Wednesday, March 27, 2013

China vs the US in Africa

Eugene Ohu explains why the Chinese seem to be more welcome than Americans in Africa:

There are some major differences between the attitudes of the United States and of China, and how these rub off on Africans. The general perception here is that In everything America does outside its shores, self-interest (read selfish) is paramount, and in an age where Africans are getting increasingly jealous of their autonomy and national pride, selfish governments eager to garrote Africa to milk it dry are kept at bay. Whatever accusations some may levy against China and its true intentions in Africa, there is something an African finds attractive in a Chinese who bends down with them to plough the field, mix cement, carry head pans of concrete and do menial carpentry jobs. No job is too menial for the Chinese laborer in Africa and for the African who values hard responsible work, it is an attitude that deserves respect. This creates a powerful image, different from that of a US construction boss coolly taking the breeze under the shade, with his proverbial whip, while his African employees slave it out. The workers bear with such attitude but resent it, and when a chance comes to choose, those arrogant bosses are soon dispensed with.

Both America and China have self-interested reasons to be in Africa. Economic: The United States desires to protect the many companies (especially oil prospecting) of its citizens, wants to ensure it retains access to a huge source of rich crude oil; Security: wants to take the fight to the perceived bases of its perceived enemies: Al Qaeda in Mali, Somalia… and now Boko Haram in Nigeria. China wants a market for its products and jobs for its citizens. While the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) [read, United States] give dubiously conditional loans to Africa with stringent payment conditions, China gives interest-free, and unconditional loans. Tell me, which attitude will most win African minds?

The difference lies mainly in the approach. China studies Africa, identifies its real needs and tries to service those. Where an African country needs refineries, China offers mouthwatering options to help them build one; where they need roads, China makes a pleasant offer. African countries are getting their roads and refineries, China is getting its money and getting its people employed.

America on the other hand does not seem to first study Africa’s real needs. It studies US needs, finds that Africa holds the solution, spins a public relations yarn about their intentions and comes to Africa under subterfuges and behind dark glasses that hide its true intentions. The selfishness of most United States’ interventions here is known to every African and resented. That is part explanation of the open arms with which China is being received.

Read more:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ending the monopoly of the banks

Douglas Rushkoff argues that the internet can help end the banks' monopoly on money creation:

As Alan Greenspan suggested in one of his final testimonies to the Senate, we are about to see private and alternative forms of money capable of competing with the central currencies. He's right.

I don't mean just Bitcoin (which is quite clever but still just another scarcity-based central currency), but TimeDollars, LETs and other local exchanges. Unlike interest-bearing currencies, these newer monies — similar to their Middle Ages predecessors — are biased more toward transaction than savings. They don't grow over time, but rather increase the velocity of money in the present.

Such possibilities are particularly appealing as values like localism, sustainability and the Maker movement replace corporatism, growth and retail. Big banks become the enemy, seeking to extract value from communities who are attempting to reach some measure of sustainability. Yet local currencies, however attractive in spirit, aren't really great for long-distance or longer term contracts. People will want gasoline, iPhones and other products from the non-local marketplace.

So what are banks to do? Promote the use of both local and central currencies, side by side.

Read more:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ethical is possible

Ethical production is possible as this example from One of a Chicago fashion brand shows:

Modahnik, a contemporary clothing brand based in Chicago that features authentic fabrics from Africa, has mastered the production of beautiful garments while also enforcing fair trade and ethical working conditions on the continent. Kahindo Mateene, the designer and founder of Modahnik, abides by the slogan “Modern, African, Ethical” when creating her pieces – something that can’t be said for many clothing brands today.

Read more:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New rice revolution based on less is more

John Vidal writes in the Observer:

Sumant Kumar was overjoyed when he harvested his rice last year. There had been good rains in his village of Darveshpura in north-east India and he knew he could improve on the four or five tonnes per hectare that he usually managed. But every stalk he cut on his paddy field near the bank of the Sakri river seemed to weigh heavier than usual, every grain of rice was bigger and when his crop was weighed on the old village scales, even Kumar was shocked.

This was not six or even 10 or 20 tonnes. Kumar, a shy young farmer in Nalanda district of India’s poorest state Bihar, had – using only farmyard manure and without any herbicides – grown an astonishing 22.4 tonnes of rice on one hectare of land. This was a world record and with rice the staple food of more than half the world’s population of seven billion, big news.

And here is how it was achieved:

What happened in Darveshpura has divided scientists and is exciting governments and development experts. Tests on the soil show it is particularly rich in silicon but the reason for the “super yields” is entirely down to a method of growing crops called System of Rice (or root) Intensification (SRI). It has dramatically increased yields with wheat, potatoes, sugar cane, yams, tomatoes, garlic, aubergine and many other crops and is being hailed as one of the most significant developments of the past 50 years for the world’s 500 million small-scale farmers and the two billion people who depend on them.

Instead of planting three-week-old rice seedlings in clumps of three or four in waterlogged fields, as rice farmers around the world traditionally do, the Darveshpura farmers carefully nurture only half as many seeds, and then transplant the young plants into fields, one by one, when much younger. Additionally, they space them at 25cm intervals in a grid pattern, keep the soil much drier and carefully weed around the plants to allow air to their roots. The premise that “less is more” was taught by Rajiv Kumar, a young Bihar state government extension worker who had been trained in turn by Anil Verma of a small Indian NGO called Pran (Preservation and Proliferation of Rural Resources and Nature), which has introduced the SRI method to hundreds of villages in the past three years.

Very impressive!

Read more:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

New Economy movement on the rise

Just beneath the surface of traditional media attention, something vital has been gathering force and is about to explode into public consciousness, writes Gar Alperovitz at the Huffington Post.

"The "New Economy Movement" is a far-ranging coming together of organizations, projects, activists, theorists and ordinary citizens committed to rebuilding the American political-economic system from the ground up," Alperovitz explains.

"The broad goal is democratized ownership of the economy for the "99 percent" in an ecologically sustainable and participatory community-building fashion. The name of the game is practical work in the here and now -- and a hands-on process that is also informed by big picture theory and in-depth knowledge.

"Thousands of real world projects -- from solar-powered businesses to worker-owned cooperatives and state-owned banks -- are underway across the country. Many are self-consciously understood as attempts to develop working prototypes in state and local "laboratories of democracy;" that may be applied at regional and national scale when the right political moment occurs.

"The movement includes young and old, "Occupy" people, student activists, and what one older participant describes as thousands of "people in their 60s from the '60s" rolling up their sleeves to apply some of the lessons of an earlier movement," he says.

Read the full article:

The rise of the New Economy movement (Huffington Post)

Also watch: