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The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Leapfrogging to Prosperity: Al Mina of Faceconomics

Al Mina

The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Emerging and Frontier markets such as Moldova, Palestine, Madagascar and Timor Leste. Technology such as the internet, social media, smart phones and even smart watches are enabling left-behind countries to leapfrog past traditional models of development and learn anything to build their human and physical capacity for growth. And digital nomads are helping. Al Mina challenges organizations to think outside the box and join visionaries who use these new platforms to create networks of influence and bypass barriers.

Highlights:

Al’s background

Examples of frontier economics

Early internet and the impact on frontier economics

Examples of products or concepts that are promoted on social platforms

Cultural issues that become barriers

Al Mina Bio:

Al Mina has collaborated with the IMF, World Bank Group, UNDP, USAID, US embassies , and various diplomatic missions worldwide, as a market entry and economic development consultant. He has consulted with presidents of countries to senior diplomats based in Washington DC, working in economic development in frontier and emerging markets of Central and Eastern Europe. He has also been a GS-12 civil servant in the US Federal government, managing ARRA funds initiated by the White House.
A former Peace Corps volunteer in Romania, Al has also authored books on the 4th Industrial revolution and the utilization of social media platforms in global economic development. Currently, he is leading a humanitarian campaign to help emerging and frontier markets build capacity through his Faceconomics concept, a new world market strategy utilizing social media in economic development worldwide.

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Full Transcript

Hello everyone and welcome to Global Gurus, where every Friday we explore stories of international business and speak with industry leaders operating around the world. I’m your host, Philip Auerbach of Auerbach International (www.auerbach-intl.com).  Thank you for joining us. 

If you’re tuning in for the first time, we start each podcast with a running segment called “Faux pas Fridays,” where we explore a funny blooper or a mistranslation that does not quite convey the professional image that your organization wishes to project. 

So, as an example, today’s guest has worked in over 50 countries, one of which is Hungary, and a sign in the Budapest Zoo during the Communist era said in English, “Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, please give it to the guard instead.”

Good one! 

Thank you. Today’s guest is Al Mina.

Al has collaborated with the IMF, the World Bank Group, UNDP, USAID, and US embassies and diplomatic missions worldwide, as a market-entry and economic development consultant. He has consulted with presidents of countries, and senior diplomats based In Washington, and worked in economic development in the frontier and emerging markets of Central and Eastern Europe. 

He’s also been a GS12 civil servant in the US federal government and manages funds initiated by the White House. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Romania, Al has authored books on the 4th Industrial Revolution and the utilization of the social media platform in global economic development. 

Currently, he is leading a humanitarian campaign to help emerging and frontier markets build capacity through his Faceconomics concept, a new-world market strategy utilizing social media in economic development worldwide. Welcome, I am delighted that you can join us.

Thank you, Philip. It’s truly an honor and a privilege to be able to have this conversation with you. You are one of the Pioneers who has shaped the new world marketplace, if I can say it that way. You know, I researched your background and listened to your YouTube videos, and I must say I’m one of your fans. So thank you so much for accommodating me and having this conversation.

Well, thank you, and just for full transparency and transparency, I have not paid Al a penny to say those wonderful words. Thank you so much.

That’s exactly what I mean, Phil. Thanks for your time.

So, in your background, you talk about the 4th Industrial Revolution. Can you define for us what that is, and then separately, what you mean by the frontier market?

Right now, the 4th Industrial Revolution is the evolution of capacity worldwide in the marketplace, as in the past when the cotton gin was developed and the printing press was developed, they, and even the power grids and electrical systems, qualified under the third and the second industrial revolutions.

The fourth industrial revolution is our ability to interact with machines, which means computers or artificial intelligence that we are now utilizing… and not just in the marketplace but in our place of business or work. But we’re also connected to our computers at home and even on our wrists using our Fitbits.

Right. 

So, in comparison to previous civilizations, there has been a significant change in how people operate and live their lives. 

