Digitalisation and Media: a Sustainable Future

Arnaud Sonnet
Founder and CEO of EUROPINTEL

How do you see the relationship between the European Union and its neighboring countries, particularly Africa, the Middle East, evolving in the upcoming years? What solutions do you suggest for a more cohesive and equal partnership?

In the past few years, Europe experienced waves of illegal migration that created a push-back sentiment towards people from the Middle East and Africa. Moreover, the Covid crisis enhanced this mistrust sentiment within the internal borders of the E.U.

I personally see two essential ways to build a cohesive and equal partnership:

First, learning from each other and stopping stigmatizing the population in those regions. This can be done by better understanding the culture, history, and tradition and by establishing fair and sustainable business relations benefiting both parties. Raising awareness of other countries and how they face similar situations to the E.U. can be fruitful for innovation, trade, and business. This is one of the reasons why I co-founded the media Travel Tomorrow in 2020. Society needs to be aware of how we will travel, discover, meet, and engage in boosting economic recovery, resilience, and the continued nourishment of cultural bridges that tourism brings about.

Secondly, an E.U. alignment on migration policy should be developed and stronger cooperation with countries involved in this subject. We can notice a European feeling that immigration is an issue for the continent, especially in France (but also Italy, Spain, Poland). Therefore, countries in the MENA region and the E.U. could strengthen their relations as both parties have common interests, taking into consideration business opportunities, learning and studying options, technology exchanges, resources to be exported in a resilient and sustainable manner.

2022 will be an interesting year as Germany has a new Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, while France will potentially have a new government in May as Emmanuel Macron feels pressure from the right political wing. It is hard to predict anything, especially since the Covid pandemic does not help commuting or to communicate despite virtual meetings. You can, therefore, see the situation’s complexity, especially as we don’t know what’s coming after the Omicron wave. Will we keep travel restrictions and public liberties? Within Europe, governments are getting tougher with each other and stricter with their population. That also impacts countries outside the E.U., in particular the MENA region.  

How do you see the impact of digitalization in European businesses in a post-pandemic world? And how can they navigate the crucial link between technological development, energy, and sustainability?

March 2020 has been the starting point of a clear acceleration of the consciousness of changing the way we work. Since 2014 “early adopters” in the Public Affairs sector began with solutions that could help them monitor information, scrutinize, and get the correct information at the right time.

Today, traditional ways of working are no longer efficient. A hybrid model needs to be in place as human interactions have drastically reduced in the past two years. Therefore, how do you get informed correctly and at the right time, and what do you do with such information? Nowadays, working collaboratively with your colleagues and external stakeholders is necessary. If you cannot track who has done what and who met who, how do you know the following action? You can quickly become overwhelmed if you don’t have suitable solutions for your organization. To sum up, Public Affairs has done a mutation with digitalization. A dedicated CRM solution to public affairs is now mandatory to stay efficient and competitive.

Solutions supporting Public Affairs professionals, matching human interactions, and dealing with large amounts of data & information save time and money and support democratic systems. Quorum is probably the best solution on the market to centralize what Public Affairs professionals need to map, track, change, and report on their policy landscape while working collaboratively between regions.

You seem to be working on various fronts. From media and public affairs to data, digitalization, and cultural diversity. So which is the common thread here? How do you connect all of them?

Working in the triangle of Public Affairs, digitalization, and information for over the past 22 years, my role is to support companies to grow their business. This is primarily by using new technologies to navigate the burden and using the proper communication channels to convey messages to the right audience.

I focused on Public Affairs during the last ten years, and I naturally connected the media, public affairs, and tech sectors. Public Affairs aim to make sure that your voice is heard by stakeholders, that your perspective is understood, and that no upcoming policy potentially affects you. We’re talking about media relationships, event organizations, and information management solutions here. I really enjoy working in this triangle of competencies.

The EU Africa summit that you had recently caught our attention and is also of great interest for us as we’re trying to bridge the gap between businesses in the MEA region and the European Union. How do you think the Middle East and Africa can work together with the E.U. businesses to achieve the 17th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) “partnership for the goals”?

The fourth edition of the EU Africa summit, which occurred in December in Marrakech organized by the European Business Summit, was a great success. It allowed many public and private sectors from Africa and Europe to discuss the future of our two continents. This hybrid event offered a unique opportunity to have decision-makers engaging in person with each other while reinforcing relationships with a broader range of online stakeholders from the two regions.

How can the two regions work together towards the Sustainable Development Goals?

The first thing I would say is that connections should avoid being broken. No matter how the Covid situation evolves.

We are the generation that realizes we have universal goals and that urgent decisions need to be taken.

A new generation of politicians needs to stand up, considering both a holistic view with a global alignment on SDGs and ensuring local populations are not neglected. Policies cannot be applied with a “one fit all” strategy. SDGs should be applied like E.U. directives are implemented to offer enough flexibility for each country to adopt common agreements.

On one end, a genuine willingness to change can bring positive results as long as it is based on facts and figures. This is where technology and A.I. have a role in capturing millions of data, crossing relevant parameters, and analyzing results pragmatically and objectively.

On the other end, communication channels can support stakeholders to raise their voices and weigh the decision process.

Finally, onsite events and meetings should still be considered to pursue a constructive dialogue between the E.U. and the MENA region. People take policy and business decisions; technology remains the support to information and decision making.