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Politics

What Happened? - Africa

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Please see below selected pre-2016 intelligence about Africa. This is a synthesis of major recent developments at corporates, business schools, thinktanks, media, commentators, and other key influencers.

 

2016

  • The “Africa Rising” narrative gained momentum around 2010. As is the way with these things, it arrived about a decade late - and just as things were about to go pear-shaped. Investors, hungry for yield, alighted on the only continent where living standards had not yet visibly begun to converge on those in the west. Their bet was that Africa had turned a corner. Were they wrong? These days, the mood has darkened. Nigeria and South Africa, which account for half of sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product, are at or close to recession. Nigeria has squandered its oil boom. Long-sluggish South Africa has failed to meet the pent-up expectations of its black majority. The hopes of other resource-rich countries — including Angola, Mozambique and Zambia — have faded along with commodity prices. A flawed election in Uganda, plus a cavalcade of leaders clinging grimly on to power, from Zimbabwe to Burundi, undermine the idea that governance is on the mend. Those who helped change the Africa narrative, however, are sticking to the script. Among the true believers is the consultancy McKinsey, whose 2010 “Lions on the Move” report did much to feed the original story. This week it published a follow-up . Call it “Africa Rising: The Sequel”.

 

 

December 2015

 

 

 

 

 

What's Happening? - China

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Please see below selected recent intelligence about China. This is a synthesis of major recent developments at corporates, business schools, thinktanks, media, commentators, and other key influencers.

 

Q3 (July-August-September) 2016 

 

  • The former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund warned that a slowdown in China is the greatest threat to the global economy, claiming that a "hard landing" for one of the main engines of global growth could not be ruled out.
  • However, China’s industrial profits jumped the most in three years. They rose 19.5% from a year ago to 534.8 billion yuan ($80.2 billion), according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The data suggests further stabilisation in manufacturing and a greater ability of companies to pay off debts.
  • Indeed, China’s economy grew by 6.7% in the second quarter, the same as in the previous three months and a healthier pace than many had expected given the country’s stock market crash and depreciation of the yuan. Investment in infrastructure has surged and personal consumption has been strong.
  • Although there is some suggestion that Chinese private sector is losing confidence in economic prospects, China’s producer price index was its least bad in four years. Government data tracking the cost of manufactured goods out the factory gate showed prices declined just 0.8% through the month of August, indicating that the flagging economy might be stabilizing. Consumer price inflation climbed 1.3%, slightly below July’s increase.
  • Yet China’s July economic data provided more evidence of a slowdown. Investment grew at its slowest pace in more than 16 years in the January-July period. Retail sales in July increased 10.2%, versus a forecast 10.5% and down from 10.6% in June. Industrial output for the month rose 6% from a year earlier, slowing from 6.2% in June and missing the forecast of 6.1%.
  • China’s “One Belt, One Road” project aims to make central Asia more connected to the world, yet even before the initiative was formally announced China had helped to redraw the energy map of the region. However, China is not the only investor in central Asian connectivity. Multilateral financial institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank have long been investing in the region’s infrastructure. The Kazakh government has its own $9bn stimulus plan, directing money from its sovereign wealth fund to infrastructure investment. Other countries, including Turkey, the US, and the EU have also made improving Eurasian connectivity a part of their foreign policy. 

 

June 2016

 

 

 

 

 

What Happened? - China

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Please see below selected pre-2016 intelligence about China. This is a synthesis of major recent developments at corporates, business schools, thinktanks, media, commentators, and other key influencers.

 

December 2015

 

 

 

 

 

  • Activity in China's services sector expanded at a slower pace in November as new orders weakened. The Caixin/Markit Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 51.2 in November from a three-month high in October of 52.0. A reading above 50 points signifies growth on a monthly basis, while one below that points to a contraction.New business rose at a slower pace of 51.1 - down from 52.9 in October - showing weaker domestic and external demand while employment in services rose only marginally, with the smallest increase in three months.

 

 

 

  • The latest snapshot of manufacturing activity by the Chinese Federation for Logistics and Purchasing showed activity slipping for the fourth month in a row, falling further below the 50 no-change mark to 49.6 in November from 49.8 the previous month. Economists at ANZ Bank said the data could prompt yet another rate cut from China's policymakers.

 

 

 

What Might Matter In The Future?

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Global socio-economic, demographic and technological forces will have a sustained and transformative impact on businesses, societies, economies, cultures and our personal lives in years to come, as this 2016 HP video illustrates. 

 

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita's The Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future presented new ideas on decision-making and learning to come up with reliable predictions to foresee and even engineer the future.

On Holism
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Halcyon In Kal… 10 August 2016

A.S. Byatt tells us that "for the Victorians, everything was part of one thing - science, religion, philosophy, economics, politics, women, poetry. They didn't compartmentalise - they thought big." - quote in New Statesman, 27/04/09

This is the Halcyon philosophy too, as much of what's most interesting and important in life appears to come from the interconnectedness of ideas, from the alchemy of putting together - in the words of Theodore Zeldin - two ideas that have never met.

On Power

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Explaining that no-one now runs the world, a leading geo-strategist claimed that there is a clear trend towards the collapsing power of nation-states, and the rise of network power from NGOs, to corporations, crime rings and terrorists.

On Governance

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Imagine that we could build "start-up countries" and escape limiting, outdated forms of governance that hold people back. "Seasteading", according to its advocates, has the promise to do this, creating new "spaces for human freedom".

On Scientific Progress

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Imagining scientific concepts that could improve everyone's cognitive abilities. This is the challenge that some of the world's leading scientific thinkers tackled in answer to the 2011 Edge question.

The responses were various and imaginative. One good example came from author Michael Shermer, who wished we would understand that almost everything important in nature and society...

"...happens from the bottom up, not the top down. Water is a bottom-up, self-organised emergent property of hydrogen and oxygen. Life is a bottom-up, self-organised emergent property of organic molecules."

Adding this to their cognitive toolkit might e.g. let religious conservatives recognise the reality of evolution, says Shermer, and let political liberals see that "too much top-down design can interfere with market efficiency".

On Development

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To Oxford Martin School to see Ian Goldin, former Vice President of the World Bank and former economic advisor to Nelson Mandela.

Goldin believes development is the no.1 issue facing humanity - why do some societies and some individuals develop, get richer, get rights etc....while others don't? Why is GDP so pre-dominant, meaning that destructive practices (e.g. environmental harm) are counted as economic acticity - in short, "why are the bads of economies counted as goods?"

Goldin traced the trajectory of development over recent decades. Dependency theory led to uneven development which countries tried to address through import substitution, but countries are generally not very good at state-controlled production and then the oil price rises of the 1970s led to a vicious cycle of debts and bail-outs.

To be continued...