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The Gambia’s Pathway to Prosperity

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: travellingtom.com
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Good Morning, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to express my appreciation to Minister Njie for the kind introduction. It is a pleasure to be here today in Banjul to speak to such a distinguished audience at this moment of new possibilities for The Gambia.

You represent a true cross-section of this society—reflecting many different interests but sharing the hopes of all Gambians. These hopes found expression in the peaceful political transition of 2017. In just two days here, I am struck with admiration by the energy, determination, and patience of this nation. You have embraced your country’s challenges and opportunities, and your efforts are beginning to bear fruit. What I have sensed is a road to hope and a bright future. Or, in other words, a pathway to prosperity. This is what I would like to address in the time I have this morning.

Let me first set the stage by offering a quick overview of the economic setting in sub-Saharan Africa and The Gambia. As you know, the region has benefited from solid growth over the past two decades. But the past four years have proven more challenging. We have witnessed a divergence of economic fortunes—with diversified, well managed economies continuing to grow and many resource-dependent countries encountering difficulties.

While this pattern has continued recently, we are seeing regional growth regain some momentum. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that growth in sub-Saharan Africa should accelerate this year to 3.5 percent from 3 percent in 2018. We expect it to expand at close to 4 percent over the medium term. This is good news.

We are very pleased to see that the Gambian economy has rebounded strongly. Growth in 2018 reached 6.6 percent and prospects for sustained growth are positive over the medium term. Inflation has dropped to just above 6 percent, and gross official reserves have increased to about 3 months of imports. This remarkable progress has been achieved through your government’s efforts to stabilize the economy with support from Gambians living abroad, the private sector, and international partners.

There also has been progress in developing infrastructure, which is crucial to ensuring sustained growth. The recently opened Senegambia Bridge, which I am going to visit later today, is a prime example of this progress. It is a symbol of The Gambia’s efforts to deepen economic ties to the rest of the region.

The bridge is also a good segue to the theme of my speech: The Gambia’s pathway to prosperity. As a road, it is a pathway in the literal sense. But it is also a pathway in figurative sense, symbolizing the role of enhanced trade and connectivity in building prosperity. At the same time, domestic policy efforts will be needed to build this pathway.

Enhanced trade is one pillar of the pathway to prosperity. Africa is now moving ahead with creating the Continental Free Trade Area, which The Gambia recently endorsed. This initiative has the potential to boost intra-African trade and growth across many dimensions. It can add jobs, foster competition, help increase investment, and spur the spread of knowledge and technology.[1] All of which could provide significant benefits to The Gambia.

The agreement itself, however, is but one step. To fully benefit from it, the significant nontariff bottlenecks to trade that exist across the region will also need to be tackled. These include infrastructure shortcomings, logistical costs, and other hurdles that hinder cross-border trade.

If these issues are addressed, regional trade integration can help maximize the returns on important public investment, such as the Senegambia bridge, and consolidate the recent pick-up in private sector activity and lending that is integral to sustainable development in The Gambia. On this point, it is important to note that this private sector-led growth needs to be supported through responsible lending by financial institutions to Gambian businesses large and small. Vigilant supervision of banks and other credit institutions will help to ensure financial stability in the face of growing private capital inflows.

Trade integration will also help frame the reforms of this country’s state-owned enterprises. In many cases, the long-term viability of those companies will depend on increasing their regional orientation.

Take the example of the energy sector. The stabilization of electricity output has contributed to your country’s stronger growth. So, the ongoing investment in the electricity transmission not only will link the Eastern and Northern parts of the country, it will also open doors to West Africa’s power networks by enabling cross-border energy trading, including under the flagship OMVG project uniting The Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Senegal, and Guinea Bissau with the aim of harnessing the water resources of The Gambia River Basin to produce low-cost renewable energy for the member countries.

In the same vein, investment to upgrade the port of Banjul could create a new trans-shipment hub for the region. Seen in this context, the Senegambia Bridge could be just one step in the development of the Trans-Gambia corridor within Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Regional integration and cooperation are particularly important for improving the structure of the economy and enhancing competitiveness. Let me offer two examples:

First, agriculture could be an important contributor to The Gambia’s pathway to prosperity. Regional trade integration and improved infrastructure will be key to growing this important sector of the economy.

On Sunday, I visited Radville Farms, outside Banjul and their processing plant and transit facility near Yundum airport. It was great to see how automation and advanced irrigation techniques are helping to produce high-value and high-yielding crops, boosting exports, and providing high-value employment for many skilled workers, especially women.

