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Foreign Policy Analysis
To help solve global problems, look to developing countries | Bright Simons

To help solve global problems, look to developing countries | Bright Simons

I am an ideas activist. That means I fight
for ideas I believe in to have their place in the sun, regardless of which side
of the equator they were born. As well I should. I myself am from that part of the world often euphemistically referred to
as either “the Global South” or “the developing world.” But let’s be blunt about it: when we say those words,
what we really mean is the poor world — those corners of the world
with ready-made containers for the hand-me-down ideas
of other places and other people. But I’m here to depart
a little bit from the script and to try and convince you that these places are actually
alive and bubbling with ideas. My real issue is: Where do I even start? So maybe Egypt, Alexandria, where we meet Rizwan. When he walks outside his souk, walks into a pharmacy for heart medicine that can prevent the blood
in his arteries from clotting, he confronts the fact that, despite a growing epidemic that currently accounts for 82 percent
of all deaths in Egypt, it is the medicines that
can address these conditions that counterfeiters,
ever the evil geniuses they are, have decided to target. Counterfeiters making knockoff medicines. Luckily for Rizwan, my team and I, working in partnership with the largest
pharmaceutical company in Africa, have placed unique codes —
think of them like one-time passwords — on each pack of the best-selling
heart medicine in Egypt. So when Rizwan buys heart medicine, he can key in these one-time passwords to a toll-free short code that we’ve set up on all
the telecom companies in Egypt for free. He gets a message —
call it the message of life — which reassures him that this medicine is not one of the 12
percent of all medicines in Egypt that are counterfeits. From the gorgeous banks of the Nile, we glide into the beautiful
Rift Valley of Kenya. In Narok Town, we meet Ole Lenku,
salt-of-the-earth fellow. When he walks into an agrodealer’s shop, all he wants is certified
and proper cabbage seeds that, if he were to plant them, will yield a harvest rich enough that he can pay for
the school fees of his children. That’s all he wants. Unfortunately, by the reckoning of most
international organizations, 40 percent of all the seeds
sold in Eastern and Southern Africa are of questionable quality, sometimes outrightly fake. Luckily for Ole, once again, our team has been at work, and, working with the leading
agriculture regulator in Kenya, we’ve digitized the entire
certification process for seeds in that country, every seed — millet, sorghum, maize — such that when Ole Lenku
keys in a code on a packet of millet, he’s able to retrieve
a digital certificate that assures him that the seed
is properly certified. From Kenya, we head to Noida in India, where the irrepressible Ambika is holding on very fast to her dream
of becoming an elite athlete, safe in the knowledge that because of our ingredients
rating technology, she’s not going to ingest
something accidentally, which will mess up her doping tests and kick her out of the sports she loves. Finally, we alight in Ghana, my own home country, where another problem needs addressing — the problem of under-vaccination
or poor-quality vaccination. You see, when you put some vaccines
into the bloodstream of an infant, you are giving them a lifetime insurance against dangerous diseases
that can cripple them or kill them. Sometimes, this is for a lifetime. The problem is that vaccines
are delicate organisms really, and they need to be stored
between two degrees and eight degrees. And if you don’t do that,
they lose their potency, and they no longer confer the immunity the child deserves. Working with computer vision scientists, we’ve converted simple markers
on the vials of vaccines into what you might regard
as crude thermometers. So then, these patterns change slowly
over time in response to temperature until they leave a distinct pattern
on the surface of the vaccine, such that a nurse,
with a scan of the phone, can detect if the vaccine was stored
properly in the right temperature and therefore is still good for use before administering this to the child — literally securing the next generation. These are some of the solutions at work
saving lives, redeeming societies, in these parts of the world. But I would remind you that there are powerful ideas behind them, and I’ll recap a few. One, that social trust
is not the same as interpersonal trust. Two, that the division between
consumption and regulation in an increasingly interdependent world is no longer viable. And three, that decentralized autonomy, regardless of what our blockchain
enthusiasts in the West — whom I respect a lot — say, are not as important as reinforcing
social accountability feedback loops. These are some of the ideas. Now, every time I go somewhere
and I give this speech and I make these comments
and I provide these examples, people say, “If these ideas
are so damn brilliant, why aren’t they everywhere? I’ve never heard of them.” I want to assure you, the reason why you have not
heard of these ideas is exactly the point I made
in the beginning. And that is that there are
parts of the world whose good ideas simply don’t scale because of the latitude
on which they were born. I call that “mental latitude imperialism.” (Laughter) That really is the reason. But you may counter and say, “Well,
maybe it’s an important problem, but it’s sort of an obscure problem
in parts of the world. Why do you want
to globalize such problems? I mean, they are better local.” What if, in response, I told you that actually, underlying each
of these problems that I’ve described is a fundamental issue
of the breakdown of trust in markets and institutions, and that there’s nothing more global,
more universal, closer to you and I than the problem of trust. For example, a quarter of all the seafood
marketed in the US is falsely labeled. So when you buy a tuna
or salmon sandwich in Manhattan, you are eating something that could be
banned for being toxic in Japan. Literally. Most of you have heard of a time
when horsemeat was masquerading as beef in burger patties in Europe? You have. What you don’t know is that a good chunk
of these fake meat patties were also contaminated with cadmium,
which can damage your kidneys. This was Europe. Many of you are aware of plane crashes
and you worry about plane crashes, because every now and then, one of them
intrudes into your consciousness. But I bet you don’t know that a single investigation uncovered
one million counterfeit incidents in the aeronautical
supply chain in the US. So this is a global problem, full stop. It’s a global problem. The only reason we are not addressing it
with the urgency it deserves is that the best solutions, the most advanced solutions,
the most progressive solutions, are, unfortunately, in parts of the world
where solutions don’t scale. And that is why it is not surprising that attempts to create this same
verification models for pharmaceuticals are now a decade behind
in the USA and Europe, while it’s already available in Nigeria. A decade, and costing
a hundred times more. And that is why, when you walk
into a Walgreens in New York, you cannot check the source
of your medicine, but you can in Maiduguri
in Northern Nigeria. That is the reality. (Applause) That is the reality. (Applause) So we go back to the issue of ideas. Remember, solutions are merely
packaged ideas, so it is the ideas
that are most important. In a world where we marginalize the
ideas of the Global South, we cannot create globally inclusive
problem-solving models. Now, you might say, “Well, that’s bad, but in such a world
where we have so many other problems, do we need another cause?” I say yes, we need another cause. Actually, that cause will surprise you:
the cause of intellectual justice. You say, “What? Intellectual justice?
In a world of human rights abuses?” And I explain this way: all the solutions to the other problems
that affect us and confront us need solutions. So you need the best ideas
to address them. And that is why today I ask you, can we all give it one time
for intellectual justice? (Applause)

