Day one of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean’s (PAM) Economic Affairs Panel was rigorous, dense and full of meaningful exchange.
The first three pre-lunch panels introduced and unpacked core concepts to the parliamentarians and parliamentary assemblies present. Academics, private sector professionals (PwC Italy, Borsa Italiana, 4Aim, etc.) and individuals working within global economic institutions (WTO, WB, UNCTAD, etc.) gave brief yet comprehensive technical presentations defining terms and outlining their own experiences with alternative capital (IPOs, crowdfunding, minibonds, start-up, venture capital) and financial technology (Fintech). The speeches both highlighted the benefits gained and struggles faced, overall focusing on the possibilities of how PAM can help advocate for the use of advanced financial tools to promote sustainable regional economic development that, in turn, could help political and social development.
According to the chair of the first two panels, Professor Alberto Dell’Acqua: “It is crucial to highlight that policy and politicians have a guardian role in the tools to be used. PAM is crucial to preserving peace and security and guarantee preconditions to share and to have fluid relations. Economy and finance should not become too important in that they interfere in more political choices that target society. In the end, we aim for social balance and not economic balance.”
I chaired the forth panel of the day –– the first after a very needed lunch break –– which introduced the possibility of a PAM project on SMEs, Start-ups and Alternative Capital Markets. Associate Professor Alberto Dell’Acqua at Bocconi School of Management (Italy) and Venture Builder Peter Lazou presented practical strategies after the more technical morning panels. Their more grounded suggestions provided a means of channelling all the information received to outline a concrete way forward beyond the scope of the conference.
In his presentation, Dell’Acqua began by reminding everyone that political debate is important for assembly, but the focus of the conference is on economics, though the two are always in dialogue with one another. He suggested three main projects to implement in the Euro-Mediterranean region “in order to stimulate growth and social progress. Inducing economic growth is important to socially develop countries as well.”
1) Create a Start-Up Market for the Region
Provide the required digital tools for entrepreneurs to structurally, clearly and transparently launch a “capital call” to investors for different start-up cycles.
The digital platform could sharply reduce search costs and informational asymmetries and benefit larger geographical areas and economies of scale by integrating regional and local Euro-Mediterranean projects and circulating more capital toward mutual success and growth.
2) Impact Investment Fund
Create a fund that invests in projects with a social scope. In other words, provide capital to projects not solely on the basis of financial evaluation but on their social impact.
Introducing market-based discipline to public spending makes the latter more effective. In turn, recognizing the welfare mechanism in the Euro-Mediterranean area could provide a real instrument in promoting sustainable growth with great social return, especially in less to do areas.
3) Macro-Regional Fund of Funds
Instate a meta-fund that invests in other regional funds managed by local entities.
Not only does recognizing and leverage the importance of local responsibility, management and expertise induce market discipline, but it could also deploy larger amounts of capital while still maintaining a regional scope. In turn, meaningful bridges are created between nations and institutional forces.
Dell’Acqua ended on a strong note, a call to action: “If you find these projects interesting, work, engage and take incentive. We need to provide solutions to people and stimulate the real economy. We need to share the market, create job opportunities so people make money and live well, with integrity. This is an important goal.”
Peter Lazou complements Dell’Acqua’s propositions by adding the need for education, not just for younger generations and entrepreneurs, but for people “living in the 21st century with the mindset of those living in the 20th.” Investors need to change their mindsets in order to help make change in “this crazy world we live in,” and a sustainable environment needs to be created for entrepreneurs and start-ups to emerge and flourish, not fall into black holes and disappear. A simple formula was put forward:
IMPACT + JOB CREATION = START UP
To create this start up ecosystem, Lazou suggest that we make available access to ideas, access to talent, access to capital and access to customers. Time, patience and leadership are requires, as is human numbers and collaboration across disciplines and regions. The same sample of people attending the conference –– entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, accelerators, universities, corporates, institutions, service providers, governments, you name it –– need to come together to make such a sustainable environment possible, to “shoot for the moon and make the unthinkable thinkable, the impossible possible”.
In the end of the day, Lazou “wants to give the opportunity to everyone, to create a digital identity, to create voice. Voice is data which is the most powerful thing we can create today. We need to bring unconnected people to the connected world.”
And the Mediterranean region seems to be an ideal location to begin channeling this connectivity and bringing people together. A member of the audience pushed the notion of connectivity, noting that it is not through economics alone, but transportation and cultural exchanges like publishing, translation and artistic exchange that we can get to know one another and really engage outside the box.
It seems relevant to quote the eloquent Dell’Acqua one last time: “ The Mediterranean Sea does not separate, it brings us all together.”