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Vivatech : digital sovereignty at the heart of 2023 event

The 7th edition of Vivatech, held in Paris from 14 to 17 June, lived up to its promise. It offered a world tour of the latest technological advances from the four corners of the globe. Including from the continent itself, with African startups once again taking part this year, confirming Africa's growing presence on the innovation scene. And at a time when the world is questioning the dark side of technology, and AI in particular, Africa is determined to make its voice and its way heard.

By Dounia Ben Mohamed, in Paris

« There is a whole range of possibilities, and although most of them are favorable to AI, it is important to take all scenarios into account. Therefore, I am a strong advocate of AI regulation. » A real guest star at Vivatech, held in Paris from 14 to 17 June, the boss of Tesla, SpaceX and now Twitter, Elon Musk, a person who fascinates as much as he disturbs, finally set the tone for the 7th edition of Europe’s biggest tech event.

The development of generative AI like ChatGPT has revealed the potential of this digital tool to the general public, but it has also reignited the battle for technological sovereignty, which now includes mastering these algorithms

The 2023 event took place at a particular time for the world of technology, with several AI pioneers calling for a slower pace in order to « regulate » the sector, particularly from an ethical point of view. A debate in which France intends to position itself, as indicated by its president, Emmanuel Macron, who attended the event on June 14. « When it comes to AI, we need to accelerate research, innovation and the creation of a powerful ecosystem, while at the same time taking part in regulation, the scope of which must be as broad as possible (…).  The worst-case scenario is a Europe that invests much less but decides to start with regulation. This scenario is possible (…), but it is not the one I would support (…). We need to implement regulations in this area, which must both provide a secure and stable legal framework, conducive to rational innovation, and prevent abuses ».

While pledging to support a « doctrine », mobilize a Global Partnership for Artificial Intelligence (GPIA) and continue discussions on an AI law, the head of state presented his plan to support French AI and, more generally, French tech start-ups, _ including €500 million in funding for 5 to 10 AI clusters_, which he stressed was a response to sovereignty issues. « The arrival of artificial intelligence at the heart of everyday life for French people and the development of generative AI such as ChatGPT have revealed the potential of this digital tool to the general public, but have also reignited the battle for technological sovereignty, which today means mastering these algorithms, » the French president said.

Speech by Emmanuel Macron, Vivatech 2023

AI: 25% of Vivatech startups compared to 8% last year

The four days of discussions were dominated by AI, which was clearly at the heart of this year’s event, representing 25% of the startups present, compared to 8% last year. This confirms the trend. And while Elon Musk, Xavier Niel (Iliad, Free, Ecole 42), Dan Schulman (PayPal), Bernard Arnault (LVMH) and Éric Larchevêque (Ledger) were the high-profile guests at the event, the real stars were the 300 technological innovations on show. In the fields of sport, health, education and transport. Among them was Software République, the first Software Defined Vehicle presented by Renault. In partnership with Orange, Atos, Dassault, STM and Thales, the carmaker seized the opportunity to demonstrate its presence among the sector’s innovators.

Innovations made in Africa were also on display. These included Kumulus Water, a machine that air into water, developed by a team of Tunisian engineers, and Mellow Vans, low-cost electric vehicles that are 100% made in South Africa and ready to swoop into the international market.

Kumulus : a solution to the global water crisis

MellowVans: on the road to the international market

South Korea was a guest of honor. A leading figure in global technology, Korea was represented by Lee Young, South Korea’s Minister for SMEs and Start-ups, 40 startups, KT, the Korean Institute for Startup Development and Entrepreneurship, the Korean Institute for Design Promotion and the Centre for the Creative Economy and Innovation presented its technological ecosystem, illustrated by the success of Samsung, which has become one of the world leaders. Determined to become a global technology hub, Korea invited the delegations present at Vivatech to consider future partnerships. Including with Africa.

Interview Jonghyuk Park Director KISED (Korea Institute of Startup & Entrepreneurship Development

An Africa that expects no less. Ministers, directors of national agencies from Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa… Alongside the start-ups, including the winners of the Africa Tech Awards, organized in partnership with the IFC, were institutional representatives who had also come to promote their digital ecosystems.

Interview Cheikh Bakhoum, CEO Senum

Interview Linda Nanan VALLÉE, Executive Director, Fondation Jeunes et Numériques Côte d’Ivoire

Technology at the service of development, as promoted by Afrikanda. It’s an initiative that also aims to showcase the continent’s history and wealth through its technological innovations.

Interview Haikel Drine, Afrikanda Founder

In Africa, there are challenges, but also enormous opportunities (…) No one but Africans will develop Africa, and the private sector must lead this transformation

An Africa determined to make its voice heard… and its way. « With the participation of personalities such as Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. He will have argued in favor of « africapitalism ». « In Africa, there are challenges, but also enormous opportunities. Our population and demographics constitute the world’s largest market for business, work and innovation. As an entrepreneur and philanthropist who invests in people and businesses across Africa, I know that there is nowhere in the world where you get the kind of return on investment that you do in Africa. I shared my motivation for the philosophy of Africapitalism. I was born, raised and have always worked in Africa. No one but Africans will develop Africa, and the private sector must lead this transformation, doing well and doing good. »

Vivatech, an initiative that casts a positive light from Africa to the rest of the world

Just like the actions taken by the Nigerian entrepreneur and his foundation. « In 2010, we created The Tony Elumelu Foundation.  That’s why we identify and empower bright young African entrepreneurs – 18,000 to date – who have great ideas but lack the economic resources to turn their ideas into reality(…) Discipline, hard work, tenacity, resilience, focus and, most importantly, technology are essential. Businesses that don’t embrace technology are designed to fail, and entrepreneurs who want long-term success must focus on building to last. »

Tony Elumelu’s speech

And he concluded by thanking Vivatech, « an initiative that casts a positive light from Africa to the rest of the world ». 2023 will have been another opportunity to do so…

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