ID Congress 2018: Mauritius for innovation, digital
by Herman Manson (@marklives) The Innovation & Digital Congress (ID Congress) has set out to explore creative opportunities between Africa and Mauritius and, ultimately, Asia. Its first edition, a test-run for scaling the event next year, took place 19–20 September 2018 in Mauritius, in collaboration with the Association of Communication Agencies Mauritius, and Association of Practitioners in Advertising Kenya.
Gateway to Africa, Asia-Pacific
Mauritius has been positioning itself as a gateway to Africa and the Asia-Pacific (especially India, but also China). The island lies between the two continents and is geographically part of Africa, but also enjoys strong historical and cultural ties with Asia. It’s established itself as an international financial centre with a stable legal system.
The initial congress explored how Mauritius, an island with no mineral resources and far away from other markets, managed to jump from a low-income to a middle-income economy (per capita income has grown from US$400 in 1968 to around US$10 000 today), and how it may leverage past lessons to continue its growth path towards a high-income economy.
Growing the local film and production industry — crucially, this includes the making of TV commercials, as well as dubbing — is one area on which the Mauritian Economic Development Board (EDB) has set its sights. In 2013, it set up a film rebate scheme, initially focused on film and TV series work but expanding to music videos, programme dubbing and TVCs (costing more that US$30 000). The production cash rebate covers 30–40% of production expenses incurred on the island, and is open to domestic film production companies registered in Mauritius, including those with 100% foreign ownership (you may incorporate your company with the Corporate and Business Registration Department [CBRD] within two hours).
Investment in local
It has also encouraged investment in local production studios, equipment rentals and casting agencies. With a focus on skills training and transfer, today around 60% of crews employed by foreign producers is Mauritian. The scheme has seen the completion of 73 film projects, representing a total production expenditure of MUR1.98bn and the creation of 2 200 direct jobs over the past five years. Local commercial banks also offer bridging finance (cash flow of rebates) to film producers. As of September 2018, 117 film projects have been registered with the scheme. Nearly 2000 people are working in the programme dubbing industry.
Other creative industries identified by the EDB includes game development, digital animation and visual effects (VFX), digital media, design and fashion and performing arts.
On the digital aspect of the conference, organisers leant quite heavily on speakers and case studies out of France. They included Damien Gromier, France is AI executive chairman, discussing the map of the French artificial intelligence ecosystem the organisation drew up, and plans to expand and draw in the rest of Europe’s AI industry. Gromier says there are currently 3 000 AI firms in Europe. The map aims to help build bridges with other AI hubs, including the US, Canada, UK, Switzerland and China.
Another was Arno Pons, general delegate at the Digital New Deal Foundation, which played a critical role in Europe clamping down on tax structures Google deployed in Europe to avoid or minimise tax in many of the territories where it operates.
Fleur Laurent, AFP-Services international business development, discussed what AFP Services refers to as “brand journalism”. AFP-Services is the “on-demand” branch of international news agenc,y Agence France-Presse (AFP). The focus is on true stories and facts aimed at a targeted audience. Content produced for brand by AP has to pass the following criteria: authentic, transparent, exclusive, interesting and social impact. The focus is very much on creating news through sponsored events.
Pirelli’s restoration work on Statue of Christ the Redeemer, Rio’s most famous landmark, is an example of the work produced by AFP-Services.
Most interesting was probably Jean-Claude de l’Estrac, a former minister of foreign affairs and diplomat of Mauritius. He laid out the path the island took from independence in the 1968, when a struggling economy, ethic, religious and economic tensions and a 40% unemployment rate offered little reason for hope.
For the previous 300 years, sugarcane had been its primary economic driver, with raw sugar making up 96% of exports. The newly independent state believed its citizens would be its primary resource, and invested both in free education and in free health care. It made use of its ethnic diversity to create bridges to the rest of the world. It soon realised that, by importing raw or incomplete materials (such as cotton) and reselling these after adding value to it, it could generate greater employment. Lower wages than in the countries it was importing these resources from made it a viable project and assisted in creating the base for growing the economy. It also started processing its raw sugar into higher-value products. Growing the digital and IT sector, with Indian support, added further pillars to a growing economy, and created a base for growth of the financial sector.
The island has a history of throwing conventional thinking on its head, as this last statement by de l’Estrac attests. While it once had to negotiate for ways for citizens to get off the island and go work overseas, today the country actually needs a minister of immigration, says de l’Estrac, as it needs to attract sophisticated skill sets to the island. It may be an unconventional venue for an innovation- and digitally-focused congress, but it’s certainly a relevant one, and the event seems intent on practicing what it preaches.
Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of MarkLives.com.
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