Let’s be honest — 2020 was a tough year that most of us will not easily forget. Since we are all truly exhausted from the impact of the never-ending negative news, let’s focus on the positive events that await us in 2021.

Dubai Expo

The first World Expo took place in London nearly 170 years ago during the industrialisation period. The topic: ‘Industry of all Nations’ suggests that the central idea of it was to celebrate the advancements in industrial technology, design and education. Since then, every five years the expo moves to a different city.

The Dubai Expo was scheduled to start on 20th October 2020 and then was moved one year later. Looking at the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, we can expect the pavilions to be full of futuristics exhibits emphasizing the modern, digital and interconnected world. Each country selects one sub-theme from the following list: Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity. Although the final selections haven’t been completed yet, we can already look forward to the combination of South Korea + mobility; Switzerland + opportunity and New Zealand + sustainability. …

On the 6th of November 2020, the Council of European Union published a resolution on Encryption. The leaked document, that follows after the terrorist attacks in Vienna and Nice, sparked a lot of debate in terms of online security. Should we be worried about our online privacy, or should we embrace such steps in order to prevent future terrorist attacks?

The document

The document got leaked by the Austrian press ORF. Due to the unfortunate events of 2nd November, a report linking the ban of end-to-end encryption and the terrorist attack received a lot of sensation. The reality of the document is, however, in contrast. In the full report, the council recognizes the importance of encryption, yet, it calls for a better balance in order for the criminal justice authorities to access the encrypted information. The proposal is not particularly clear about how to achieve that, highlighting that the competent forces should do so in a “lawful and targeted manner” whilst respecting individuals’ rights, notably the protection of personal data. …

The world is slowly on a road to a cashless society. The debit card since the 70s, online banking since the 90s, and mobile payments since 2014. Are we prepared to refrain from the precious paper?

Fewer branches save money

The traditional banks, for instance, HSBC, BPN Paribas, Barclays, UniCredit, and many more are getting challenged by their young and more innovative peers. Digital banks that usually fully operate online are drawing the mass attention of clients and venture capitalists. Teenagers and young professionals are the primary targets of such businesses.

It is not only the features like free money transfer to other currencies or free ATM withdrawal in any destination but also the personalized savings account or the AI that monitors spending habits. A remarkably beautiful and easy-to-use mobile app is where the clients use all the features. For a company to offer such perks, digital banks had to redesign its business model, to cut costs as much as possible. One of the most effective ways is to exist only in the digital workplace, meaning no branches or offices with tech support constantly available via phone, e-mail or webchat. …

What if I tell you an incredible story? A story about how people lost billions, how Wall Street profited from fraud and how nobody is talking about it.

Chinese momentum

After the 2008 financial crisis, many hedge funds managers decided to quit. During the first nine months of 2008, around 700 funds were shut down. The story of a company called Geoinvesting is rather different. Unlike others, they decided to make their money back. The scepticism for Western markets was evident and in the short-term, it was implausible to invest in the US with skyrocketing profits. Yet, there was this new, exploding and dynamic market — China. As seen on the chart, the financial crisis helped China to prosper. During these times, China had especially swift industrial development. …

Lebanon, once an emerging Middle Eastern market, struggles to recover after the fatal explosion in Beirut on August 4th. The event that quickly circulated on all of the social media is the last straw for Lebanon as its economic downfall started way sooner.

Dubai of the Middle East

I assume that you have come across the viral picture comparing Dubai now versus then. Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, was the Dubai of the Middle East even before. After the 1920s, France took over the administration of Lebanon, together with today’s Syria under the mandate of the League of Nations. Lebanon became independent 20 years later, but the epithet “the Paris of the Middle East” prevailed. After gaining independence, Lebanon was facing a major challenge: transforming into an independent democratic nation with major religious differences. In 1932, 49 per cent of the Lebanese population were Muslims, while 51 per cent were Lebanese Christians. Establishing a functioning government with such a diverse demographic appeared to be impossible, yet the system functioned. …


Samuel Vandak

Computer Science student at University College London. I am interested in fintech, geopolitics and emerging markets in the Middle East and Asia.

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