A New research in AGU’s journal Geophysical Research Letters finds ice in the Arctic Ocean north of Greenland is more mobile than previously thought, as ocean currents and atmospheric winds are likely transporting the old, thick ice found there to other parts of the Arctic. As a result, ice mass in the area – the last place researchers think will lose its year-round ice cover – is declining twice as fast as ice in the rest of the Arctic, according to the new findings.
This visualization shows the age of the Arctic sea ice between 1984 and 2019. Younger sea ice, or first-year ice, is shown in a dark shade of blue while the ice that is four years old or older is shown as white. A graph displayed in the upper left corner quantifies the area covered by sea ice four or more years old in millions of square kilometers.
Idriss Aberkane, a French essayist, is known for his writings and
lectures on the knowledge economy and neuroscience. His lasted book “L’age de
la connaissance / the age of knowledge “is worth reading. The book seeks to
dismiss two contemporary paradigms: “Produce or flourish” and
“Nature or employment”.
The key takeaways from his last essay are the following:
Knowledge is more
valuable than natural resources. This statement is clear when looking at the
evolution of global companies ranking in the last two decades.
Fostering a knowledge economy should be the priority of any government: To support his argument, the author frequently uses the example of South Korea who own little natural resources yet is one of major global exporters globally thanks to Korean technological powerhouses. However paradoxical it may appear, South Korea exported 45 Billion USD worth of Processed petroleum oils in 2018 even though the country does not have oil reserves !
All revolutions /
radical innovations go through three stages: They are firstly considered ridiculous, secondly
as dangerous and finally obvious. Think of slavery abolition and labor rights
Knowledge dynamics follows three principles :
The exchange of knowledge is positive sum : “When we share a material good we divide it, when we share an intangible good we multiply it”
The exchange of knowledge is not instantaneous : Unlike physical good, the transfer of knowledge requires more time and energy
The combination of knowledge is not linear : “The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts”
Nature as a source of inspiration
and one of knowledge economy applications : Nature is the largest deposit of
knowledge on earth. The author is a strong supporter of Biomimetics, which is
the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of
solving complex human problems in locomotion, construction and architecture, structural
materials, optics and agriculture to name a few.
September 2019, UNICEF and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) launched an
innovative fund that aims at reaching millions of children currently in need of
humanitarian support in OIC countries. The idea of the fund was first announced
last April during IsDB’s 44th Annual Meeting of Board of Governors in Marrakesh
humanitarian needs are at critical levels and children are especially
vulnerable as they face the highest risk of violence, exploitation, disease and
neglect. To address this need, the Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Children
(GMPFC) will mobilize Islamic giving, including philanthropic and Zakat
resources, towards humanitarian and resilience development programs that ensure
the well-being of children. Projects include support for children in education,
health and nutrition, water and sanitation, early childhood development,
protection and youth empowerment. The fund will benefit from UNICEF’s on-the-ground
presence and experience in all OIC countries.
from IsDB did not come as a surprise. It confirms IsDB’s President past
commitments to position the bank as a catalyst in the achievement of SDG in OIC
countries. The launch of GMPFC is a good news for the Islamic finance industry
for two reasons. First, it sends a strong signal about the importance of
Islamic finance active involvement in social issues. There no doubt that
Islamic social finance has developed during the current decade, however, the
industry achievements in the social sphere so far are not enough to address
current social issues. Second, the GMPFC initiative confirms the Interest of
large international organization such as UNICEF in Islamic finance and demonstrates
that synergies with Islamic finance can play an important role in the
achievement of SDGs. In the past, UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees) established a Zakat fund to alleviate the suffering of forcibly
displaced people in OIC countries.
The fund, that will be administered by IsDB, seeks to raise US$250
million from private and public foundations, Zakat agencies and individuals.
Although the fund purpose is clear, operational details have not been disclosed
so far. In the coming weeks, the Islamic Finance industry and will be waiting
for clarifications on the following questions:
What marketing approach
will IsDB use to convince individuals to donate to the fund knowing that
historically, IsDB has been dealing more with governments and businesses?
technologies will IsDB leverage to ensure transparency and efficiency?
What would be the fund
priorities in the first years and what are the fund commitments in terms of
impact (SDGs targets)?
What synergies will be
built with the impact investing ecosystem in order to make the philanthropic
funds more sustainable and more focused on income generating activities for
beneficiaries rather than on simple cash transfers?
This article was first published in Islamic Finance news Volume 16 Issue 41 dated the 16th October 2019.
Despite all the dire consequence of the 2008
financial crisis, it did help to question the paradigms of modern days’ finance
especially its role in addressing economic, social and environmental issues. As
a result, multi-lateral development institutions, think tanks, academic
institutions, regulators and financial players have undertaken various
initiatives aiming at integrating sustainability and finance into a unified
business model. The central focus has been to move beyond the “do well and then
do good” approach as in corporate social responsibility to a “do well while
doing good” approach that views sustainability as a strategic competitive
advantage. Nowadays, concepts like ESG (environment, social and environment) investing;
Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), Impact investing, mission-driven
investing and responsible finance are gaining traction both in developed and
developing countries and are even promoted by “traditional / orthodox” large
financial players ! However, the finance
and sustainability hype brought also confusion to investors looking for
“double bottom line returns”. Are these concepts similar? If not,
what are the differences between them? These questions are critical because the
proliferation of terms related to financing and sustainability creates
fuzziness that ultimately leads to inertia among investors and other market
players. Therefore, clarifying the different concepts is key to the development
of the impact finance industry.