Very true

And so, as far as the frontier markets go, these are markets that have started slowly developing their capacity. They’re not quite developed according to IMF standards or OSCP standards, but they’re leapfrogging. They’re within their ability to expand and support market development, and industries in those markets, and that leapfrogging has never been done before in human history. 

Most of the Western civilizations that have evolved have already had the resources and knowledge to advance. But today, virtually everybody, regardless of what part of the continent in which they’re advancing – because of Fourth Industrial Revolution technology, there are a lot of people who can adopt it. Innately, Western society has always wanted to evolve and develop capacity worldwide. That’s why the age of discovery happened. That’s why countries were colonized back then. 

And so, yes, we may live in a very intellectually driven society today. But we’re still adapting and preserving Western values in the form of Western balance. So that’s what this is all about.

It is fascinating, and when you say building capacity, it basically means building the physical infrastructure of a country: the right roads, schools, hospitals, telecom systems, all of that, but it is also human capacity. Educating and building up skills …

That’s good.

Of creating jobs, creating better agriculture, better industries, whatever the case may be to build the economy.

Yeah.

Give some examples, please, of some frontier economies in frontier countries.

Right, this would be the Republic of Moldova, or let’s say, Madagascar or a country that has been significantly small but has had a lack of resources because of its inability to trade and export. 

But in today’s world, the new market world, these countries are leapfrogging in terms of capacity in their advancement and economic development initiatives and portfolios.

And this is because of the Internet, because of Facebook, and because of other social media platforms?

It could be attributed to social media platforms, for sure, because they can now share and promote their local communities and countries to attract FDI. Foreign Direct Investment attracts tourism and potential immigrants who are well-educated to help build capacity in their countries. 

There are digital nomads. For example, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the term “digital nomad” that countries are now using.

Yes, uh-huh.

He tells digital nomads that they should go and help build the business and intrapreneur environments in those markets.  Technology has not just changed our way of doing business or working. Maybe you know teleworking or hybrid working, but it’s also changed the way our systems are being developed and promoted worldwide. 

And I believe that’s just going to be consistent…. the evolution of the marketplace, especially in today’s reality after the pandemic. You know, the pandemic provided an opportunity for global markets to diversify operations and experiment with new ways of doing business. 

That’s the trajectory of the supersonic speed that markets and countries are now evolving into.

Yeah, that is fascinating. It’s very, very true. 

So, we’ve had the Internet in this country since before…. well, Facebook started, and was it 2004?

Yes, that’s correct.

That was before that, let’s say around 2000. So the Internet is still coming to a lot of these developing countries’ frontier economies, is that right?

That’s very true, but on top of just the Internet, they are also utilizing smartphones, and these smartphones are increasing their ability to basically market their products and services around the world.

And yes, the Internet happened. Well, we’ve had the Internet for the longest time. You know, way before 2000, but we have a very different Internet system today, which is 5G. That, in and of itself, is a major game changer in terms of capacity and our ability to increase market capacity.

We need to encourage our population here in America to think outside the box too, to become more visionary-minded because that’s the new normal. We need to teach our populations to become leaders and pioneers in whatever it is that they’re passionate about. 

Become more intrapreneurial in the way they think and promote capacity building among our friends, family, and allies around the world. I mean, when they keep mentioning the new normal, the new normal means progress. It means thinking outside the box. And so it’s nothing to be worried about. 

Then, to build on the concepts you’ve just related, when I give presentations, I remind people that around 72% of the world does not speak English, and that’s an enormous market that Americans tend to overlook, and 89% of Internet users are outside the United States.

Right absolutely.

So, if we’ve got 10% and 90% of the world 

You know, the big chunk of the pie.

This is the huge chunk of the pie that people are often overlooking. What is your background in terms of growing up and getting into this whole global mindset?

Right. You know, my parents were immigrants.

From where?

Both are from the Philippines.

Growing up, I was influenced by various cultural mentalities, and I said I’ve got German relatives. My dad had, at one point in his career, worked in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia.

And throughout my life, especially growing up in Norfolk, VA, we were surrounded by Greeks, Eastern Europeans, South Americans. So I never grew up in a country or a society where everybody looked and acted like me. Or spoke like it. 

