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Africans show interest in Russia’s technology

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Acknowledging the huge untapped potentials in Russia’s industrial technology and emerging economic opportunities, a number of African countries participated in the International Industrial Trade Fair INNOPROM – 2017 held from 10 till 13 July in Yekaterinburg, a city in the Urals region about 1,700 kilometers from Moscow.

INNOPROM – 2017 has been described as a unique communication platform showcasing latest developments of industrial technologies and facilitating discussions of relevant issues on development of the sector in Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the official opening ceremony of the industrial fair which indicated explicitly that Russia is open to long-term, mutually beneficial industrial and technology partnership.

“It is very important to see the actual efficiency of these technologies and their practical results, such as better labor conditions, increased productivity, reduced costs, contemporary levels of management, and, finally, increased competitiveness of Russian products, goods, and services,” Putin said.

For the past few years, Russia has created comfortable possible conditions for investing in the Russian economy and industry – first and foremost, in infrastructure projects and high value-added manufacturing.

The industrial exhibition is an annual gathering of key Russian and international manufacturers, government officials, businessmen, representatives of academic and diplomatic community. BRICS member states (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) were prominently represented.

According media reports, this year’s industrial event brought together over 640 industrial companies from 20 countries. The main theme was “Smart Manufacturing: Global Approach” within which many topical issues were discussed and special regional forum such as s session on Russia-Africa, were held.

The Russia Africa session attracted delegates from Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Namibia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The South African Embassy in the Russian Federation together with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) mounted a stand, and SA Ambassador Simbada Thusi lead a delegation to the fair. A small delegation from Ghana including Chris Kisiedu (Director) and Bernard Blewu (Chief Operating Officer) from Centroid Supplies and Logistics Limited, and Evans Kojo Danyo (Chief Executive Officer) of EVANMIKE Multi purpose company Ltd were at the INNOPROM.

For most Africans, who were at Yekaterinburg in July, visited to experience for themselves the beautiful, fascinating and well-touching city, the venue for show-casing Russia’s science and technology. Some of them, however, told me in remarks that Africans seeking business partnership and other businesses have to travel and participate often in these first class international exhibitions and conferences hosted in Russia.

“We highly value this as it offers us an insight into the scientific and landmarked achievements, and it is necessary to study emerging business opportunities. It’s very promising and if only African countries intensify the economic cooperation, more could be achieved with Russia,” James Thedelmiye, an African participant said.

In the opinion of Zimbabwean Ambassador Mike Sango, who also visited the fair, “INNOPROM has of recent included the Russia-Africa Forum on its sidelines. This Forum provides an opportunity for interaction between African and Russian business where they can establish contacts with a view to creating partnerships and investment in Africa. Apart from this interactive objective, INNOPROM exposes Africa to latest innovations in production technologies on display from global innovators. This helps them keep pace with these developments which if adopted can make their own products competitive on the global markets.”

As a further indication of optimism, Ambassador Sango explains that African ambassadors in the Russian Federation have been and continue to educate and inform their businesses that the west no longer holds monopoly over technological innovation and development as has been the perception in years past. For this reason, each year, the number of African governments and businesses attending the exhibition from Africa has been growing.

Zimbabwe has been to INNOPROM for the second year running. In 2016, the Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce, Chiratidzo Iris Mabuwa, was at INNOPROM. This year the Minister, Mike Bimha, himself came leading a delegation from the energy sector, the mining sector, trade promotion and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe hopes to bring more business people at the next episode.

It was a wonderful experience for Rex Essenowo, Chairman of NIDO Russia, who explained the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview that INNOPROM – 2017 proved that modernization is setting pace in Russia. Most of the technologies displayed are innovation and very suitable for Africa. As a global non-profit association, NIDO is the Nigerians in the Diaspora Organization.

“There are a lot more new Russian technologies with more emphasis on cost effectiveness, energy and ecological friendly which can also enable African countries develop her resources more effectively. It’s always good to reach out and Russia remains a powerful link to providing soft landing solutions in heavy industries and other important economic development areas,” he told GNA.

Essenowo further that “We need to create new opportunities for African government and businesses to access and explore the Russian and the CIS markets. To this regard, we have to raise the level of awareness and expand our reach, so that African people can reap the dividend of international cooperation with creation of new jobs and solving technological problems, while developing our economies.

For most African participants, the exhibition proves very useful for networking and discussing business and further serves as an important study platform useful for deepening knowledge about the modern industrial production and achievements already recorded in the economy and to seek possible ways of transacting business in Russia.

The B2B Export Group of Companies, the organizer of the African session that noted on its website that the VII Russian-African session held within the fair is “in the spirit of global integration the forum engages political, business, academy and other important thought leaders in collaborative efforts to shape trade and industry development between Russia and the African continent.”