In this post, I will focus on explaining the
difference between ESG, SRI and Impact investing terms. Although, there are
many others similar concepts used in the financial markets, the chosen terms
are the most common.
ESG refers to the environmental, social, and
governance practices of an investment that may have a material impact on the
performance of that investment. The integration of ESG factors is used to
enhance traditional financial analysis by identifying potential risks and
opportunities beyond technical valuations. However, the main objective of ESG
valuation remains maximizing financial performance.
Socially responsible investing goes one-step
further than ESG by actively eliminating or selecting investments according to
specific ethical guidelines. The underlying motive could be sharia compliance,
personal values, or political beliefs. Unlike ESG analysis, which is
valuation-centered, SRI usually uses ESG factors when applying negative screens
on the investment universe. For example, an investor may wish to avoid
companies engaged in firearms production, child labor or gambling.
Similar to SRI, impact investing also considers
social and environmental effects. However, the difference is that impact
investments are only made in companies, organizations or funds where the main
purpose is to achieve positive impacts, alongside a financial return. In
general, SRI is more concerned with negative screening whereas impact investing
is more concerned with positive screening.
As part of the current initiatives to bring finance to its natural orientation, stakeholders (especially regulators) should not omit to take active steps to clarify the different concepts under the impact finance umbrella. Although, this effort looks pretty basic but it is much needed to transform the enthusiasm on impact finance into a more meaningful transformation.
This article was first published in Islamic Finance news Volume 16 Issue 39 dated the 2nd October 2019
How may Africa harness the potential of thousands of its young social innovators and social entrepreneurs in an impactful and efficient manner? Which patterns can be envisaged to expand social impact through sound and informed scaling strategies?
These are the questions I investigated during my participation this September 2nd– 4th to the 11th edition of the International Social Innovation Research Conference (ISIRC) hosted by the Yunus Center for Social Business and Health in Glasgow.
As much as I wanted my contribution to solidly draw on theoretical strands –ISIRC being recognized as the world’s leading interdisciplinary conference on social innovation research, I had the explicit aim of contributing to this collective wisdom by exploring practical solutions with an eye on the peculiarities and contextual specificities of Africa and its local economies.
Today, the African economy does not create enough wealth to meet the pressing needs of its societies in terms of job creation, education, healthcare and human development. Despite the steady economic growth of the continent over the past decade, African governments have failed to translate this growth into positive social welfare based on inclusive and sustainable development. The weight of poverty and unemployment is prevalent in most countries, compounded by civil wars and political instabilities. UNDP experts argue that not only do inequalities deprive the poor of the positive effects of growth, but they also undermine efforts to reduce poverty. It is clear today that such macroeconomic indicators as GDP growth rate usually used to describe the situation of African countries do not faithfully reflect the social reality of the continent or the conditions of poverty in which most African citizens are being trapped. A paradigm shift has become necessary to overcome these structural problems. Social innovation can play a key role in supporting national social policy and adapting it to the new societal challenges.
A new wave of passionate, visionary and impact-driven individuals are bravely entering the space vacated by the two historical players: the State and the private sector. These intrepid leaders, referred to as social innovators or social entrepreneurs, are transforming, every day, the way we approach solution design to pressing social problems. But how might innovative but isolated solutions benefit to millions of populations in need of these innovations in the absence of well-rounded scale-up strategies? Which scale-up mode is most preferred and why?
I argue that scaling-up social innovation “inspirers” in Africa will multiply social impact down the value chain. Thus, I present a conceptual framework for scalability under two modes: concentrated vs. fragmented. In the concentrated (or conglomerate) mode, inspirers collaborate under the auspices of a few regional mega-inspirers that coordinate development activities including incubation, financing and capacity building for the burgeoning social enterprises. The fragmented scenario represents a pattern of multiple small and geographically scattered players working and growing independently. I construct a system dynamics model that simulates the two scenarios and measures the social impact created under each of them.
Results suggest that while fragmented scale-up generates higher impact in the first few years thanks to agility and adaptability factors, this trend is quickly overtaken by the concentrated scale-up strategy which yields the highest impact in the medium and long terms. This is explained by the positive loop created through synergy and collaboration between players under the conglomerate mode. In other terms, when synergistic capabilities are low (due to institutional, legal, or governance constraints), it is better to adopt a fragmented scaling approach. However, as regional integration is becoming a priority in the geopolitical agenda of most African countries, cooperation, co-creation and synergy must and will be a driving force of the next growth patterns. Under this high-synergy pattern, concentrated scaling maximizes social impact and becomes, thus, the most preferred route for scaling up social innovation impact in Africa.
