic forces, and the civil applications of information warfare, given that the latter notion was absent from the strategic planning of the companies, administrations and local authorities. The people trained by this school, approximately seven-hundred students since its creation, would become “experts in the management of information and power relations”. Parallel to this development in the educational world and as a direct consequence of the same, publications and research on the subject have increased in the last twenty years. In the world of publication, two aspects were manifested at nearly the same time: a notable increase in the production of French business intelligence as of 1995, with the creation of ad hoc series by the nation’s leading publishers (such as the “Culture du renseignement” series published since 1999 by Harmattan) and a decline in the publication of books written by foreigners on the subject. From the academic point of view, in the past twenty years many Master’s/PhD degree theses have been dedicated to a topic that is interdisciplinary by nature because it embraces subjects that range from history to political science, from law to economic science, and naturally, to information technology and communication. The analysis of this academic production reveals the progress of what might be considered, and what we have tried to represent with this contribution, as a truly and specifically French school of business intelligence.
Financial Inclusion on the Rise, But Gaps Remain
Financial inclusion is on the rise globally, accelerated by mobile phones and the internet, but gains have been uneven across countries. A new World Bank report on the use of financial services also finds that men remain more likely than women to have an account.
Globally, 69 percent of adults – 3.8 billion people – now have an account at a bank or mobile money provider, a crucial step in escaping poverty. This is up from 62 percent in 2014 and just 51 percent in 2011. From 2014 to 2017, 515 million adults obtained an account, and 1.2 billion have done so since 2011, according to the Global Findex database. While in some economies account ownership has surged, progress has been slower elsewhere, often held back by large disparities between men and women and between the rich and poor. The gap between men and women in developing economies remains unchanged since 2011, at 9 percentage points.
The Global Findex, a wide-ranging data set on how people in 144 economies use financial services, was produced by the World Bank with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and in collaboration with Gallup, Inc.
“In the past few years, we have seen great strides around the world in connecting people to formal financial services,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “Financial inclusion allows people to save for family needs, borrow to support a business, or build a cushion against an emergency. Having access to financial services is a critical step towards reducing both poverty and inequality, and new data on mobile phone ownership and internet access show unprecedented opportunities to use technology to achieve universal financial inclusion.”
There has been a significant increase in the use of mobile phones and the internet to conduct financial transactions. Between 2014 and 2017, this has contributed to a rise in the share of account owners sending or receiving payments digitally from 67 percent to 76 percent globally, and in the developing world from 57 percent to 70 percent.
“The Global Findex shows great progress for financial access–and also great opportunities for policymakers and the private sector to increase usage and to expand inclusion among women, farmers and the poor,” H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, said. “Digital financial services were the key to our recent progress and will continue to be essential as we seek to achieve universal financial inclusion.”
Globally, 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked, yet two-thirds of them own a mobile phone that could help them access financial services. Digital technology could take advantage of existing cash transactions to bring people into the financial system, the report finds. For example, paying government wages, pensions, and social benefits directly into accounts could bring formal financial services to up to 100 million more adults globally, including 95 million in developing economies. There are other opportunities to increase account ownership and use through digital payments: more than 200 million unbanked adults who work in the private sector are paid in cash only, as are more than 200 million who receive agricultural payments.
“We already know a lot about how to make sure women have equal access to financial services that can change their lives,” Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said. “When the government deposits social welfare payments or other subsidies directly into women’s digital bank accounts, the impact is amazing. Women gain decision-making power in their homes, and with more financial tools at their disposal they invest in their families’ prosperity and help drive broad economic growth.”
This edition of the Global Findex database includes updated indicators on access to and use of formal and informal financial services. It adds data on the use of financial technology, including mobile phones and the internet to conduct financial transactions, and is based on over 150,000 interviews around the world. The database has been published every three years since 2011.