I grew up in that part of the country where everybody is from somewhere else. I believe that growing up in that kind of environment, especially now in my generation of Americans, has significantly developed this hunger to learn about the world and to see if you know what’s different and what’s worthwhile. You know, you are learning more about the mysteries of the world, the mysteries of people and groups, and the mysteries of the transitions of societies into more affluent societies and reverse efficient societies. Those were the things that I was interested in knowing about growing up, so I majored in international business, studied in the UK, and then studied as part of my program, also in Jerusalem. But you know,

I still

Were you in Jerusalem after 1967? I assume yes, that it was united as one united City. So, of course, you saw the Israelis and the Palestinians interacting together.

Right? right? Yes, that’s true, yeah. 

I don’t feel as if there is one monolithic country. I see some countries and cultures united by culture. And there are influences within those cultures that are positive, and those are what I tried to take out. From all my experiences, I have picked up the positives of each culture and its influence. And I feel very fortunate to be an American. You know, we’re very fortunate to grow up in a society where we embrace diversity. We embrace people from all over the world. And so now I’m the by-product of America.

That’s fabulous, truly great. Can you give us some specific examples? How do you introduce products through the Internet or smartphones into some frontier markets, for example?

Yeah, we utilize it. You know social media is a platform, so we transcended product placement. We’re not just trying to place a brand or a service. On our platform, we want to influence people to learn. Two knowledge transfers are made possible by our Faceconomics platform …the utilization of the social media platform in economic development.

 So, it becomes more interactive and intuitive in terms of building a market brand presence. We’re sharing information that people can utilize and evaluate places to go visit, for example, the tourism sector. And new products that are being introduced around the world. 

Let me interrupt you for a moment. 

So, are you using your Faceconomics platform to transmit educational knowledge like mathematics? For example, of a mathematics course? Or are you teaching farmers about better farming methods? Or are you introducing new products that can enhance their lives? 

Social media is a diverse platform, right? There are ways to teach people certain things, lessons, and training. 

Are you doing all of that, or some of that, or just part of that?

Our concept is to utilize the platform, so we’re not specifically targeting a specific performance, but we’re targeting the utilization of the platform.

A good portion of what we do is to encourage the use of social media around the world to influence capacity building and perhaps an internship in promotion or services. That would create value. 

So, our concept is that it’s not just specifically targeting us, a certain demographic for example, we want people to appreciate the new tool that we have in the new world marketplace that has never been available before in the history of mankind.

So, we’re now exposed to ideas and concepts and even mentalities around the world. That creates value because of the social media platform.

When you talk about influence, can you give me some specific examples of products or concepts that you’re promoting on your platform that would influence others?

So, I promoted my book on our platform, for example, and then the book itself was used to promote our concept on social media. This is a social media platform for economic development. 

That’s been utilized in various markets, but because of the ability of social media to diversify … to encourage people to use it either through video blogging, podcasting, or posting on their social media platform. 

It’s a very diversified platform, so it depends on whoever writes this posting, product or service on the platform. That’s who will be rewarded access to those materials.

So, it’s not like a website. A website validates your knowledge of a company and its product or service. Social media is more. You know, in turn, you can interact using social media, where we can ask questions simultaneously and they can provide an answer.

Right. 

You can provide answers simultaneously. That’s what’s changed in the way mass communication is done. Have you ever facilitated mass communication industry standards because of social media?

You know you have Twitter, for example, you have You know, Skype, and Zoom, all of these were platforms that developed a new norm in capacity building.

Right? 

So, markets in the past were traditional, as we know, in terms of how markets developed in the past was basically that we shared training with a group of professionals, architects, bankers. We train them one way, and they learn the German way of doing business versus the French way of doing business versus the American way of doing business.

It’s the knowledge transfer within that. The environment has changed significantly and I find it in today’s new world market. In today’s global platform on social media, these are all fragmented, and you pick which areas, which schools of thought, you want to buy into or learn more about to analyze. Right? So that’s just the viewer or user of social media options.