Since 1975, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB),
through it is five entities, has made several remarkable achievements in fostering
the development of its 57 member nations (nearly one fifth of the world’s
population). However, IsDB Countries face currently an unprecedented range of
dynamic challenges as they pursue sustainable development. The global
development landscape is changing rapidly due to technological advancements,
geopolitical circumstances and growing protectionism. The world is struggling
with systemic challenges including slow economic growth, lack of
infrastructure, inadequate technological development and a growing youth
population. IsDB member countries face, moreover, low development of human
capital and high levels of unemployment. These issues, along with increased
fragility, social disorder and the negative impacts of climate change, further
exacerbate these countries vulnerability.
The economic impacts of these developments require
targeted responses if countries are to meet their Sustainable Development Goals
(SDG) commitments. In fact, the huge financing requirement to implement the SDG
has increased from billions to trillions of US$, exceeding the capacity of any
single institution or state.
The IsDB new business model is based on strengthening
the competitiveness of member countries in the strategic industries in which
they have a comparative advantage. More specifically, IsDB seeks to mobilize
US$ 1 trillion through five major industries to lead development in its member
countries, generating 10 million new jobs annually by 2030. The selected
industries are food and agribusiness; textiles, clothing, leather and footwear;
petroleum and chemicals; construction; and Islamic finance.
This bold strategic move from IsDB sends a strong
signal to the Islamic Finance industry regarding the integration of
sustainability in its core business model. Despite the abundant literature on
the fit between sustainable development and Islamic finance as well as some
successful impact finance initiatives especially in South East Asia, it is
clear the market has not yet seen the potential of Islamic Finance industry to
drive sustainable development with positive environmental, social and
In my opinion, the IsDB new business model provides
very interesting insights for Islamic finance institutions seeking to adopt a
similar approach on impact finance:
Focus: It is virtually impossible for a single
institution to address all sustainable development goals. Choosing specific
challenges where the financial institution has a strong competitive advantage
Goal setting and impact measurement: Target
performance indicators are clearly highlighted in new IsDB business model.
Performance measurement is key for any impact finance initiative
Agility: In order to implement the new business model,
IsDB aims at moving towards a leaner organizational structure with simpler
business processes. Islamic financial institutions are relatively young with a
smaller size compared to their conventional counterparts. Therefore, Islamic financial
institutions involved in sustainability should take advantage of this factor
Involving Stakeholders: Creating 10 million new jobs
annually by 2030 requires the active contribution of a several external
partners. Impact finance Institutions need to proactively collaborate with
relevant stakeholders to further the objectives of any impact finance strategy
NB : This article was initially published in page 20 of IFN Volume 16 Issue 19 dated the 15th May 2019
Financing the SDG agenda internationally requires
trillions of dollars. Obviously, governments’ investments are not enough to provide
the needed financial resources. Thereby, the private sector in general and the
financial sector in particular are required to bridge the financing gap and support
the achievement of SDG’s. To illustrate, Arab countries would need a minimum of
230 billion USD a year to finance sustainable development. Unfortunately,
corporate social responsibility initiatives are not only ineffective but also
unsustainable because such initiatives approach social and environmental issues
from the sidelines. Indeed, when corporate sustainability is managed outside a
firm business model, its performance and even its existence tend to rely
strongly on the firm’s financial performance. Not surprisingly, financial objectives
are usually prioritized when they conflict with other goals.
It is true that many Islamic banking institutions
undertake several social initiatives ranging from Qard Hassan and energy conservation
to zakat payment and charities support. Yet, on average, Islamic banks’ social and
environmental initiatives have been rather weak or poor. Islamic banks’
performance in this field is even lower than conventional banks. Many research
reports also point out to the low levels of disclosures of Islamic banks with
respect to ethics and sustainability. Today, Islamic banks need a paradigm shift
by embedding sustainability into their core business model and reconcile their
positioning with their ethical roots. In other words, doing well while good instead
of doing well and later doing good (sometimes).
Based on an international
benchmark of companies that pursue financial and social goals simultaneously, a
recent research article sheds light on key success
factors to succeed in this paradigm shift and reconcile profitability and
sustainability. The benchmark identified four best practices.
Setting goals and monitoring
progress: Well-constructed goals are important to for dual-purpose companies.
Key performance indicators can be built using metrics developed by
international NGO’s such as the Global Reporting Initiative and the
Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and B-Lab.
Structuring the organization:
It is impossible to succeed both on financial and sustainable fronts if the organization
structure is not designed to support both perspectives. More specifically, the
company has to supplement traditional organizational structures with mechanisms
for surfacing and working through tensions created by the economic and social
Hiring and socializing employees:
Embedding a dual-purpose focus in the organization DNA requires a workforce
with shared values and behavior. Hiring, training and socializing are crucial
to get that right.
Practicing dual-minded leadership:
The board and the management have to manage the tensions that rises when trying
to align impact and finance. The company’s governance and leadership must
manage tension proactively while committing to the dual goals
Islamic banks engaged in
blending profitability and sustainability need to be aware that tensions and
trade-offs are inevitable especially when ecosystems supporting such a
transition are embryonic or inexistent. Taken together the four levers
presented above can make the endeavor more likely to succeed.