We are used to social media exploding and controversy over statements made by President Donald Trump. But over the past month, a shockwave of anger and charges of European arrogance and racism have been levelled at France’s new, charming, and youthful President.  What triggered the social media storm that spread around the world was President Macron’s answer to a question put by a reporter from the Cote d’Ivoire at the recent G20 summit press conference.  Asked why there was still no Marshall Plan for Africa, President Macron pointed, among other things, to the high birth rate of African women, which he said was one of a number of reasons for slowing down the continent’s economic development. However, watching the press conference on YouTube reveals that President Macron was making a valid point, one that is at the heart of a complex issue. He referred to the differences between rebuilding stable social and political structures in post-war Europe and the much more complex challenges across the vast African continent. President Macron mentioned, among other things, the need for stable government, fighting corruption, and the potential economic burden of its current population boom. The forecasts of the United Nations are remarkable: by 2050, the African population will double to 2.5 billion people and will almost quadruple by 2100.  While this population growth is due thankfully to reduced infant mortality rates, it is set to increase, further owing to unchanged high birth rates of more than five children per woman in sub-Saharan Africa. A new book “Africa's Population: In Search of a Demographic Dividend”, edited by Hans Groth of the St. Gallen World Demographic and Aging Forum and John F. May of the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, asks how Africa can accelerate its economic growth by benefitting from its changing population structure. When thinking about the migration flows from Africa today, policy makers would be well advised to take on board the fact that the continent is set to dominate global population dynamics in the 21st century. Such a population boom can have positive consequences: the development of the Asian Tigers between 1960 and 1990 has shown that a growing population brings benefits. But what are the conditions to create a "Democratic Dividend" in Africa, ask the editors? Eighteen million new jobs, estimates the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—a naïve thought if stable political and economic conditions leading to increasing economic investment in Africa are not there. Undoubtedly, investments will be needed in schooling and professional education, healthcare, information centers for family planning, and access to modern forms of birth control. In this regard, Groth and May stress the importance of women's rights in achieving much of this. They caution "failure is not an option" as it would lead to a global humanitarian and political catastrophe with social unrest and increasing migration flows. The need for leadership focused in unrelenting commitment to family planning, sexual health care, and maternity care has never been greater.  Thankfully, many key global health stakeholders such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) are leading from the front, promoting measures to boost family planning and empowering teenage girls and boys with the skills, knowledge and tools to control their sexual and reproductive health. UN agencies are also playing a crucial role. Not to mention the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the world leaders, civil society, and the private sector are committed to achieving by 2030. And last but not least, all of us individually by supporting SheDecides. There will be further opportunities this year to discuss the impacts of the demographic trends in Africa on geopolitics, business and society at the International Population Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. So, while President Macron’s statement has led to upset, what it has also hopefully done is draw attention to the need to focus on how all the African countries can equally benefit from this population boom and realize the "Democratic Dividend", similar to the development of the Asian Tigers, making it a "win-win" situation for the Western world. Surely, there needs to be a plan “with” Africa. One where Africa seizes the opportunity its growing young demographics offers by achieving stable economic and political conditions across the continent with the appropriate support from around the world. In this sense, President Macron deserves praise for stirring up the discussion. About the author: Thomas Cueni is an economist, journalist and former Swiss diplomat, and today is head of the IFPMA, representing the innovative pharma industry and accredited organization in official relations with the United Nations.  

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.