It pledges further to work together to define challenges, solutions and actions, always keeping in mind the best interests of our people and their needs for safety and prosperity.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Digital Spending Increases, Greater Focus on Digital Strategy Is a Top Need for State Auditors

MD Staff

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photo: Deloitte

The 2018 Digital Government Transformation Survey released today by Deloitte and the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers (NASACT) reveals how its members are investing more in digital transformation, yet only 35 percent of respondents are satisfied with their organizations’ responses to digital trends. This is a drop of 29 points from the 2015 survey. Additionally, less than half of respondents stated they have a clear and coherent digital strategy.

“The survey reveals an eagerness for state financial professionals to use digital technologies on par with the private sector,” said R. Kinney Poynter, executive director, NASACT. “Our members want to take advantage of emerging technologies, but clearly impediments to being more digital remain.”

“One clear takeaway from the survey is that those NASACT member organizations who have a clear and coherent digital strategy consider their digital capabilities to be comparable or ahead of the private sector,” said Christina Dorfhuber, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and a government and public services ERP strategy leader. “We also saw how respondents with a digital strategy were more satisfied with their organization’s reaction to new trends and more confident in their organization’s readiness to respond to new ones, demonstrating that much of an organization’s digital prowess hinges on that strategy.”

“The expectations for digital strategies and opportunities are clearly increasing for all organizations, including governments,” said Clark Partridge, state comptroller of Arizona and president-elect of NASACT. “As we expand our understanding, we can appropriately identify opportunities to leverage technology to re-engineer our processes and enhance the capacity of our workforce. The result is a greater capacity to successfully accomplish the work of government and deliver quality outcomes to citizens.”

The survey reveals three key themes:

A digital strategy is important. Most, but not all, respondents reported having a digital strategy and believe that there is more that needs to be done. Those with a digital strategy were more satisfied with their organization’s reaction to digital trends (54 percent versus 18 percent of respondents) and confident in the understanding of digital trends by their leaders (87 percent versus 30 percent).

Investing in automation and cognitive technologies. With more funding, organizations must determine which technologies to invest in. Currently only 11 percent of organizations reported a broad use of automation and cognitive technologies. Increasing these numbers will be critical as more audits are likely to be augmented by these technologies in the coming year.

Addressing the digital skills gap. While 65 percent of organizations indicated that training staff would be a key focus, 39 percent of organizations also noted they would augment staff with consultants and contractors. Additionally, only 48 percent of respondents believe their employees have sufficient skills to execute a digital strategy while 43 percent believe that employees have the skills for automation and cognitive technologies.

The report examined the need for more training and a skilled workforce in these new emerging technologies to eliminate the skills gap.

“Emerging technologies can have tremendous benefits for state organizations, but preparation is needed,” said William D. Eggers, executive director for Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights. “Public finance leaders looking to capitalize on emerging technologies should devise a roadmap for integrating these technologies into their day-to-day operations.”

The previous survey was conducted in 2015. This year’s survey includes feedback from more than 70 NASACT member offices. A more detailed analysis of the survey can be found here, including data specific to auditors, comptrollers and treasurers.

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AI Creating Big Winners in Finance but Others Stand to Lose as Risks Emerge

MD Staff

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Artificial intelligence is changing the finance industry, with some early big movers monetizing their investments in back-office AI applications. But as this trend widens, new systemic and security risks may be introduced in the financial system. These are some of the findings of a new World Economic Forum report, The New Physics of Financial Services – How artificial intelligence is transforming the financial ecosystem, prepared in collaboration with Deloitte.

“Big financial institutions are taking a page from the AI book of big tech: They develop AI applications and make them available as a ‘service’ through the cloud,” said Jesse McWaters, AI in Financial Services Project Lead at the World Economic Forum. “It is turning what were historically cost centres into new source of profitability, and creating a virtuous cycle of self-learning that accelerates their lead.”

The report points to Ping An’s One Connect and BlackRock’s Aladdin platform as prime examples of the trend:

In China, One Connect sells AI-powered services ranging from credit adjudication to instantaneous insurance claims settlement to hundreds of small and mid-sized Chinese banks and is expected to fetch up to $3 billion at public sale

In the US, Aladdin provides sophisticated risk analytics and comprehensive portfolio management tools that leverage machine learning to a range of asset managers and insurers and is expected by BlackRock’s Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink to provide 30% of the firm’s revenues by 2022

The report, which draws on interviews and workshops with hundreds of financial and technology experts, observes that the “size of the prize” driven through these as-a-service offerings and other applications of AI is much larger than that of the more narrow applications that drive efficiency through the automation of human effort.

The report predicts that AI will also accelerate the “race to the bottom” for many products, as price becomes highly comparable via aggregation services and third-party services commoditize back office excellence.

“AI’s role in financial services is often seen narrowly as driving efficiency through the automation of human effort, but much greater value can be driven through more innovative and transformative applications,” said Rob Galaski, Deloitte Global Banking & Capital Markets Consulting Leader.

As such, financial institutions are seeking to build new sources of differentiation on the back of AI, such as on-the-fly product customization and free advisory services built into products.

