Ahmed El Beheiry is an entrepreneur, technology executive, AI expert, and sits on the Board of Governors for the Pacific Telecommunications Council (PTC). He founded WAKANDAI Ventures in April 2019, an investment firm focusing on Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications and solutions for Africa. Previously, he was the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Telecom Egypt from 2017 to 2019.
El Beheiry received his MBA from the University of Rennes in 2005, and earned a M.S. in Mobile Communication from the University of Alexandria in 1997, where he previously graduated with his B.S. in Communication Engineering in 1994.
What technology breakthrough would pave the way for the ICT industry?
Artificial Intelligence and deep learning technology applications will have a tremendous and progressive impact on ICT. AI is a general purpose technology that will disrupt all industries, together with new technologies, such as blockchain and IoT. It is foreseen to change our way of living and create unprecedented wealth as well as new sociopsychological challenges.
How can corporations and researchers best serve the next generation?
While AI will generate a wave of unprecedented wealth, unemployment will be a severe challenge to handle for future generations. Corporations and civil society should embark on programs to develop new and creative jobs for the general public. Many blue-collar and white-collar jobs will vanish and a big wave of unemployment will hit the job market. However, new types of jobs would be needed, especially those that incorporate human interaction and compassion. As an example, AI may reduce the need for doctors but potentially create the need for more nurses.
What new apps would be a game-changer in the next five (5) years?
Apps that will impact Online-Merge-Offline (OMO) will be key, life-changing consumer apps. If we look at the Chinese market, it’s way ahead in terms of OMO applications. Didi Chuxing pushed Uber out of China through intensive offline services expansion in gas stations and car servicing centers. The same happened for Groupon, which surrendered its Chinese operation after the Chinese giant Meituan-Dianping expanded its OMO operations. The Chinese market today is a cashless society with 700 million people using their mobile phones for all of their daily financial transactions.
What value does PTC hold for you/your company?
PTC will act as a platform for technological updates, market information, and sales activities. AI, blockchain, and IoT are very new technologies, and PTC is best suited for gathering companies like ours to be introduced to updates on technology progress. Also, getting to know the depths of various market challenges and new applications could be key to our marketing strategy back in Africa. PTC holds great opportunity for our organization to meet customers and act as a bridge to connect with new industry players.
What advice would you share with current and future graduates interested in this field?
The coming era witnessing 5G, AI, IoT, and blockchain will change the way humans live tremendously. That change will be key for great opportunities and thus embarking early on these technologies is important for future graduates. New graduates should be cautioned by the immense changes taking place in the labor market. Focus on the jobs that need human creativity, leadership, and compassion. Those opportunities will thrive.
What industry mogul or up-and-coming leader have you followed or are currently following, and why?
Dr. Kai-Fu Lee. He is an AI legend and a venture capitalist who founded a successful AI venture in China that I see as a role model for my company, WAKANDAI Ventures. Dr. Lee developed the first speaker-independent speech recognition system for his Ph.D. thesis at Carnegie Mellon University. He later worked as an executive at Apple, Microsoft, and Google. He is one of the most prominent figures in the Chinese Internet sector. He was the Founding Director of Microsoft Research Asia, and moved on to become President of Google China.