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From the article:
U.S. Ambassador Brian Nichols, a Moses Brown School graduate and son of a Brown University professor, has an opportunity to help foster democracy in the African nation at a “pivotal and precarious time” in its history, according to one observer.
The air traffic control tower at the airport in Zimbabwe’s capital city has a distinctive design, inspired by African history.
A Rhode Islander willing to look past the tower’s triangular windows and other style details could easily liken it to a New England lighthouse.
So far, the policy has not produced all of the desired results.
“Ambassador Nichols has arrived in Zimbabwe at a really pivotal and precarious time, which is exciting for a diplomat,” says a prominent Zimbabwe observer, Todd Moss, a senior fellow at the Center For Global Development. “But it also makes it difficult.”
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Moss says.
The election itself, while a marked improvement from the Mugabe era, fell short of international standards, according to observers sponsored by the U.S.
From the article:
The “Belt and Road Initiative” is a vast China-centred strategy to grow global trade that involves dozens of countries and more than US$1 trillion in investment.
It spans Asia, Europe and Africa, although projects in other regions have also been named under its banner.
Supporters laud it as a bold plan to fulfil the need among emerging markets for infrastructure investment, which Beijing has promoted as a way to boost regional cooperation and connectivity.
But critics warn about a lack of transparency and sustainability with some of the projects – including major ports and high-speed railway networks. There are also concerns that Chinese companies are the sole beneficiaries of the initiative.
What have been the results so far?
Despite the initial excitement surrounding the initiative’s announcement, construction on some projects has stalled and some countries involved now want to review the deals they originally signed with China, citing fears of unsustainable borrowing.
In December 2017, Sri Lanka was forced to lease the port of Hambantota and 15,000 acres of surrounding land to Beijing for 99 years after Colombo failed to repay the loans used in its construction.
Malaysia, Pakistan and the Maldives have since asked to renegotiate some of their China-backed projects, wary of mounting debt.
Credit rating agency Moody’s has highlighted the lack of transparency surrounding many belt and road projects and the high interest rates attached to some of them, while the Centre for Global Development has identified eight countries – including Laos, the Maldives, Djibouti, Pakistan and Mongolia – at risk of debt distress because of financing related to the initiative.
Xi moved to allay such fears in September 2018 when he told more than 50 African leaders visiting Beijing that a US$60 billion investment package did not “come with any political conditions attached”.
From the article:
Cape Town // It was almost possible to hear a collective groan of "not again" rattle around South Africa as the country was once again hit by rolling electricity blackouts.
Around February 4, a balmy summer's Sunday, which most South Africans use to kick back with family and friends, the state energy utility Eskom announced blackouts would be implemented over the next week. And, it said, these would be "Level 4" power cuts, the most serious level before a complete nationwide electrical cut-off.
As Monday rolled around and the markets came on line, the South African currency the rand had its worst week in more than a year, breaching the crucial 14 to the dollar level over the next few days, losing almost 5 per cent against the greenback in total. The economic knock-on of the rand’s fall will be felt quickly, as fuel prices are set to soar.
A report last year by the Centre for Global Development found that In some of the continent’s largest economies like Nigeria, Angola, and Ghana, more than 25 per cent of businesses lose double-digit sales due to power outages - with some firms averaging losses of 31 per cent.
Vijaya Ramachandran, the study’s lead author and a senior fellow at CGD, said: “We found that unreliable power can have a major impact on businesses, dampening their growth prospects and undermining job creation opportunities.”
South Africa has a dire unemployment problem but, unlike most African countries, it does not have the peasant-culture that allows people to become independent food producers outside the formal cash economy. Most, therefore, depend on jobs to earn cash money in order to survive.
The economy grew only about 1 per cent in 2018, latest government data shows, and it is economic consensus that South Africa needs 5 per cent growth to achieve job creation.
“An electricity crisis soon becomes a governance crisis, since all services depend on electricity,” says Johannesburg based author and artist Sizwe Mpofu Walsh. “An electricity crisis also soon becomes an economic crisis, since power and production are linked.”