Right.

So, all this is fairly new. 

It’s never been done in human history. In my opinion, the next generation, maybe 10/20 years from now, is going to think very differently. 

Because of the amount of knowledge and information that they are supposed to have, it’s so diversified that they get to pick and choose which information they want to subscribe to. In the past, there was progression learning. You know you expose a kid from kindergarten to college. In a specific type of school of thought, professionals will start with classical conditioning.

In today’s market, if I want to learn how Japanese people do algebra or calculus versus how somebody from France will do calculus or algebra versus how somebody in Saudi Arabia will do algebra, I have the opportunity to do that today.

Right. 

I’m not going to look anymore. People are significantly advanced today and rapidly advancing because of these options that people can leapfrog in terms of building capacity and so on. Uhm, it’s a new way of starting. I mean, we’re kind of test-driving this world of social media today, and who knows what the next big things are going to be as long as he provides a solution? You know if they provide some sort of solution to the world’s problems. It’s going to be embraced by social media, and I believe it has billions of users today because it provided a solution to stagnant market environments … countries that didn’t evolve, didn’t develop and didn’t create capacity.

Yes and now have the possibility to do so.

Right, absolutely.

It’s fascinating. 

In your consulting on this or study of this, do you come across any cultural issues that become barriers to learning or barriers to spreading knowledge in any way?

Oh, yes, many, especially protectionist governments. Countries that are anti-West, for example, but even then, they’re starting to warm up. You know, they’re allowing their population to access social media like Facebook and YouTube accessing intelligence, and knowledge transfer because they know that’s where the evolution of the marketplace is happening. 

Yes, there’s going to be pushback, but that’s not going to happen. It has been around for a very long time. Well, especially since you know those countries that have been significantly affected by the pandemic. It’s significantly disrupted within the global marketplace because they weren’t able to develop their economy. They weren’t able to attract investment.

Their central banks had limited to no resources to support the market. And that’s what they call the reality of today’s world. But there’s also schools, the new normal. What they say is the new normal, but the new normal can be seen negatively. It can also seem that way, depending on whom you ask. 

And the ability of that person to interpret, the ability of a segment of a population to improvise an improved quality of life within that market. And most of the influencers today are young people. And so, they don’t usually subscribe to the old school of thought. For example, you know: That is correct. A cookie-cutter type of mentality is strict, and a historical value. Those traditionalists are of value to society because that’s how you keep people together.

Right.

But that’s slowly going down, it’s depleting.

Building upon what you were saying, like protectionist governments. Certainly, the autocracies don’t want the spread of information. They don’t want the spread of Western democracy the way we understand it, of course. They also obstruct any controversial political views. 

But many traditional societies, for example, have prescribed the role of women, of course, as taking care of the household and the children and the cooking and the cleaning and all of that, and for them to build their economies, they need to recognize that women have a very valuable place in the workforce.

Exactly, definitely.

But this, of course, poses a problem when Western thinking through social media or other means stress, for example, women’s equality or the equality of the genders in the workplace, as you know… obviously, it’s still not equal, but it’s more equal than it was, and it’s certainly more equal in Western societies than it is in traditional countries. So do these issues that you’ve observed pose conflicts, cultural conflicts, economic conflicts, or whatever kinds of conflicts there are to spread this information and then countries put up barriers to it?

Right, and you brought up a perfect example of how the evolution of the marketplace is playing a role in these countries and markets, and sovereign markets are sovereign countries. Where do they have their ability to create their values and cultures and traditions and norms? 

But yes, I think the answer would be absolute. Most of the decision-makers grew up in a very different world in a different era, and so they’re pushing back. But then again, I was in Eastern Europe, a former Communist region, and women today are starting their businesses. They’re becoming executives. You know, they’re becoming leaders and politicians. 

