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Innovation and Digitisation

Innovation and digitisation post Covid-19

As we enter a new era in the Escola’s development and begin to work on our new project YEPMED, which aims to ameliorate the labour situation for young people across the Mediterranean, we have caught up with Anwar Zibaoui to share his thoughts on the importance of collaboration and sharing of know how in the era of the 4th industrial revolution, and the digitisation and innovation that come with it. Check out the full article below. 

The YEPMED Project aims to better match the labour market skills needs and dual TVET offer in the Mediterranean Port communities sector in order to contribute to jobs creation and productive economic growth. 

 

Anwar Zibaoui

Anwar Zibaoui, chairman of ACASME and founder of AZ Meda Advisors & Consulting

Twelve years after the world financial crisis sent the economies of the developed and developing world into disarray, we are once again facing an unknown situation. An unprecedented tsunami that has confined millions of people to their homes, shaken the stock markets, forced countless businesses to close, including local markets and restaurants and emptied our streets, paralyzing our economies. Historical precedents tell us that such a situation could significantly alter political and economic systems, reconfigure ideas and theories, and impose radical changes to our lifestyles.

In this case, the unexpected allies have been innovation and digital technology, which helped alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on individuals, businesses and governments. In the midst of the chaos, a new era set in the digital world is emerging, and with it creating new opportunities. Nevertheless the benefits of technology are not equally distributed, as more than 3.6 billion people on the planet still do not have access to the Internet. In the informal economy, teleworking does not exist. For millions of children, access to online education is a remote dream.

It is time to coordinate our reaction to the new challenges, because innovation and digitalisation are here to stay. Their implementation has accelerated exponentially and there is no turning back now. It has changed the way we work, learn, buy or socialise. We must be prepared for the so-called new normality.

Never before has the digital agenda been as necessary and vital as it is now. It is not only an immediate response to the measures taken to combat the virus, but it is also indispensable to research and innovation. The current economic models are breathless because of the speed of change. We are in the era of globalisation, climate change, pandemics, digital transformation, the collaborative economy, urban concentration and the depopulation of the rural world. All of these represent many changes that governments all across the globe are struggling to regulate. However, these also highlight new divergences and polarizations between economies and societies. This is why new responses are needed.

There is no doubt that technological change threatens jobs, but it can also create alternatives. Relations at work, between companies, employees, services, mobility… are evolving. The only key to progress is to improve innovation and education. As in everything else, the future of Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean lies in adapting, sharing experiences and moving forward together.

Following the current model, Mediterranean governments are focusing on job creation rather than on business creation. This is an outdated model that consists of launching massive public employment programmes instead of financing and investing in successful businesses that create jobs. It is clear that economic progress is directly related to training, research and innovation activities, and that there is a correlation between social progress and business activities.

The life cycle of companies should demonstrate to many countries that the secret of eternal youth is constant innovation. Governments need to balance expenditures and invest in tangible infrastructure such as roads, railways or ports. However, they must also invest in intangibles such as education, research and development. R&D is the key driver for building and consolidating a knowledge economy and implementing a culture of creativity in which young people are inspired, transform their ideas, raise their ambitions and pursue their dreams.

Entrepreneurship and the private sector can drive adaptation to technology and innovation, be the vehicle to engage young people and move forward. We must promote a new mental framework, a new attitude, harnessing the energy of young people, and fresh ideas, because these are the ones that bring opportunities. Innovation is a lever for value creation because it transforms the way we do business and has a multiplier effect on the growth of a nation and its companies.

Innovation is the way to growth and survival. It is the model for the promotion of a company or a country. Technology is already here, but by itself it is not the answer. It is a facilitator and accelerator of new ways of being and doing. To be able to create wealth and ensure a future, innovation is not an option, it is a necessity.

The Mediterranean region will have to create hundreds of millions of new jobs over the next three decades. This challenge presents an opportunity for the region to transform its economies and harness the creativity of its large youth population and the disruptive power of technology to create wealth.

