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IGF 2019 Pre-Event #23 The 3rd German-Arab Forum on the Digital Economy

Euro-Mediterranean-Arab Association EMA in collaboration with the federal agency AWE (Agentur für Wirtschaft & Entwicklung)


a) Introduction:

Growth rates in the digital economy in the Mediterranean and Middle East region continue to be high. Telecom and Internet providers have worked tirelessly on increasing bandwidth capacities to 4G and more. But there are differences between the countries in the region. While Internet penetration in the small Arab Gulf countries is at a record high of more than 90 percent, figures in North African countries such as Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia range between 44 and 65 percent.

The geographical proximity to Europe, small to no time differences, and the potential for qualified workers put especially North Africa at a competitive advantage. It is against this background that start-up scenes have developed in many Arab countries. No matter if education, healthcare, financial services, or transport & logistics: start-ups in the Mediterranean and Middle East region make smart use of digitization in a variety of business sectors.

The 3rd German-Arab Forum on the Digital Economy sheds light on the digital transformation in the region. It combines the issues of sustainability and digitization by addressing two core topics – empowerment and artificial intelligence (AI) – as well as the question of how the expansion of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector increases job creation and perspectives for young people in those countries. It aims thusly to highlight success stories and best practice examples and intends to sensitize relevant stakeholders and actors for a sustainable dialog with the region.

b) Focus Topic 1 (“Women Empowerment”):

The EMA is committed to the continuous improvement of the economic and social situation in the Mediterranean and Middle East region. Youth unemployment in the Arab countries is as high as nowhere else in the world and exceeds the global average by more than double. Young women are particularly vulnerable. Advancing the situation of female entrepreneurs and business women and closing the gender gap is therefore key to sustainable development. Experience shows that further incentives are necessary to support women entrepreneurs by improving their integration into the economy that will in turn lead to increased social participation of women. Digitization, the digital economy, and ICT offer a broad range of perspectives for the inclusion of women in the economic and social life of the region in question.

c) Focus Topic 2 (“The Future of Working”):

Several projects and initiatives in the Mediterranean and Middle East region are concerned with bridging the technology gap and developing the ICT infrastructure. E-health, e-education, e-agriculture, mobile money / mobile wallets, and smart cities are issues that concern particularly those strata of society that have hitherto been cut off from such services. For instance, AI can help achieve the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) when climate information software alerts farmers to crop failures. It can also serve to diagnose medical conditions after sending a list of symptoms via text, audio, and/or photographs. Start-ups use AI, too, to provide financial services by understanding user requests and spending habits, driving conversations between banks and insurance companies and their clients, and preventing fraud – even for people without bank accounts. Experience shows that the impact on job creation of digitization in general and of AI in particular leads to fruitful discussions.

d) Target Audience:

The Forum is directed at economic, political, and civil society decision-makers and multipliers from all countries in the Mediterranean and Middle East region including the member states of the Arab League and of the European Union in addition to the other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It aims to highlight the diversity of different perspectives especially regarding social start-ups and female entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the Forum wishes to bring political decision-makers from the mentioned region in contact with representatives of start-ups, associations, and the digital economy at large.

e) Organization:

The 2-hour Forum will be organized by the EMA in collaboration with its partner agency AWE along the lines of the successful German-Arab Forums on the Digital Economy in 2018 and 2017 at the digital trade fair CEBIT. The organizers envision either a moderated fishbowl conversation or a conference format depending on the availability of rooms and time slots – preferably in a way that the relevant ministers and government representatives from the Mediterranean and Middle East countries would be available for a dialog with the target audience. The Forum is expected to attract speakers and participants from all countries of that region in order to ensure an interregional as well as an intraregional dialog. The event language will be English. If necessary, translation will be provided by the organizers for French and/or Arabic.

f) Further Information:

The German-Arab Forums on the Digital Economy were organized at the CEBIT – the world’s leading digitization fair – in 2017 and 2018 and attracted several hundreds of international experts, entrepreneurs, and representatives from the digital economy. For an overview of the conference findings, speakers, and topics see the websites at the following two links:

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 411