In the future, weather tracking, satellite imaging and other sophisticated technological solutions (including artificial intelligence) will be needed to modernize agriculture. They will help to create a farming sector that is more environmentally attuned and resilient to climatic shocks. This is especially important for small and fragile ecosystems like The Gambia’s. Agriculture will then be better able to meet national goals of food self-sufficiency and creation of new export markets.

Second, tourism and other services also remain essential to your future. Regarding tourism, it is great to see The Gambiaattracting record numbers of visitors. New hotels, roads, and other amenities will attract more tourists and will help rebrand your country’s tourism offerings, including by branching out into eco-tourism and water sports. The ongoing expansion of transport infrastructure will facilitate tourism, including better connections to the region. These connections, importantly, will also allow goods to move around the region and help develop trade-related services, including re-exports.

Regional economic integration and cooperation will also strengthen The Gambia’s external position. Exports, private capital inflows, and remittances from Gambians working abroad are rebounding and are likely to increase further with regional integration. This will help build foreign exchange reserves and strengthen confidence in the Dalasi.

So, there are grounds for optimism about the economic outlook. The gains we are witnessing will support your efforts to improve the quality of life for all Gambians. We are already seeing progress in the reduction of maternal and infant mortality rates, and so much more is envisaged under the National Development Plan.

This highlights that, beyond regional integration, there are other important areas of reform to move The Gambia along the pathway to prosperity, which are also key for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. I would like to highlight three areas:

First, unlocking financial support from donors is one critical challenge. This can be addressed by resolving The Gambia’sunsustainable public debt situation. In this regard, I am pleased to report that at a recent roundtable meeting in Washington, D.C., most creditors indicated support for debt relief. Your government and its advisors are following up on this development.

Second, fostering inclusive growth and addressing social needs is another priority. This means attacking poverty through programs aimed at aiding vulnerable households and creating jobs for unemployed youth. By lowering debt service costs, debt relief can also create budget room to address these needs as well as other budget priorities, including the reform of state-owned enterprises.

Third, strengthening the rule of law and increasing accountability and transparency will also be crucial steps toward sustainable growth. The Janneh Commission revealed the extent of financial mismanagement and misappropriation during the previous regime. More focused efforts will be needed to recover stolen domestic and foreign assets.

The IMF joins the rest of the international community in applauding the governments’ commitment to transitional justice reform through the work of the Commission of Enquiry and the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, and the recently established National Human Rights Commission. We also note the plans to establish an Anti-Corruption Commission.

We also join the international community in support of the security sector reforms, which are essential for modernizing the state and strengthening the rule of law.

To conclude, I would like to discuss the role of the IMF.

The Fund provided emergency support in 2017 and is continuing our engagement through a Staff-Monitored Program. In the future we may be able to move to a medium-term program with concessional financing.

In addition, along with international partners and supporting countries, the IMF is strongly committed to helping The Gambia strengthen key institutions, including by providing our technical expertise and training.

It is essential that the assistance of the international community, including the IMF, is closely linked to your country’s development priorities. Please be assured that we stand ready to listen to your ideas and proposals—and to provide all the help we can.

We look forward to working with you as you proceed along your pathway to prosperity.

Thank you for your time and attention. I am happy now, together with IMF colleagues, to answer any questions you may have.

SOURCE International Monetary Fund (IMF)

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Artificial Intelligence

Acoustic Wells wins 2019 MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition

Vlad Poptamas

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The Acoustic Wells team beat out seven finalists to win the Robert P. Goldberg $100,000 grand prize at the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Launch Finale. Holding the check are, from left, Charles-Henri Clerget, Sebastien Mannai, and Louis Creteur.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Acoustic Wells, a startup born in a laboratory at MIT that has created a new internet of things (IoT) control solution for oil wells that optimizes production while drastically reducing methane emissions, beat out seven finalists to win the Robert P. Goldberg $100,000 grand prize at last night’s MIT $100KEntrepreneurship Launch Finale held on the MIT campus.

Now in its 30th year, the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition is an economic barometer for sectors of innovation that are receiving funding by venture capitalists. To date, the MIT $100K has facilitated the birth of more than 160 companies, which have gone on to raise $1.3 billion in venture capital and build $16 billion in market capitalization. More than 30 MIT $100K startups have been acquired by major companies, such as Oracle, Cisco, 3M, and Merck. Over 4,600 people are currently employed by MIT $100K companies. Recent IPOs include Akamai (AKAM) and Hubspot (HUBS).