So, for example, in Saudi Arabia, where traditional Muslim society is now considering having female leaders. The world and the people… we have human nature and a hierarchy of our needs. It’s becoming significantly influenced by social media. The more things that we are exposed to today, the more things that we will want and feel, and need certain things to be a part of our lives. And so, I think that’s just the reality of the marketplace because at the end of the day…

Hey, countries are one block of a marketplace. Everybody is going to consume, and when they demand, you have to supply to meet those demands. 

Yes, we live in a very different world, and I’m not just saying this as it was previously promoted during the age of Discovery when they said, we live in a different world. Back then, the reason for that is that people were able to get on a boat and move to a different country and start production.

Right.

All bets are off. 

Take advantage of your ability to think outside of the box. Be an intrapreneur. Do you know? We need that changemaker. And just like what you’ve done, Philip, early on in your career, very few people would want to live in your boots because you created something that’s not easily done. You know, the replicated version. You can’t create a substitute for what you’re doing. That’s what we need today. Is it that we need to become so motivated as individuals to create something of significant value to the world? Provide a solution to the world. And that would lift all boats. 

You know, imagine countries that don’t have to worry about wars not wanting to deal with continuously developing them by funding them. Right. Right. And less poverty, more peace, and cultural acceptance. Maybe that’s where are meant to be today. I don’t know. I mean, social media was an experiment. At one point, nobody thought it was going to be this big. You know, up until we started seeing other countries being influenced by what we do here.

Well, the world that you’re defining, hopefully, is the world of the future. I mean, it’s certainly there already and will become even more so. The world of the future is as more people benefit from what you are doing and from the concepts that you’re promoting, so thank you.

Phil, I believe that you started the whole movement because of what you’ve done in your career and throughout your life. 

As I said, there aren’t a lot of people that would want to do what you did. You went through all the challenges, and you made sacrifices to develop a very unique idea. You’re helping influence languages, helping influence markets by helping them understand each other.

No one in their right mind would want to bring societies, cultures, and people groups together because it’s all so difficult, and there were no social media when you were growing up.

When I started my language agency over 30 years ago, the way we communicated was by fax machine. Most people have no idea what that is.

There we go. Right exactly.

And then we got files from translators. They were either faxed or there was something called a blesser, which was a way to get a file onto a satellite, and then someone uploaded it, and then we had to download it, and it took at least half an hour, if not an hour, to download. Something that’s done today is done in seconds, so it was very fascinating.

So, in essence, you created a model in which people gradually take control and started utilizing.

So, you created your generation’s social media so that my generation could kind of tweak.. I don’t know if we created a significant new concept or idea. It’s just the tools that we have today are because of what you guys developed early on in your career. So, I believe there are lessons you could be learning because there are people in your generation, for example, who are a bit pessimistic, I’d say, given how the world is changing and how these social media platforms are causing market disruption. 

But you didn’t see things that way. You saw things as a possibility. The possibilities versus pushing back and saying, OK, this is just going to work. So, you kept on doing what you’ve been doing. And I believe we need to learn from pioneers and visionaries like you. 

Because the social media platform is an experiment, and we need a guiding light. Make sure that it’s not misused. You know, we had this presidential election, for example, and Twitter and social media platforms were pretty much key players in the last general election.

Yes, in the USA.

Oh right, so imagine the power that is somewhat above our government system. You know, these Internet giants are now able to silence a sitting president, for example. You know, Twitter.

How do you regulate that? How did you ascertain that in a society, in a world how it’s regulated? That the Internet giants of the world will continue to be ethical?

Well, that is an issue for politicians to decide. But I want to thank you so much for your wonderful ideas and your presentation. And getting people to think that something really outside the box, what we’ve created, what your generation has often created, is really spreading too. It’s truly wonderful that your efforts are advancing the process of capacity building and economic development.

So, thank you so much. Our guest today has been Al Mina of Faceconomics. Thank you so much again for joining us today.

Thank you.

It’s been a great pleasure to have you this weekend.

Likewise, thank you so much for having me. It’s their pleasure to meet you. I am a huge fan.

So, this has been Philip Auerbach of Auerbach International (www.auerbach-intl.com). Please join us again next week for another edition of Global Gurus and their stories of international business.

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