Category Archives: Articles

Blog post: Global transfers: M-Pesa and intellectual property rights

To accompany a short paper I presented at IFIP 9.4 online conference, I have written a blog post “Global transfers: M-Pesa and intellectual property rights” that discusses recent research on M-Pesa and its IPR

In July 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom announced a significant event – the intellectual property rights (IPR) for the mobile money service M-Pesa was finally “moving back into African control”. For this, it paid a sum of £7m to its UK-based parent company Vodafone.

The announcement didn’t receive much commentary at the time, but it raises a number of critical questions – Who controls the IPR of M-Pesa? Wasn’t M-Pesa created in Kenya, so why did Safaricom need to buy the IPR?

See blog post on Manchester CDD blog

Short article: Why we must act now to confront the new global digital divide

Why we must act now to confront the new global digital divide” is short article written by Shamel Azmeh and myself for a one-off publication from Policy@Manchester called “On Digital Inequalities“. It examines the digital divide through the lens of economic inclusion and global platforms, discussing what this means in terms of policies of digital inclusion

Over recent decades, concern has been mounting over the issue of the digital divide – the unequal access to the latest technology and the networks that support it. This issue has attracted growing attention from policymakers and NGOs at national and international levels. Efforts have typically focused on maximising the benefits that come from the digital economy by expanding inclusion, especially in developing countries. This has led to programmes supporting local content creation and the building of internet skills and infrastructure. Many studies highlight the positive impacts of such initiatives, in areas such as financial inclusion, access to information and better government services. Clearly this is an important foundation, but is it enough?

Full article – online | as PDF

Who’s Really Benefitting From SE Asia’s E-commerce Boom?

Sixth tone, an online website focussing on issues in China and the region, has a short article about some of my early work on E-commerce in South East Asia.

“Chinese-backed startups are evangelizing e-commerce in the region, but they need to be careful not to alienate local merchants.”

Full article on Sixth Tone

Article: Playing catch-up: how latecomer economies joined the digital race

This is a short article on the University of Manchester website to support a new paper by myself and Shamel Azmeh on latecomer economies and national digital policy.

New research from The University of Manchester explores the strategies used by latecomer economies to play catch-up to the digital world.

With the emergence of the Internet, digital companies and capabilities have been primarily concentrated in advanced economies. As digital technologies, data and AI are becoming used across all areas of the economy, these limitations are becoming important barriers to economic development. This has left emerging and developing economies, such as those of Asia and Latin America, at a disadvantage when it comes to entering the digital race.

So how do they close this gap?

According to Drs Christopher Foster and Shamel Azmeh, from the University, there are two paths being taken. The first is open and global trade, and the second is pursuing interventionist policies on a national scale. In their recent paper, “Latecomer economies and national digital policy: an industrial policy perspective”, published in the Journal of Development Studies, they investigated these competing approaches as they are applied in emerging nations.

Full article available from UoM website

Short Article: What can we learn about e-commerce in Africa from Jumia’s IPO filing?

I recenltly wrote a short article for the Manchester ict4dblog. It explores the recent Jumia IPO filing and the insights is gives us about African e-commerce

There has been growing discussion about the potential of e-commerce in developing countries. This discussion intensified recently when pan-African e-commerce firm Jumia went public in the US, becoming the “first African unicorn”.

The IPO prospectus, a 270-page outline of the firm released as part of this filing, has sparked much debate…..I will discuss the insights that the prospectus provides us about e-commerce platforms operating in Africa.

This is especially useful as we have been struggling with a lack of detail on e-commerce, with firms reluctant to share commercially sensitive information

See full post on the ict4d blog

Article: Trade wars are growing over the digital economy – and developing countries are shaping the agenda

Based on our research on digital trade, Shamel Azmeh and myself have written an article in The Conversation, outlining the recent activities and discussions.

At the heart of the current US trade war with China is tariffs on imports like steel, sorghum and silicon chips. But, with the growing role of data and digital technology in the world economy, a new arena of digital trade conflict is on the cards.

Read full article on The Conversation

Digitally removing the middleman for development: Trouble brewing in East African tea?

On the Global Development Institute blog, I outline some research done exploring digitalisation of the tea sector in East Africa. The findings were recently published in a book chapter inthe MIT Press book “Digital Economies at Global Margins”

How do new digital technologies enable firms to develop? One process often highlighted is disintermediation, where digital technologies allow firms to “cut out the middleman”. Exploring the Kenyan tea auction we suggest that these ideas need to be rethought. Digital technologies bring change, but may lead to more challenging conditions for smaller firms.

For more details, see the GDI blog

Measuring innovation amongst marginal producers

I have a new blog post on the Sheffield Institute of International Development (SIID) blog entitled “Measuring innovation amongst marginal producers: Implications of evidence-based policy”.

In it, I discuss a recent paper that looks at how to measure and better understand small-scale innovation amongst marginalised groups

Research on innovation in the global south has increasingly highlighted the importance of continuous, small-scale innovation for small producers and farmers – be that an adapted machine or an improvised farming technique. Stemming from such research, there have been calls for innovation policy to better consider such activity, to ensure that innovation does not just support large industries but also the development of marginal groups.

…In a recent paper, ODI economist Aarti Krishnan and myself developed a new approach to measuring small-scale innovation; we then use this approach to explore innovation in value chains in the Kenyan horticulture sector.

See the full article on the SIID blog

Digital trade and Brexit

This is a short article for the comment blog of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI). It explores the growth in focus on digital trade within trade deals and reflects on what this means for trade deals related to Brexit.

The balancing act of Brexit and digital trade

As the UK leaves the EU it risks a potential ‘digital cliff-edge’. How it navigates its way through global tensions around digital trade rules will orientate the shape of the economy for years to come

This article stems from a wider project exploring the political economy of digital trade, with a particular focus on developing and emerging nations

Short paper: Geographies of Information Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa

Our previous conference paper ‘Geographies of Information Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa’ has now been published in The African Technopolitan, a bi-annual magazine published by the African Centre of Technology Studies (ACTS) on science, technology and development.

The January issue which includes quite a number of interesting articles on ICT in Africa can be downloaded here (PDF).