“The Global Findex database has become a mainstay of global efforts to promote financial inclusion,” World Bank Development Research Group Director Asli Demirgüç-Kunt said. “The data offer a wealth of information for development practitioners, policymakers and scholars, and are helping track progress toward the World Bank Group goal of Universal Financial Access by 2020 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”
In Sub-Saharan Africa, mobile money drove financial inclusion. While the share of adults with a financial institution account remained flat, the share with a mobile money account almost doubled, to 21 percent. Since 2014, mobile money accounts have spread from East Africa to West Africa and beyond. The region is home to all eight economies where 20 percent or more of adults use only a mobile money account: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Opportunities abound to increase account ownership: up to 95 million unbanked adults in the region receive cash payments for agricultural products, and roughly 65 million save using semiformal methods.
In East Asia and the Pacific, the use of digital financial transactions grew even as account ownership stagnated. Today, 71 percent of adults have an account, little changed from 2014. An exception is Indonesia, where the share with an account rose by 13 percentage points to 49 percent. Gender inequality is low: men and women are equally likely to have an account in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Digital financial transactions have accelerated especially in China, where the share of account owners using the internet to pay bills or buy things more than doubled—to 57 percent. Digital technology could be leveraged to further increase account use: 405 million account owners in the region pay utility bills in cash, though 95 percent of them have a mobile phone.
In Europe and Central Asia, account ownership rose from 58 percent of adults in 2014 to 65 percent in 2017. Digital government payments of wages, pensions, and social benefits helped drive that increase. Among those with an account, 17 percent opened their first one to receive government payments. The share of adults making or receiving digital payments jumped by 14 percentage points to 60 percent. Digitizing all public pension payments could reduce the number of unbanked adults by up to 20 million.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, wide access to digital technology could enable rapid growth in financial technology use: 55 percent of adults own a mobile phone and have access to the internet, 15 percentage points more than the developing world average. Since 2014, the share of adults making or receiving digital payments has risen by about 8 percentage points or more in such economies as Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, and Peru. About 20 percent adults with an account use mobile or the internet to make a transaction through an account in Argentina, Brazil, and Costa Rica. By digitizing cash wage payments, businesses could expand account ownership to up to 30 million unbanked adults—almost 90 percent of whom have a mobile phone.
In the Middle East and North Africa, opportunities to increase financial inclusion are particularly strong among women. Today 52 percent of men but only 35 percent of women have an account, the largest gender gap of any region. Relatively high mobile phone ownership offers an avenue for expanding financial inclusion: among the unbanked, 86 percent of men and 75 percent of women have a mobile phone. Up to 20 million unbanked adults in the region send or receive domestic remittances using cash or an over-the-counter service, including 7 million in the Arab Republic of Egypt.
In South Asia, the share of adults with an account rose by 23 percentage points, to 70 percent. Progress was driven by India, where a government policy to increase financial inclusion through biometric identification pushed the share with an account up to 80 percent, with big gains among women and poorer adults. Excluding India, regional account ownership still rose by 12 percentage points—but men often benefited more than women. In Bangladesh, the share with an account rose by 10 percentage points among women while nearly doubling among men. Regionwide, digitizing payments for agricultural products could reduce the number of unbanked adults by roughly 40 million.
Record high remittances to low- and middle-income countries in 2017
Remittances to low- and middle-income countries rebounded to a record level in 2017 after two consecutive years of decline, says the World Bank’s latest Migration and Development Brief.
The Bank estimates that officially recorded remittances to low- and middle-income countries reached $466 billion in 2017, an increase of 8.5 percent over $429 billion in 2016. Global remittances, which include flows to high-income countries, grew 7 percent to $613 billion in 2017, from $573 billion in 2016.
The stronger than expected recovery in remittances is driven by growth in Europe, the Russian Federation, and the United States. The rebound in remittances, when valued in U.S. dollars, was helped by higher oil prices and a strengthening of the euro and ruble.
Remittance inflows improved in all regions and the top remittance recipients were India with $69 billion, followed by China ($64 billion), the Philippines ($33 billion), Mexico ($31 billion), Nigeria ($22 billion), and Egypt ($20 billion).
