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The new and emergent global financial system will be overwhelming in scale and complexity. It will exert an unprecedented influence over the daily lives of everyone on the planet. Multiply the current 60 major stock exchanges around the world by the number of existing cryptocurrencies, add a few years of mobile app development and regulatory frameworks, and then divide that by the number of competing regional jurisdictions to get a sense of how much value will be exchanged electronically at any given moment between billions of people and institutions.
The history of capitalism is long and convoluted but it will begin to sound parochial compared to these new chapters, defined by digital wealth. Ubiquitous computing power embedded in everyday objects will continue to intersect with the virtualization of almost every asset class, creating the necessary environment for a Cambrian explosion of software-driven transactions, business models, cultural trends. 
This is the economy expanding inward: a luminous vortex where every thing and every idea can be registered, listed, traded instantly by all. Where regulation and bureaucracy can be condensed in a entertaining mobile interface, and every financial agreement can be negotiated by loyal, polite, silent algorithms.

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Why WhatsApp Matters

on Dec 01, 2020 09:27 pm

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it weekdays. WhatsApp is being remodeled in front of our eyes. Watch what happens because even if you don’t use the messaging app, the changes could reshape the direction of the internet.

Perhaps never before has an online property been so popular and made such little money. More than two billion people worldwide use WhatsApp regularly to text or make phone calls, but it scarcely generates any money for Facebook, which has owned WhatsApp since 2014.

That’s because WhatsApp is mostly a personal communications app, and Facebook doesn’t make money from that group chat with your cousins. This looks set to change. Haltingly, including by agreeing to buy a customer service start-up on Monday, Facebook is trying to use its trademark playbook to remake WhatsApp into an inescapable way for businesses to interact with us.

Read more about the future of media platforms.

Mobile for Development – State of the Industry Report 2019

on Nov 29, 2020 03:39 pm

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For the first time, digital transactions represent the majority (57%) of mobile money transaction values. A larger proportion of money is entering and leaving the system in digital form, rather than through a cash conversion.

Reaching the one billion mark is a tremendous achievement for an industry that is just over a decade old. The mobile money industry of today has a host of seasoned providers with a broad set of operational capabilities, a full suite of products and a global reach.

This year’s State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money examines what one billion registered accounts signify for the mobile money industry, mobile money users and the future of the mobile money ecosystem; moving us a step closer to a digital future for all.

Mobile money is the new money, read more.

Boucheron: a collector’s guide

on Nov 29, 2020 02:39 pm

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The jeweller Frédéric Boucheron opened his first shop in the arcades of the Palais Royal, Paris; more than 160 years later, the maison he founded is a world leader.

Boucheron was a true gemologist. He travelled the world in search of the best of the best: sapphires from Kashmir, rubies from Burma, emeralds from Colombia.

One such gem was the Polar Star, a 41-carat Golconda diamond that passed through the hands of Napoleon’s brother Joseph and Felix Youssoupoff — a Russian prince who married the niece of Tsar Nicholas II. In 1980, it fetched $4.6 million at Christie’s Geneva, a world record at the time. The actual diamond has not been seen since, but in 2006 it resurfaced — albeit in different guise — at auction on a Damien Hirst canvas that sold for more than $350,000.

Luxury is an old industry with old money, read more.

The Retail Resurgence

on Nov 29, 2020 02:39 pm

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The pandemic has upended the retail industry, with supply chains in disarray and consumers flocking to new ways to shop in droves. This is your guide to how retail comes back.

Almost overnight, businesses had to ramp up plans for curbside delivery, in-store pickup and contactless payments while dealing with new safety protocols and the logistical nightmare of getting products on shelves. Companies had to come up with new ways to stay in touch with customers when they couldn’t connect in person and figure out how to get them to keep shopping in the midst of growing economic uncertainty.

Protocol spoke with leaders across retail to learn about the technology they’re using to see out the pandemic, and what may change forever as a result. They outlined three major areas to watch:

  1. The supply chain
  2. The shopping experience
  3. The new customer relationship

Ecommerce is eating the retail world, read more.

The “Amazon of Africa” is trying to enable third-party e-commerce rather than sell more stuff

on Nov 29, 2020 02:39 pm

Back in 2012 when it first launched, Jumia’s long-term goal was to become the leading e-commerce player on the continent. It set about that objective like typical e-commerce platforms do: acquiring vast inventory, building warehouses, and aiming to drive online sales based on the promise of ease and convenience.

Indeed, one of the company’s first steps was to hire account managers in charge of growing its inventory base across a diverse range of categories, from mobile phones and electronics to fashion, beauty and childcare. If customers wanted to buy it, Jumia—often referred to as the Amazon of Africa—wanted to be able to sell it. It was similar to the way Amazon itself started first with books and CDs and then eventually an Amazon of nearly everything.