Whether we like it or not, production lines will require less and less manpower thanks to more efficient machines, automation and robotics. In addition, the next wave will bring more artificial intelligence, 3D printing and new capabilities that will make additional manual labour redundant. We already know that 8 out of 10 jobs will be lost due to new technologies (not immigration or globalization), that 64% of the jobs that exist today will be automated, and that 66% of the jobs for the next 10 years have not yet been invented.

The transition to the fourth industrial revolution, combined with a crisis of governance, makes it imperative to thoroughly reconsider human capital and adapt education to the labour market in order to achieve prosperity and stability. New digital technologies generate a new competitiveness that, for the moment, does not apply to many Mediterranean countries. For the region, a successful transition would guarantee business competitiveness and be a determining factor for regional industrial consolidation. Doing nothing is a risk of negative impact on its future growth and productivity.

In our region, the most immediate economic challenge is not diversification or new tax regimes, but the creation of productive and sustainable jobs for the youth. At the same time, we must be equipped with the combination of talents and skills that will make industry 4.0 a generator of wealth and social peace. We must be concerned about the level of training of the workforce and its quantitative and qualitative nature. The factors that today allow us to better evaluate it are the development of the digital culture, the skills and the capacity to think creatively.

The region has an enormous human capital waiting to be developed. Education, the promotion of the private sector and an understanding of this technological revolution will be key ingredients for success. This is a complex task that will require a broad social consensus and determined action by governments.

The digital potential is unlimited. This represents an opportunity for the Mediterranean. A large market with rapid growth. A hub of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Young people have the resources to find solutions to pressing problems.

Leaving the Mediterranean behind in the digital transformation is not an option. The pace of the fourth industrial revolution will wait for no one. As the United States and Asia move forward, Europe and the Mediterranean need to forge their own identity. Today the imbalance is obvious, and everything that prevents an improvement in innovative capacity is conditioning the future.

The main key to innovation is training. Companies that invest in their employees to provide them with the right knowledge are the ones that grow. Governments must do the same, improving qualifications and promoting innovation in all key sectors of the economy and in the education system. If they stop betting on the education of the new generations, they will condemn them to depend on others for life.

There is a great need for a new platform of collaboration that brings together governments with businesses and other actors interested in public-private cooperation in the Mediterranean, facilitating a progressive dialogue that understands and respects the values and culture of the region. Investment in young people is needed to unlock the demographic dividend in an area where the interests of governments, the private sector and international organizations are fully aligned. This requires joint action by all today, to ensure a prosperous region tomorrow.

This crisis will pass, but we must not forget that innovation and digitalisation are the path to survival and development, the fuel for constant progress and the model for the rise of a company, a nation or a region.

Article published in its original form can be found here.

3D model of globe - view of Europe

The aftermath of COVID-19 in the Mediterranean

This year the Escola Europea, along with 10 partners from around the Mediterranean, will launch a new pan-Mediterranean project in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI-CBCMED). The project, called YEPMED (“Youth Employment in the Ports of the Mediterranean”), will work towards the development of port-logistics training and vocational (TVET) resources adapted to sector needs to strengthen youth employability in Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, France, Italy and Spain. This in turn will increase and upgrade local employment opportunities through the creation of real dual-learning programmes with job placements; and help set up collaborative national and transnational partnerships between port-logistics associations, operators, SMEs, training centres and VET providers, whilst introducing a PPP co-management process. The ambitious project is scheduled to run from 2020 to 2023.

When looking at any situation related to our industry, but in particular when looking at employment opportunities and trends, it is always prudent to take in the national and international context. This year the whole world was faced with an extremely potent and dangerous enemy – a new and extremely rapid strain of coronavirus – and we have already begun to see the consequences of the pandemic on the social, cultural and economic spheres. In this article we explore what exactly is the situation in the countries that are involved in YEPMED, in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tunisia

The government asked the Tunisian Parliament for powers to issue emergency decrees for a period of 2 months, starting in April 4, 2020. The government stressed the imperative to engage in continuous re-assessment, to ensure the success of the three stages of deconfinement. The first stage has run from May 4 to 24, the second from May 25 to June 4, and the third (currently active) from June 5 to July 14, 2020. Restriction of movement between regions was lifted on June 4 and the country’s borders will re-open on June 27.