Remittances are expected to continue to increase in 2018, by 4.1 percent to reach $485 billion. Global remittances are expected to grow 4.6 percent to $642 billion in 2018.
Longer-term risks to growth of remittances include stricter immigration policies in many remittance-source countries. Also, de-risking by banks and increased regulation of money transfer operators, both aimed at reducing financial crime, continue to constrain the growth of formal remittances.
The global average cost of sending $200 was 7.1 percent in the first quarter of 2018, more than twice as high as the Sustainable Development Goal target of 3 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most expensive place to send money to, where the average cost is 9.4 percent. Major barriers to reducing remittance costs are de-risking by banks and exclusive partnerships between national post office systems and money transfer operators. These factors constrain the introduction of more efficient technologies—such as internet and smartphone apps and the use of cryptocurrency and blockchain—in remittance services.
“While remittances are growing, countries, institutions, and development agencies must continue to chip away at high costs of remitting so that families receive more of the money. Eliminating exclusivity contracts to improve market competition and introducing more efficient technology are high-priority issues,” said Dilip Ratha, lead author of the Brief and head of KNOMAD.
In a special feature, the Brief notes that transit migrants—who only stay temporarily in a transit country—are usually not able to send money home. Migration may help them escape poverty or persecution, but many also become vulnerable to exploitation by human smugglers during the transit. Host communities in the transit countries may find their own poor population competing with the new-comers for low-skill jobs.
“The World Bank Group is mobilizing financial resources and knowledge on migration to support migrants and countries with the aim of reducing poverty and sharing prosperity. Our focus is on addressing the fundamental drivers of migration and supporting the migration-related Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Compact on Migration,” said Michal Rutkowski, Senior Director of the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice at the World Bank.
Multilateral agencies can help by providing data and technical assistance to address adverse drivers of transit migration, while development institutions can provide financing solutions to transit countries. Origin countries need to empower embassies in transit countries to assist transit migrants.
The Global Compact on Migration, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, sets out objectives for safe, orderly and regular migration. Currently under negotiation for final adoption in December 2018, the global compact proposes three International Migration Review Forums in 2022, 2026 and 2030. The World Bank Group and KNOMAD stand ready to contribute to the implementation of the global compact.
Regional Remittance Trends
Remittances to the East Asia and Pacific region rebounded 5.8 percent to $130 billion in 2017, reversing a decline of 2.6 percent in 2016. Remittance to the Philippines grew 5.3 percent in 2017 to $32.6 billion. Flows to Indonesia are expected to grow 1.2 percent to $9 billion in 2017, reversing the previous year’s sharp decline. Stronger growth in transfers from countries in Southeast Asia helped offset lower remittance flows from other regions, particularly the Middle East and the United States. Remittances to the region are expected to grow 3.8 percent to $135 billion in 2018.
Remittances to countries in Europe and Central Asia grew a rapid 21 percent to $48 billion in 2017, after three consecutive years of decline. Main reasons for the growth are stronger growth and employment prospects in the euro area, Russia, and Kazakhstan; the appreciation of the euro and ruble against the U.S. dollar; and the low comparison base after a nearly 22 percent decline in 2015. Remittances in 2018 will moderate as the region’s growth stabilizes, with remittances expected to grow 6 percent to $51 billion.
Remittances flows into Latin America and the Caribbean grew 8.7 percent in 2017, reaching another record high of nearly $80 billion. Main factors for the growth are stronger growth in the United States and tighter enforcement of U.S. immigration rules which may have impacted remittances as migrants remitted savings in anticipation of shorter stays in the United States. Remittance growth was robust in Mexico (6.6 percent), El Salvador (9.7 percent), Colombia (15 percent), Guatemala (14.3), Honduras (12 percent), and Nicaragua (10 percent). In 2018, remittances to the region are expected to grow 4.3 percent to $83 billion, backed by improvement in the U.S. labor market and higher growth prospects for Italy and Spain.
