17th November 2022 10:00 – 11:30

Mediterranean Digital and Innovation Forum

ASCAME, in partnership with other relevant associations in the digital and innovation sectors, will bring together policymakers, entrepreneurs and academics from the Mediterranean region and beyond. The Mediterranean Digital and Innovation Forum will serve as a platform for international and regional companies, start-ups, innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors to display their innovations and inventions, discuss various topics and establish business relationships that ultimately will enrich the economy. In addition, it aims to be the Mediterranean’s largest gathering of innovations and innovators.

The event will attract hundreds of participants to share their knowledge and best practices about the key topics in the Mediterranean innovation and digital world.

With a session on the Mediterranean’s transition to a digital economy and another on entrepreneurship, this forum will explore how we can improve the Mediterranean’s business environment and facilitate access to finance and business support services to boost digitally enabled entrepreneurship.

Introduction

The empowerment of people is essential for any transformation. Digitalisation is shifting limits and will dissolve the still existing separation between blue and white-collar workers. Never before had the digital agenda been so necessary and vital. It is not just an immediate response to the impact of the COVID-19, but it also makes the drive for research and innovation indispensable. The current economy models are out of breath because of the speed in which changes occur. We are in the era of globalisation, climate change, pandemics, digital transformation, collaborative economy, urban concentration and depopulation of the rural world. Numerous changes that governments struggle to regulate. However, they also imply new divergences and polarisations between mechanisms and societies. Therefore, new responses are necessary.

The proliferation of digital technologies in every aspect of the economy has given rise to the digital economy. In the digital economy, most products and services are digitally augmented or based on a digital delivery model. Thus, digitally transformed enterprises drive the value addition in such economies. Global technology analysis firms predict that, by 2022, such digitally transformed products, services and enterprises will account for 65% of global GDP.

While technology has been proliferating throughout our lives for the last few decades, the global health crisis and subsequent restrictions caused by COVID-19 have accelerated our digital evolution, forcing us to adapt to a new way of life – both at work and at play. The pandemic has forced people and businesses to get online and reinvent the way they interact with others, significantly boosting technology adoption and fast-forwarding the economy’s digital transformation.

Digitalisation is a powerful tool to enhance financial inclusion for the poorest. Remote financial services, delivered via banks and microfinance institutions (MFIs), enable more affordable (by reducing transaction costs) and wider (by increasing outreach) access to financial services, particularly for the most vulnerable populations such as women and rural inhabitants.

The Mediterranean’s digital transformation is underway, generating transformational changes across all economic sectors and providing much-needed social upsides. On several market growth parameters for telecommunications, the region has recorded the highest growth rates globally. However, while the growth figures are impressive, a stark digital divide remains.

Key words

Innovation, digital entrepreneurship, MSMEs, start-ups, youth, sustainability, investment, funding, technology, value chain, business support services

Fathallah Sijilmassi

General Director, Commission de l’Union africaine – TBC

Jean-Michel Huet

Partner, BearingPoint – TBC

Chiara Marcati

Partner, McKinsey & Company in the Middle East

Amadou Diawara

President and Founder, Cluster Digital Africa

Mael M’Baye

Regional Manager North Africa, French Public Investment Bank

Joan Planella

Regional Sales Head, Mediterranean & Barcelona Office Managing Director, Oracle

Faris Alami

Founder & CEO, International Strategic Management (ISM)

The Mediterranean region is one of the most digitally connected in the world.  Around 88% of its population is online daily, 94% of people in the region own a smartphone and digital consumption is similarly high in some countries. Nevertheless, the Meridional and Eastern Mediterranean region has only realised 8% of its overall digital potential, compared to 15% in Western Europe and 18% in the US. The region has its challenges, including legacy issues, such as difficulties in registering businesses, job protectionism or low investment in research and development (R&D). For example, the Southern Mediterranean countries generally spend less than 1% of their GDP on R&D, compared to the OECD average spending of 2.5%.

The Mediterranean’s transition to a digital economy not only creates opportunities for economic growth and increased job creation but also forms the basis for recognising human rights, accelerating access to quality basic services, improving government transparency and accountability, and enhancing democracy. Altogether, the adoption of e-government solutions can improve all areas of public and basic service delivery. New technologies, such as artificial intelligence, ledger technologies and the internet of things, will creatively disrupt sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and urban development, which have long suffered poor efficiency and competitiveness.

This session also explores the needs and opportunities for digital investments in the Mediterranean region and their scope for furthering economic development.

Key points for discussion:

      • How can tech change the Mediterranean?
      • How can we support the Mediterranean’s transition to a digital economy, particularly in response to the challenges raised by the COVID-19 crisis and with the aim of building inclusion?
      • How can this support bring long-term economic resilience?
      • How can we develop the potential of the Mediterranean’s digital economy by looking into the sector’s macroeconomic context, technology adoption and financing trends?
      • How can we capitalise the digital economy-driven impact? How can we use it in order to contribute to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and building sustainable economic growth?
      • What are the investment requirements for the Mediterranean’s digital economy?
      • What is their scope for furthering economic development in detail, including considerations on fostering economic resilience?

Innovation and entrepreneurship are generally recognised as powerful social and economic growth engines, as well as necessary conditions for a region’s long-term prosperity and sustainability. The rapidly increasing youth population in the South Mediterranean and Africa represents both an opportunity and a challenge in this respect: while its culture of entrepreneurship is the strongest worldwide, the region lags at the global bottom in innovation. Hence, it is imperative to address not only current gaps in investment targeting entrepreneurs but also the main gaps in local capacities for innovation.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) form the backbone of economies across the globe: they account for most businesses worldwide (about 90%), more than 50% of employment, and are important contributors to job creation and global economic development. However, one of the biggest constraints on their growth is the lack of access to finance: 52% of Mediterranean’s SMEs experienced a funding shortfall in 2019.

The population of the South of the Mediterranean population is young and growing fast, with rapid technology adoption making the region a fertile ground for innovation. If we keep following this trend, the Mediterranean region will account for most of the world’s population growth over the coming decades, and the working age population will grow faster than other age groups, creating opportunities for accelerated economic growth.

Adaptation needs to be considered at all levels in the value chain, to ensure flexibility and a better business environment for digital enterprises of all sizes, including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), start-ups and social enterprises.

Actions must also ensure ecosystem sustainability, addressing all interrelated barriers and needs and improving advisory services to stimulate digital entrepreneurship. The main question, then, remains: how can we improve the business environment and facilitate access to finance and business support services to boost digitally enabled entrepreneurship?

Salvador Illa

Ministry of Health, Government of Spain (Special Guest Speaker)

Enric Mayolas

Consulting Director, World Health Management (Moderator)

Gonzalo Fanjul

Policy Director, Institut Salut Global

Chakib Abouzaid

Secretary General, General Arab Insurance Federation

European Regional Development Fund              A way to make Europe