Lebanon

On 21 March, Prime Minister Hassan Diab Taboule in a televised speech urged people in Lebanon to implement a “self-imposed curfew,” adding that the lockdown measures will be enforced more strictly by the security forces. On 26 March, Lebanon imposed a partial curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. to try to slow the spread of the virus. On June 11, 2020, A curfew remains in place daily from 12 midnight until 5:00 a.m., to include private vehicular travel. The Lebanese government has extended the general mobilization until July 5, 2020.  Rafic Hariri International airport has been closed to regularly-scheduled commercial flights since March 19. It will remain closed until at least June 21.

Egypt

In March 2020, Egypt has adopted many measures to stop the spreading of the virus, including suspending mass prayers at mosques, and shutting down of churches and other spiritual havens. The country also shut down shopping malls, restaurants, coffee shops, and nightclubs overnight, in addition to imposing a curfew starting from 8pm to 6am. On April 7, 2020, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called for the reduction of employees working in offices across Egypt, aiming to avoid a pattern of suspensions of work. He demanded that more employees be allowed to work from home, to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). Starting on May 30, every person is required to wear a facemask when entering all public institutions and public and private transportation. Egypt will open up its main seaside resorts for international flights and foreign tourists from July 1. The Government of Egypt will review all measures in mid-June.

Jordan

On March 25, 2020 a state of emergency and curfew was declared. As of the 3rd of May, 2020, most sectors were allowed to resume work gradually, but schools, universities, gyms, public gatherings, church and mosque sermons remained banned, and a curfew from 7 pm to 8am remains in place as well as a curfew on Fridays. On May 21, the Government of Jordan announced the continued suspension of regular commercial passenger flights to and from Queen Alia International Airport through June 4, 2020. On May 29, the Government of Jordan announced that airports in Jordan will remain closed through July 1, 2020. The Government of Jordan announced that everyone must adhere to social distancing rules and wear masks and gloves when entering public places (including ministries, government departments, official and public institutions), and when entering places where services are provided directly to the public (including companies, institutions, malls, stores, medical clinics and health centers, cellular communications companies, electricity and water companies, banks, offices, buses, taxis, public vehicles and private vehicles with more than one person). Anyone violating the order is currently facing a fine.

France

On March 17, 2020, the French Government announced the nation-wide lockdown. The French Government has announced the second phase of deconfinement, which began on June 2, 2020. The 100 km limit on travel within France, which was in place since March, no longer applies. Groups are still limited to a maximum of 10 people in public spaces. Certain public services have gradually been allowed to open. Phase two is expected to last until at least June 21, 2020. Phase 3 of de-confinement is looming from June 22, 2020, and the government has provisionally set the date for the end of the state of health emergency next July 10. Exceptional measures could be maintained until November 10. On June 15, border restrictions and travel into France from European countries is planned to be lifted. Nevertheless, the decision on whether to relax/open border restrictions on arrivals into France from outside of the European Union is still pending.

Italy

On March 11, 2020, the Italian Government began the nationwide lockdown, following a dramatic outbreak in the Bergamo region. The lockdown was the strictest in Europe, and lasted for nearly two months. Gradual opening of activities started May 4, 2020. On May 17, 2020, the Italian government issued a decree providing that from June 3, 2020, persons traveling to Italy from member states of the European Union are permitted to enter in the country, with exemption for quarantine. For those traveling from other countries, travel to Italy will be allowed only for proven work, urgent health needs, or to return to their places of residence. Those travelers are required to self-isolate for 14 days under the supervision of health authorities, either at home or another address of their choosing.

 

Spain

The Spanish Government started the lockdown on March 16 2020. Gradual opening of activities started on the 4th of May 2020. Spain’s nationwide State of Emergency will remain in effect until June 21, 2020. The Spanish government is gradually relaxing some confinement measures in phases over the weeks leading up to then. Confinement measures will vary from region to region within Spain. At the time of writing, Spain’s air, land and sea borders remain closed for entry, excluding the land border with Andorra, with limited exceptions. This includes the land borders with Portugal, France, and Morocco (Ceuta and Melilla) and the sea borders in the Canary and Balearic Islands, as well as the sea ports in mainland Spain, with limited exceptions. At the time of writing, only Spanish citizens or citizens/legal residents of EU or Schengen countries may enter Spain.