Remittances to the Middle East and North Africa grew 9.3 percent to $53 billion in 2017, driven by strong flows to Egypt, in response to more stable exchange rate expectations. However, the growth outlook is dampened by tighter foreign-worker policies in Saudi Arabia in 2018. Cuts in subsidies, increase in various fees and the introduction of a value added tax in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have increased the cost of living for expatriate workers. In 2018, growth in remittances to the region is expected to moderate to 4.4 percent to $56 billion.
Remittances to South Asia grew a moderate 5.8 percent to $117 billion in 2017. Remittances to many countries appear to be picking up after the slowdown in 2016. Remittances to India picked up sharply by 9.9 percent to $69 billion in 2017, reversing the previous year’s sharp decline. Flows to Pakistan and Bangladesh were both largely flat in 2017, while Sri Lanka saw a small decline (-0.9 percent). In 2018, remittances to the region will likely grow modestly by 2.5 percent to $120 billion.
Remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa accelerated 11.4 percent to $38 billion in 2017, supported by improving economic growth in advanced economies and higher oil prices benefiting regional economies. The largest remittance recipients were Nigeria ($21.9 billion), Senegal ($2.2 billion), and Ghana ($2.2 billion). The region is host to several countries where remittances are a significant share of gross domestic product, including Liberia (27 percent), The Gambia (21 percent), and Comoros (21 percent). In 2018, remittances to the region are expected to grow 7 percent to $41 billion.
A bio-based, reuse economy can feed the world and save the planet
Transforming pineapple skins into product packaging or using potato peels for fuel may sound far-fetched, but such innovations are gaining traction as it becomes clear that an economy based on cultivation and use of biomass can help tackle pollution and climate change, the United Nations agriculture agency said on Friday.
A sustainable bioeconomy, which uses biomass – organic materials, such as plants and animals and fish – as opposed to fossil resources to produce food and non-food goods “is foremost about nature and the people who take care of and produce biomass,” a senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official said at the 2018 Global Bioeconomy Summit in Berlin, Germany.
This means family farmers, forest people and fishers, who are also “holders of important knowledge on how to manage natural resources in a sustainable way,” she explained.
Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General for Climate and Natural Resources, stressed how the agency not only works with member States and other partners across the conventional bioeconomy sectors – agriculture, forestry and fisheries – but also relevant technologies, such as biotechnology and information technology to serve agricultural sectors.
“We must foster internationally-coordinated efforts and ensure multi-stakeholder engagement at local, national and global levels,” she said, noting that this requires measurable targets, means to fulfil them and cost-effective ways to measure progress.
With innovation playing a key role in the bio sector, she said, all the knowledge – traditional and new – should be equally shared and supported.
Feeding the world, saving the planet
Although there is enough food being produced to feed the planet, often due to a lack of access, estimates show that some 815 million people are chronically undernourished.
“Bioeconomy can improve access to food, such as through additional income from the sale of bio-products,” said Ms. Semedo.
She also noted its potential contribution to addressing climate change, albeit with a warning against oversimplification.
“Just because a product is bio does not mean it is good for climate change, it depends on how it is produced, and in particular on much and what type of energy is used in the process,” she explained.
FAO has a longstanding and wide experience in supporting family farmers and other small-scale biomass producers and businesses.
Ms. Semedo, told the summit that with the support of Germany, FAO, together with an international working group, is currently developing sustainable bioeconomy guidelines.
Some 25 cases from around the world have already been identified to serve as successful bioeconomy examples to develop good practices.
A group of women fishers in Zanzibar are producing cosmetics from algae – opening up a whole new market with sought-after niche products; in Malaysia, a Government programme supports community-based bioeconomy; and in Colombia, a community is transforming pineapple skins into biodegradable packaging and honey into royal jelly – and these are just a few examples of a bioeconomy in action.
“Together, let’s harness the development for sustainable bioeconomy for all and leave no one behind,” concluded Ms. Semedo.
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