A major challenge in the operation of oil and gas wells is the ability to monitor the operating conditions and health of pumping equipment without the need for prohibitively expensive equipment or daily inspections. To address this issue, Acoustic Wells has developed a patent-pending, acoustic-based control method that is capable of determining precisely down-hole conditions using a simple and affordable surface sensor. Acoustic Wells’ simple plug-and-play hardware processes the data at the edge and seamlessly connects to their cloud platform using long range IoT networks. Artificial intelligence algorithms automatically monitor the pump operation and optimize the production by adjusting the pumping rate while also predicting potential critical failures of the system.

Acoustic Wells’ founding team members are:

Dr. Sebastien Mannai, CEO, MIT PhD 2018 in Aerospace Engineering. He is currently engaged in postdoctoral work on AI signal processing in the Gas Turbine Laboratory of the Aerospace Department at MIT.

Dr. Charles-Henri Clerget, COO, who is currently engaged in postdoctoral work in the Earth Resources Laboratory with the Mathematics Department at MIT where he focuses on the big data analysis of drilling operations.

Louis Creteur, CTO and an industrial automation solution specialist who currently serves as IoT and Cloud Architect at Leanbox.

“We bring cutting edge technology in a simple package to help every oil and gas producer optimize their assets while reducing their emissions,” says Dr. Mannai.

A panel of judges chose Acoustic Wells based on value creation, value capture, and technological differentiation. Judges included: TJ Parker, Co-Founder & CEO, PillPackMira Wilczek, President & CEO, Cogo LabsThomas Collet, President, CEO & Director, Phrixus PharmaceuticalsTanguy Chau, Venture Investor; and Katie Rae, CEO & Managing Partner, The Engine.

$10,000 Audience Choice Award was presented to The Read Read, one of the finalist teams. The Read Read has created a patent pending physical device that allows blind and low-vision children to independently learn phonics and braille, and gain early literacy to keep pace with their sighted peers. Users simply touch the braille and large-print letter manipulatives, and get immediate audio feedback. It was developed at the Harvard Innovations Lab, and piloted at the Perkins School for the Blind and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Six additional finalists included:

AgroBeads® are biodegradable spheres made from natural ingredients that hydrate plants according to their needs and support their growth and healthy development. Plants not only grow, but they do it faster, and healthier. AgroBeads® does not pollute the environment, improves the chances of germination, and contributes to the development of technologies that impact public health.

Mechanodontics is a new method that can be used instead of braces or aligners that moves teeth independently. Placed behind teeth so they cannot be seen, this method considerably shortens treatment time, allows for easier cleaning than traditional braces, and is more comfortable. This technology, which employs state-of-the-art simulations, allows orthodontists to apply the optimal amount of force to each tooth, easily fixing even complicated mal-alignments that are not correctable with aligners.

Myco Diagnostics is creating low-cost, robust medical diagnostics, using thermostable binding proteins to capture disease biomarkers from patient samples. They are producing point-of-care assays for the detection of urine-based biomarkers of tuberculosis, allowing them to address patient groups ill-served by traditional TB tests.

Posh offers a bot-creation platform using patent-pending technology that makes it easy to tailor a custom chatbot to meet companies’ needs. Not only can Posh answer company FAQs, but it can also help a company’s customers manage their accounts and convert prospects into sales. Posh does this while interacting with customers via the channels they prefer: across text, voice, social media and the web.

Qtech The team’s MIT-educated scientists have invented 3D Nano structured air filters that provide 20x filtration performance, 10x lifetime, and are recyclable at an estimated similar cost of a traditional HEPA filter. Filters catch not only flower pollens, but also bacteria and even viruses, and there is no need for replacements in years.

Stratagen Bio develops oxygen sensors to enable personalized cancer therapies, addressing the unmet clinical need of identifying low-oxygen treatment resistant tumors. They are enabling physicians to identify which cancer patients require a customized treatment to overcome resistance and improve outcomes and survival.

John Harthorne, a founder and former CEO of MassChallenge, served as the keynote speaker. Harthorne’s team, Robopsy, won the MIT $100K in 2007. He and Akhil Nigam went on to co-found MassChallenge, a not-for-profit, in 2010. Based on the MIT $100K model, their zero-equity startup accelerator has since gone global and has accelerated 1,975 startups that have raised more than $4.3 billion in funding, generated more than $2.5 billion in revenue, and created more than 121,000 total jobs. Harthorne now serves on MassChallenge’s Global Board of Directors.

