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Bankers Be Warned, GAFA Web Giants Are Coming For You

A cashless transaction in Ghent, Belgium.
A cashless transaction in Ghent, Belgium.
Guillaume Maujean

-OpEd-

PARIS — The year is 2050. Cash has disappeared. People now pay for their purchases with their smartphones. And as in so many other sectors, Apple and Google are the big winners — along with Microsoft, who makes a small chip, which people implant under their skin to use as an electronic wallet.

For online purchases, there's no avoiding Amazon and Alibaba, given how attractive their payment facilities look. As for insurance, Facebook is the place to go. Mention on your wall that you're not feeling well, and the excellent health-coverage offers will start pouring in!

The digital giants are imposing their mark on the banking world.

Of course, this is all fictional. But the so-called GAFA companies — Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon — and their Chinese equivalents are increasingly laying their cards on the table. The use of Apple Pay is spreading worldwide. Amazon is considering offering bank accounts. Alibaba's finance arm is already worth more than $100 billion.

Slowly but surely, the digital giants are imposing their mark on the banking world. While they haven't attacked the fortress point-blank, they're placing their pawns (like in the game, "Go,") to surround their opponents — in payment services, loans, digital wallets, simple savings offers and money transfers. Soon they'll be present in all financial services, from small checking accounts to big real estate loans.

Banks have weapons to defend themselves, starting with their expertise, as one cannot simply turn into a banker within a few months. There is also the trust factor to consider, we don't give our money over to just any third party. Additionally, there are still very protective regulations in the banking sector.

But the GAFA giants also pack some strong ammunition: Mountains of cash to invest in new technologies, an unparalleled frequency of contacts with their customers (every month, 10 million French people use Google to search for financial products) and, above all, their gold mine of personal data.

In just a few years, the web titans have become our most intimate companions. They already know everything about our tastes, our habits, our movements, our friends. As such, they're well placed to anticipate, identify and process our major financial decisions.

Tomorrow, they will be able to tell you when you need a loan, or offer you ultra-personalized insurance — at the exact moment when you need it. The threat to traditional players is a serious one. They would be wrong to wait until 2050 to react.

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Geopolitics

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023

Before heading to South Sudan to continue his highly anticipated trip to Africa, the pontiff was in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he delivered a powerful speech, in a country where 40 million Catholics live.

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023
Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — You may know the famous Joseph Stalin quote: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?” Pope Francis still has no military divisions to his name, but he uses his voice, and he does so wisely — sometimes speaking up when no one else would dare.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (the former Belgian Congo, a region plundered and martyred, before and after its independence in 1960), Francis has chosen to speak loudly. Congo is a country with 110 million inhabitants, immensely rich in minerals, but populated by poor people and victims of brutal wars.

That land is essential to the planetary ecosystem, and yet for too long, the world has not seen it for its true value.

The words of this 86-year-old pope, who now moves around in a wheelchair, deserve our attention. He undoubtedly said what a billion Africans are thinking: "Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered!"

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