54 comments on “To help solve global problems, look to developing countries | Bright Simons

  1. Who’s Been A HUGE Fan
    Before January??

    *pewdiepie Commented on my latest video I’m literally crying and shaking *😝😭

  2. "The richest amongst you must be prepared to take care of people, for there will be great human need in the future, greater than you have known, greater than that occurs even at the moment. Your richest person in the world should take care of thousands of people—feed them and provide for them. You have already destroyed their livelihood. It is impossible now for them to farm their land. Their local resources have been depleted, the land has been set to waste, so it is now your job to feed them and take care of them. That will be your job. And if you are to generate more wealth, it will be for this purpose." The New Message from God – The Engine of War, a teaching among many others that you can read or listen to for free online at

  3. Counterfeit goods are there because the original item is far too expensive for the majority. The big companies blame development costs, or at least use this partly as an excuse to overprice their medicines.

  4. Developing countries aren’t doing anything new- they’re taking money from superpowers to expand infrastructure in exchange for centuries worth of debt. Except now they’re doing it from the world’s largest communist regime.

  5. This is a great video highlighting the importance of paying attention to voices that are less heard on a global scale because they may have some of the most revolutionary ideas!!! 🙂

  6. How to uprise a poor third world country.

    First, send armed forces and put picked country under the protection of a first world state.
    Turn off the economy for now, it won't be needed for years.
    Then, invest into infrastructure, schools, hospitals and properly built houses. After that, improve watersupply and foodsupply, so that said country can stand on their own feet and become autark.
    Teach the locals how to essentially build everything. How to grow crops and achieve sustainable yields, so that starvation is a non-issue. Each adult member should have basic knowledge about crops and technology.
    Monoculture needs to be abandoned.

    It needs to be taught how to use protection and keep the population at a sustainable growth-rate. Too many people are not sustainable.

    After building the fundamentals this way, the state will become a protectorate for 5 years and a governed state for 10. The first world state who funds uprising is still in charge. After 15 years the new generation should be able to live on their own, supported by properly taught values and moral codes. It ain't african medival age anymore.

    The economy needs to be built on sustainable products that yield enough profit to provide the bare minimum of necessary goods.

    After 20 years it's ready to be released into partial independence, with a chosen government and after 25 it will become fully independent with an elected government, owing the first world state nothing at all. No debt.
    All the first world state gets is an independent democratic state that shares the same values as they do.

  7. Don’t mean to sound cynical here, but these ideas have been employed across developed countries for years. Bar codes and regulations? These dont appear to be new ideas at all

  8. Why are people in the audience taking notes? Haven't they heard of YouTube? .. seriously?

  9. I know what it's like to have solutions to so many world problems. To watch humanity commit suicide by not doing the obvious. The one problem I haven't found a solution to is letting a significant number of people know they exist.

    And poor consistory have it worse.

  10. This was excellent. I had to put the captions on to truly understand him, glad I did. It's a shame that many of us have never heard of these ideas.

  11. Ignorant guy. Doesnt adress things like how we have the FDA and other regulating bodies in the states. This guy is simply ignorant that there are already solutions that work in 1st world countries.

  12. I know/ Let's get someone from the only continent that has not got one decent civilised country where people want to live.
    Let's listen to what they have to say about solving problems.
    The same people who can't feed themselves. That sounds like a good idea.
    I'm sure they have a lot to teach us.

  13. Sounds like this speaker is proving that government regulations help society.

    Despite those idiot republicans and libertarians that think they hurt the economy. Cause they’re uneducated.

  14. So… What's gonna happen is that these nations in the third world that want to progress into the current age will have to go through an industrial revolution during the age where the first world is automating out basically all of the jobs their workers will be qualified for. That's gonna be long hard road with exactly zero payoff. That sucks.

  15. Adopt barcodes is not a new idea. Maybe you should address the corruption that is truly the stem of all these examples?

  16. Nothing here is new, all these ideas are at least decades old. Glad they are catching up though without 3rd parties exploiting the situation. These are important steps to a better and more equal world.

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