Author: Valérie Parihar

November 27, 2017

Discover / Takeaways from the Economist Conference - GCC 3.0 - Strategies for the future

Takeaways from the Economist Conference - GCC 3.0 - Strategies for the future


We had the chance to attend and speak at the MENA Conference, organized by the Economist. This year’s topic was “GCC 3.0- Strategies for the Future”. The conference was absolutely amazing, triggered a lot of lightbulb moments and new ideas. Below an overview of our main take-aways. In bold the points that are most relevant to what we are doing at AP Partners. The blog is longer than usual, mainly because we took 9 (!) pages of take-aways with us. As stated above … a really insightful conference!

“Digitalization. Yes, but …”

Key note by Caspar Herzberg, President, MEA, Schneider Electric: Paving the way for future growth

  • Urbanization: The most efficient way of living together has been proven to be high-rises. NYC vs. LA. Will be interesting what this insight means for the future of our cities in the GCC. Are we extending up vs wide?
  • Digitalization: A lot of good things come with digitalization. Efficiency increases and easier access for woman to the workforce for example. At the same time, Millennials will need more training to be employable. Focus will be on transferrable skills, given that we don’t know what the future brings

“Overwhelming change and innovation”

Panel: New lens on the future

  • AI will be like electricity today: everywhere in our lives. The impact on businesses is huge.
    • Example banks. With AI, the workforce is predicted to decrease by 35%, the error rate by 90%. Other sectors that were mentioned was Healthcare and Education.
    • Example healthcare: Payers and providers will be able to follow patients from diagnosis to treatment to aftercare. This comprehensive monitoring will help build a database of what treatments are working best. If done well, the cost of patient care might go down significantly and outcomes improve
  • Blockchain is business process re-engineering at its best and will dramatically increase efficiency.
    • Example import/export: From 200 documents/2 weeks needed today to only hours in the future. Blockchain will transform trade financing business
    • Example banks: With access to one “ledger”, fraud through factoring the same invoice via multiple banks will be eliminated
  • Technology is more and more about people vs. the sole need to invent. Key questions include: Which services can government provides? How can we go from physical service centers to mobile? How to adapt business models to adapt to the internet of things?
  • Customers seem to embrace the trend, with a majority of people stating that they’d rather interact with an AI-empowered robot than a human being. While I personally tend to agree with this majority, it is sad. Are human interactions in a business context really that unpleasant? How can businesses create an advantage by offering human interaction (vs. AI)? In other words: What can businesses do to make human interactions a competitive advantage vs a necessity customers need to go through?
  • On the flip side, 80% of crimes going forward will be cyber-crimes. How will police stations look like in the future? What roles will police officers play? Which education will they need? We don’t know that is yet to come, but we have to be prepared
  • Again, the need to think about the impact on education and the critical need to build the right capabilities in order to cater to these trends was mentioned, both for businesses, government institutions, doctors, the police etc.

“Whatever you know now will be irrelevant very soon”

Panel: Next generation business

  • Big unknown: Will unemployment rise up to 1bn (many of whom will be well educated), as technology replaces people or will new business models arise that we can’t even think of
  • Rise of Social entrepreneurship and the “gig economy”, based on increased demand for trust in businesses, connectivity and people coming together to have impact outside of typical businesses/organizations
  • Talent as the biggest bottleneck for growth
  • Ongoing learning will be key to remain relevant in these new business models. Education core of UAE agenda, need to focus on home-grown talent

“There’s no quick fix for talent”

Panel: Innovative solutions for regional challenges

  • Before talent can be developed, companies need to define what talent is and which skills are needed. The development journey follows from there, but there is no quick fix in building talent
  • To increase employability of millennials, blended solutions (online/offline) offer a widely available and cost-effective way to train this population
  • Schools need to prepare students to become Problem Solvers (without us knowing what the Problem at hand will be). The way content is being taught will change as well. Focus on a more integrative approach, combining different school subjects. Again, this is not a quick fix, but something that will take decades to be implemented and students to go through the next way of teaching
  • Technology can help in schools, e.g., by discovering how different students learn differently and giving teacher feedback on the best way to adapt the teaching style for different individuals
  • 27% of GDP is lost due to the gender gap (McKinsey Analysis). Ways to support women are different between countries. In KSA, the focus will be on making it socially more acceptable for women to work. The UAE focuses on building female networks and mentorship. Overall, we need a shift in mindset, which needs to be championed by men and women: From “Motherhood” to “Parenthood”

If you’re still with us, see here for Hanan talking about how technology is affecting education and how AP Partners is helping its clients with sustainable capability building