But a billion-dollar IPO and nearly a decade later, Jumia is now chasing slightly different ambitions. Rather than building a business based on directly engaging in consumer e-commerce by retailing a vast inventory, Jumia is now mainly focused on enabling e-commerce for other players in Africa instead.

Amazon was just the messenger, ecommerce platforms abound, read more.

Nayarit and the Making of a Narco State

on Nov 29, 2020 12:39 pm

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Nayarit rarely makes the headlines in Mexico, far less in the rest of the world. But this fall, the arrest of Mexico’s former secretary of defense, General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, dragged this small and unassuming state into the spotlight. On October 15, Cienfuegos was detained in Los Angeles on charges including conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana in the United States, allegedly working on behalf of the Nayarit-based ‘H-2 Cartel.’

Cienfuegos denied the charges against him, and after a month of behind-the-scenes wrangling, US attorney general William Barr decided that ‘sensitive and important foreign policy considerations’ outweighed the case against Cienfuegos, ordering his release so that he ‘may be investigated and, if appropriate, charged’ in Mexico. For many, Cienfuegos’ arrest and subsequent release is a conspicuous symbol of the intrinsic corruption that plagues the militarized drug war strategy.

The war on drugs is really about corruption, read more.

Guns, Drugs and Viral Content: Welcome to Cartel TikTok

on Nov 29, 2020 12:39 am


Mexico is set to shatter another murder record, but that grim reality is nowhere to be seen on the TikTok videos that go viral by showcasing drug cartel culture. 

“It’s narco-marketing,” said Alejandra León Olvera, an anthropologist at Spain’s University of Murcia who studies the presence of Mexican organized crime groups on social media. The cartels “use these kinds of platforms for publicity, but of course it’s hedonistic publicity.”

“It’s all about the dream, it’s all about the hustle,” said Ed Calderon, a security consultant and former member of Mexican law enforcement. “That’s what they sell.” According to Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst for the International Crisis Group, a global think tank, some of the TikTok videos may be produced by cartel members themselves, especially young hit men or “sicarios” keen to show off the spoils of war.

Drug cartels play a major role in world politics, read more.

‘Tokenized’: Inside Black Workers’ Struggles at the King of Crypto Start-Ups

on Nov 28, 2020 09:39 pm

“Most people of color working in tech know that there’s a diversity problem,” said Ms. Butler, who resigned in April 2019. “But I’ve never experienced anything like Coinbase.”

Much of Coinbase’s culture stems from the one around Bitcoin, current and former employees said. Bitcoin, which embodies a libertarian philosophy that snubs its nose at the pieties of mainstream institutions, has attracted a generation of fans known as “crypto bros.” Many have propagated a brash male-dominated way of life, facing criticism for sowing racism and sexism.

Tech companies have long struggled to hire and support Black employees and entrepreneurs. Just 1 percent of venture-backed companies were led by Black entrepreneurs from 2013 to 2018, according to a study by RateMyInvestor, which analyzes tech investors. Large tech companies like Intel, Google and Facebook have publicly said that they need to do better on diversity and have committed to improvements, though progress has been uneven.

Black crypto lives matter, read more.

The Clash of Capitalisms

on Nov 22, 2020 09:39 am


Capitalism rules the world. With only the most minor exceptions, the entire globe now organizes economic production the same way: labor is voluntary, capital is mostly in private hands, and production is coordinated in a decentralized way and motivated by profit.

There is no historical precedent for this triumph. In the past, capitalism—whether in Mesopotamia in the sixth century BC, the Roman Empire, Italian city-states in the Middle Ages, or the Low Countries in the early modern era—had to coexist with other ways of organizing production. These alternatives included hunting and gathering, small-scale farming by free peasants, serfdom, and slavery. Even as recently as 100 years ago, when the first form of globalized capitalism appeared with the advent of large-scale industrial production and global trade, many of these other modes of production still existed.

Global affairs are a messy affair, read more.

Far right seizing COVID-19 ‘opportunity’ to expand: Study

on Nov 20, 2020 10:39 pm

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Far-right individuals in Europe and the United States are increasingly forming global links and using the coronavirus pandemic to attract anti-vaccine activists and conspiracy theorists to their cause, a study commissioned by the German foreign ministry said.

The study, released on Friday, was carried out in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the US, Sweden and Finland by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP). It documents the emergence of a new far-right movement since 2014 that is “leaderless, transnational, apocalyptic and oriented towards violence”.

The pandemic is accelerating all kinds of social movements, read more.


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