Since its debut as the MIT $10K Entrepreneurship Competition in 1989, it has grown to include three independent contests – PitchAccelerate, and Launch – from September through May. Each contest focuses on developing specific founding skills. For each semi-finalist contender, the MIT $100K brings together a network of resources that includes mentorship from venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and attorneys; media exposure; prototyping funds; business plan feedback; and discounted services. Altogether, almost $1M in non-dilutive prize money and other financial resources are awarded to help these new ventures accelerate. For more on the MIT $100K, please visit: www.mit100k.org

SOURCE MIT Sloan School of Management

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Independent Research Firm Cites Trend Micro As A Leader In Enterprise Email Security

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: digitalguardian.com
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Trend Micro Incorporated (TYO: 4704; TSE: 4704), a global leader in cybersecurity solutions, today announced that it has been named a leader in enterprise email security in The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Email Security, Q2 2019 report. Trend Micro earned the highest possible score in the “technology leadership” sub-criterion (under the product strategy criterion), “deployment options” and “cloud integration,” and received the highest score among all 12 appraised vendors in the strategy category.

Forrester describes Trend Micro with comments including, “Clients cite effectiveness, ease of deployment, and configurability as strengths.” Forrester additionally said, “Enterprises seeking a solution for defending against malicious and malware-laden emails should consider Trend Micro.”

“The number one threat vector continues to be email, which drives our commitment to continued innovation,” said Nilesh Jain, Vice President, Southeast Asia and India, Trend Micro. “Analyst evaluations are critical for solution assessment. In my view, this recent report takes into account our newer artificial intelligence (AI) features such as writing style analysis and computer vision, alongside solutions to protect cloud email platforms like Office 365 and Gmail that collectively helped us block over 41.5 billion threats in 2018.”

Nearly 86% of all threats blocked by Trend Micro last year came via email. Phishing, business email compromise (BEC), malicious URLs, malevolent attachments and accidental and deliberate data loss are all common challenges.

Enterprises that use Trend Micro get a winning formula of decades of email security expertise combined with the strategic vision to anticipate the next threats. This combination continues to position Trend Micro as a forefront of the industry.

A cross-generational blend of security techniques is the best agreed upon approach to achieve comprehensive protection against these and other threats. One of these techniques includes Writing Style DNA, an AI-powered tool which helps to spot BEC scammers by analysing email content. To date this has identified 5,400 attacks at 160 organizations, resulting in potential savings for customers of US$858m. Another leading feature from Trend Micro blends computer vision image analysis technology with machine learning to “see” fake log-in pages, the result of this protects against phishing and account takeover.

Trend Micro’s email security benefits from intelligence sharing across all layers of the IT infrastructure to offer connected threat defense. It is available in multiple deployment options — appliance (physical and virtual), on-premises software, SaaS service, and as a hybrid solution. Trend Micro is the only vendor to offer dual layer protection via a cloud-based API+SMTP solution for advanced threat protection.

 

SOURCE Trend Micro Incorporated

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AvidXchange Unveils New Study on Future of B2B Fintech

Vlad Poptamas

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AvidXchange™, the leading provider of accounts payable (AP) and payment automation solutions, today released compelling new insights on the future of fintech at REVx, its annual gathering of industry experts, AP thought leaders and finance professionals. Developed in collaboration with Levvel Research, the white paper revealed that while B2B companies are becoming more knowledgeable about using disruptive technologies to transform financial processes, most are unaware of how innovations like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, big data and blockchain are changing the way they work.

Of the fintech trends analyzed, AI is the most familiar to users, with 43 percent aware of its use in fintech applications and 83 percent citing AI as a strategic priority. In parallel, 84 percent of businesses believe AI will give them a competitive advance, and 75 percent believe it will allow them to expand lines of business by entering new ventures.

In contrast, blockchain was the most alien of the emerging technologies, with just over one in four respondents aware of its role in fintech despite increasing momentum behind blockchain applications in the B2B space. Machine learning and big data finished squarely in the middle, with 34 and 33 percent, respectively, confirming knowledge of daily touchpoints with these technologies.

“B2B fintech has evolved from on-premise accounting systems that help customers manage financial data to dynamic, cloud-based solutions that are impacting almost every area of the business,” said Dan Drees, Chief Growth Officer at AvidXchange. “Despite this progress, there are still a significant number of companies who haven’t embraced fintech. Understanding why and helping businesses adopt it will be the primary challenge for the financial services industry as we move forward.”

Collectively, the lack of familiarity with disruptive technologies indicates a significant area of opportunity for businesses to close this knowledge gap by learning more about fintech innovations and how they will alter the way companies operate in the immediate future.

To read more about how emerging technologies are impacting the B2B fintech space and being embraced by customers, download the full white paper here:

 

SOURCE AvidXchange

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