 

Post-Coronavirus?

The current strain of Coronavirus has greatly affected the social and economic paradigms present throughout the world – and with the impending recession the economic consequences seem dire. It will be years before the countries can go back to pre-Covid realities – in the cultural, educational and transport sectors in particular (among others). This is why international partnerships and projects that work towards the improvement of cross-border cooperation and the sharing of know-how are now pivotal for economic recovery. Without a functioning logistics sector, the economy of a country cannot recover. Without maritime transport, 80% of global freight and more than half of consumer fuel will not be delivered – vital for global recover and geopolitics. This is particularly true in the Mediterranean, where the existing and developing links between countries in the North and South of the basin, as well as between the West and East, are becoming essential lifelines in recovery. All of this needs to be considered at while at the same time keeping up with any digital innovations and smart technologies incorporated and developed by actors in the transport sector, along with the environmental factors that exist to ensure the health and safety of our Blue Economy (and by extension the globe).

YEP-MED will work exactly with this mission in mind – to help share knowledge, facilitate economic recovery and ease social strain by providing employment opportunities to people on the southern and northern shores of the Mediterranean basin. As economies open up following months-long lockdowns in the seven countries, the Escola and its partners are beginning to work to bear fruit of this new initiative. Stay tuned!

 

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Morocco: Booming Tangier Med

2018 was what we can call a full year for Tangier Med and its businesses, while the opening of the Tanger Med 2 port in 2019 will add more possibilities for the treatment and processing of containers.

With a total processed volume equivalent to 317 billion dirhams (28.9 billion euros) in 2018, the port Tanger Med has exceeded that of Durban, South Africa, to become the first African platform.

More than 139 billion dirhams of exported goods passed through Tangier Med, representing more than 50% of all of Moroccan exports. For the leaders of the platform, Tangier Med would be the “first export port serving the competitiveness of the Moroccan economy.”

In tonnage handled, the volume processed last year exceeded 52.2 million tonnes, signifying a 2% increase over 2017. In both terminals of the port, more than 3.4 million of TEUs were treated, an evolution of 5% compared to the year 2017. In comparison with its beginnings, in 2007, the port Tanger Med has seen an increase of 15.7%. This rise is justified, according to the port managers, by the performance and productivity of the container terminals, the harbor master’s office and the piloting for the management of port operations.

Vehicle Activity Increase

In terms of passengers, traffic remains stable in comparison with 2017, with more than 2.8 million people. TIR (International Road Transport) traffic grew by 14%, compared to the previous year, reaching a total traffic of 326,773 TIR units. This increase is mainly due to exports of industrial and agri-food products.

The vehicle business also continued its upward pace. In 2018, 479,321 cars passed through Tangier Med, 11% more than the year before. On the terminal dedicated to Renault, the manufacturer has exported 383,715 vehicles, of which 91% came from the Tangier factory. The Tanger Med executives look forward to 2019, which will mark the start of exports of Peugeot vehicles, manufactured at the Kenitra plant.

Solid bulk traffic in 2018, for its part, was down 18% from the previous year, mainly due to lower cereal imports. Liquid bulk experienced a similar trend, falling by 21% from 2017, with a total of less than 6 million tonnes of processed hydrocarbons.

Digitisation, the nerve of war

More than 13,000 ships and boats docked at Tanger Med port in 2018 from 186 ports and 77 countries. Djibouti, Guatemala, Ireland, Bahrain and Madagascar are the countries with which the Moroccan port provided a first direct sea connection last year. The port has mainly enabled Morocco to establish its policy of proximity with African countries and increasing trade with Mauritania, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire or Ghana.

Occupying an extremely strategic geographical location, Port Tanger Med has established itself over the years as a gateway to the Kingdom of Morocco. Its leaders are happy to have thought about digitisation and the implementation of an IT infrastructure, which has become the nerve of the war of activity, saving a lot of time. According to the operators with whom we could speak, the port of Tangier seduces with its fluidity.