Canadian lender RBC is providing its automotive dealership clients with sophisticated demand-forecasting tools that complement the existing credit products it provides to these firms

IEX, a young New York-based stock exchange, is exploring the use of machine learning in creating new order types that protect trades from execution during unstable, potentially adverse conditions

The net result for customers will be “self-driving finance” – a customer experience where an individual’s or firm’s finances are effectively running themselves, engaging the client only to act as a trusted adviser on decisions of importance.

“A small business won’t go to a bank for a revolving line of credit,” said Bob Contri, Deloitte Global Financial Services Leader. “It will seek out a liquidity solution that anticipates how their need for growth capital will evolve and provides customized products to meet those needs,” he said.

But the expanding presence of AI in finance doesn’t come without tensions and risks.

First, financial institutions will be drawn closer to big tech since cloud computing is central to most AI strategies. But there is a chance that most of the benefits will escape them.

Second, the report warns that AI will raise new challenges for the financial ecosystem, particularly around regulation. The divergent path being taken by regulators around the world towards customer data could create a new form a regulatory arbitrage, project participants said.

Finally, the report points to systemic and security risks from creating a more networked finance system, where a few AI databases contain most clients’ information.

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Your new digital rights across Europe during summer holidays

MD Staff

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This summer, European citizens will enjoy more digital rights than ever before. Following the end of roaming charges across the European Union last year, holidaymakers can now travel with their online TV, film, sports, music or e-book subscriptions at no extra cost. In addition, everyone across Europe can enjoy world-class data protection rules that ensure all Europeans have better control over their personal data.

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market said: “Europeans are already starting to feel the benefits of the Digital Single Market. This summer you will be able to bring your favourite TV programmes and sports matches with you wherever you travel in the EU. By the end of this year, you will also be able to buy festival tickets or rent cars online from all over the EU without being geo-blocked or re-routed.”

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality added: “The digital world offers tremendous opportunities, but also challenges; for example, our personal data is a useful asset for many companies. With the modern data protection rules we have put in place, Europeans have gained control over their data whenever they shop, book their holidays online or just surf the internet.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society said: “We are improving the daily life of our citizens, be it end of roaming charges or safer online environment. By completing all our digital initiatives we will bring even more positive change to consumers and businesses alike.

Digital rights already in daily use

Since June 2017, people have been able use their mobile phones while travelling in the EU just like they would at home, without paying extra charges. Since the EU abolished roaming charges, more than five times the amount of data has been consumed and almost two and a half times more phone calls have been made in the EU and the European Economic Area.

Since April 2018, consumers can access online content services they have subscribed to in their home country also when travelling across the EU, including among other films, series and sports broadcasts (see examples in factsheet).

Under the new data protection rules which have been in place across the EU since 25 May 2018, Europeans can safely transfer personal data between service providers such as the cloud or email; everyone now has the right to know if their data has been leaked or hacked, or how their personal data is being collected. Furthermore, with the ‘right to be forgotten’, personal data has to be deleted upon request, if there are no legitimate reasons for a company to keep it.

Finally, with the net neutrality rules applying since spring 2016, every European has access to open internet, guaranteeing their freedom without discrimination when choosing content, applications, services and information of their choice.

Coming soon

With some digital rights already in place, there is more to come in the upcoming months. From September, Europeans will have increasingly the right to use their national electronic identification (eID) across the whole EU to access public services.

As of December, everyone will benefit from the free flow of non-personal data, as they will have access to better and more competitive data storage and processing services in the EU, thus complementing the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. Entrepreneurs meanwhile will have the right to decide where in the EU they store and process all types of data.

As of 3 December, Europeans will be able to shop online without unjustified discrimination wherever they are in the EU. They will not have to worry about a website blocking or re-routing them just because they – or their credit card – come from a different country.

As of next year, citizens will be able to compare parcel delivery costs more easily and benefit from more affordable prices for cross-border parcel delivery.

Agreed rules on value added tax for e-commerce will allow entrepreneurs to take care of their cross-border VAT needs in one online portal and in their own language.

With the recently agreed European Electronic Communications Code, Europeans will have the right to switch internet services and telecoms providers in a simpler way. They will also have the right to receive public alerts on mobile phones in case of an emergency. The new rules will also guarantee a better and more affordable connectivity across the EU.

With the updated rules for audiovisual media, Europeans will have the right to a safe online environment that protects them from incitement to violence, hatred, terrorism, child pornography, racism and xenophobia.

Background

The Digital Single Market strategy was proposed by the Commission in May 2015 to make the EU’s single market fit for the digital age – tearing down regulatory walls and moving from 28 national markets to a single one. This has the potential to contribute €415 billion per year to our economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Three years later, the strategy is well on its way: 17 legislative proposals have been agreed on, while 12 proposals are still on the table. There is a strong need to complete our regulatory framework for creating the Digital Single Market. Thanks to this the value of Europe’s data economy has the potential to top €700 billion by 2020, representing 4% of the EU’s economy.

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