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AI Is Growing, but Strategy and Skills Need to Catch Up

Source: Enterprise Technology Trends, Salesforce

AI adoption is expected to double within two years in the IT industry. And chatbots — a form of AI that have maintained the same pace of adoption as AI at large — are also expected to double in use within the same time frame, a study by Salesforce shows.

Eighty-three percent of industry leaders say that AI is transforming customer engagement, and 69% say it is transforming their business, with customer service and marketing ranking as the areas of AI’s highest potential value. Beyond customer service, roughly 80% of industry leaders anticipate AI contributing to increased business security and operating efficiency.

However, while 37% of leaders say AI is a high priority, only 7% have a completely defined AI strategy. Insufficient skill sets are the biggest barrier to AI implementation, with just 10% of workers having advanced AI skills to match the desire to adopt the technology. 

But who is responsible for closing this skills gap? Ninety-six percent of general public respondents said: companies. 

Support for Black-Owned Businesses Surges in 2020

Source: Yelp

Yelp recorded a 7,043% increase in searches for Black-owned businesses this year. There were more than 2,500,000 searches for the term “Black-owned” from May 25 to July 10, 2020, compared to approximately 35,000 searches during the same time period in 2019, according to an analysis by Yelp

A variety of industries are experiencing this surge in consumer interest in Black-owned businesses, but restaurants and bookstores have seen the highest uptick in searches on Yelp at an increase of 2,508% and 1,437%, respectively. This interest is largely due to the Black Lives Matter protests, which continue to erupt across the United States.

The movement has sparked a global conversation and prompted many to participate in #BlackOutDay, which encouraged consumers to shop exclusively at Black-owned stores. Most consumers say they want to see organizations speak out against racial injustice and use their resources to support the Black community.

China Complicates Debt Payment Deferral Plans in Sub-Saharan Africa

Source: Natixis

Actual relief for low-income countries impacted by coronavirus will be lower than originally expected, according to a report by Natixis. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa have steadily accrued debt to China over the last decade, but now, a lack of clarity around China’s involvement as a creditor is complicating efforts to address relief plans. 

The Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), recently proposed by G-20 finance heads, defers low-income countries’ debt service payments — 38 of the 73 eligible countries are from sub-Saharan Africa. But confusion around which Chinese creditors are participating in the DSSI and “the evolving nature of the private sector in cross-border credit” are both cited by Natixis as issues with China’s role as a creditor. 

As coronavirus cases are still escalating in sub-Saharan Africa, the economy will likely continue to deteriorate, potentially increasing the need from countries in this region to seek credit. The report warns that the EU should continue to deliver liquidity relief to eligible countries at the rate that was originally promised.

The Oil Industry Is Impacting COVID Relief for the Middle East and Central Asia

Source: International Monetary Fund

Countries on x-axis as follows: Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Morocco, Mauritania, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Tunisia, Armenia, Kuwait, Sudan, West Bank, Algeria, Jordan, Iraq, Qatar, Lebanon, Oman, Turkmenistan, Yemen

Countries in the Middle East and Central Asia have received the smallest COVID-19 economic relief packages compared to other regions across the world. Average fiscal support in the region is above 2% of GDP and has prioritized health care and vulnerable households and businesses, according to a July 2020 report from the International Monetary Fund. 

The relatively lower level of support — the global average hovers around 4% of GDP — is due to “constrained policy space among oil importers and existing sizable government support in the economy among most oil exporters.”

Many countries in the region were impacted by severe oil price fluctuations earlier this year, and although the deal made by OPEC+ helped stabilize the industry, prices are still extremely low. The region’s GDP is now projected to be -4.7% for 2020, the report says, making continued direct fiscal support an essential element of recovery.

Chinese M&A Activity Plummets During COVID-19

Source: Rhodium Group

China’s outbound M&A activity contracted by two-thirds between January and May, 2020, according to a report from Rhodium Group, compared to the average monthly count between 2016 and 2018. For the first time in 10 years, foreign investment deals into Chinese firms are outpacing those coming out of China. 

Companies have braced for investment activity from China amid the economic recession, but “there are no signs of a Chinese outbound investment boom, like the one seen after the global financial crisis a decade ago,” the report notes. “Instead, takeovers are headed in the other direction: into China.” Foreign investors are pursuing Chinese assets as the country’s consumption has risen along with its middle class. Policies that previously limited foreign investment in the country have also been lifted, and Chinese firms are seeing increasing maturation. 

Although China is the second-largest economy in the world, its fate as a global investor is not certain. Moving forward, China will need to succeed in certain domestic policy reforms and gain the trust of foreign investors, the report says — neither of which is guaranteed.

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