Eskom itself though will probably have to shed jobs. The company’s own figures show that in 2003 it employed 32,000 people; today that number stands at 47,600, while still producing about the same amount of electricity.
Getting the unions, and even the bulk of the ANC itself to be on board with desperately needed changes to Eskom’s structure will be the defining task facing Mr Ramaphosa’s presidency, if he wins the upcoming elections as expected.
Should he fail, so will Eskom and with it, sub-Saharan Africa’s only industrial economy.
From the article:
Pregnant and breastfeeding women will be given the experimental Ebola vaccine, marking a U-turn in World Health Organization (WHO) policy.
A meeting of the WHO's expert vaccine advisory group reversed a previous decision to deny pregnant women the vaccine because there was not enough evidence of its safety.
Pregnant women are usually excluded from all immunisation campaigns because vaccines against infectious diseases like Ebola are rarely tested or approved for use in pregnant women.
Last year a report from an international group of experts called for pregnant women to be included in vaccine development and campaigns.
It said the exclusion of pregnant women from vaccine research and development was unacceptable and “business as usual simply cannot continue”.
Carleigh Krubiner, one of the authors of that report, welcomed WHO's policy reversal.
“This policy change will enable pregnant and lactating women to benefit from the protection the vaccine offers against Ebola infection, safeguarding their lives while also protecting their babies, families, and communities.
"It will also provide a critical opportunity to advance the evidence base on the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine so that decision makers in the future will be able to make informed decisions about how best to protect their populations, including pregnant women, in the event of an outbreak,” she said.
She added that pregnant women should no longer be left out of vaccine development strategies. "With global efforts now underway to develop a range of vaccines against devastating epidemic threats, we have to make sure pregnant women are on the agenda, so they will never again be left unprotected in the face of future outbreaks.”
From the article:
In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the launch of both the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, infrastructure development and investment initiatives that would stretch from East Asia to Europe. The project, eventually termed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) but sometimes known as the New Silk Road, is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever conceived. It harkens back to the original Silk Road, which connected Europe to Asia centuries ago, enriching traders from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Some analysts see the project as an unsettling extension of China’s rising power, and as the costs of many of the proposed projects have skyrocketed, opposition has grown in some participant countries. Meanwhile, the United States shares the concern of some in Asia that the BRI could be a Trojan horse for China-led regional development, military expansion, and Beijing-controlled institutions. Under President Donald J. Trump, Washington has raised alarm over Beijing’s actions even as it has abandoned some U.S. efforts to isolate China and deepen its own ties with economic partners in the region.
What are the potential roadblocks ahead?
While several developing countries in need of new roads, railways, ports, and other infrastructure have welcomed BRI investments, the initiative has also stoked opposition. For some countries that take on large amounts of debt to fund the necessary infrastructure, BRI money is seen as a potential poisoned chalice. BRI projects are built with low-interest loans as opposed to aid grants, explain CFR’s Alyssa Ayres and Elizabeth C. Economy and Johns Hopkins’s Daniel Markey. Some BRI investments have required the use of Chinese firms and their bidding processes have lacked transparency. As a result, contractors have inflated costs, leading to canceled projects and political pushback.
Examples of such criticisms abound. In Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena sought to renegotiate Colombo’s repayment schedule, but China asked for a long lease on a major port in return for debt forgiveness—some reports indicate Sri Lanka owed $13 billion on its debt in 2018, with expected total government revenues of just $14 billion. In Malaysia, Mahathir bin Mohamad, elected prime minister in 2018, campaigned against overpriced BRI initiatives, which he claimed were partially re-directed to funds controlled by his predecessor. Once in office, he canceled $22 billion worth of BRI projects. The new Maldivian government has also begun to unwind some of the BRI projects introduced under former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, while the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is at risk as Islamabad faces a balance-of-payments crisis. In 2018, as debts to China began to weigh on its economy, Pakistan sought billions of dollars in loans from Saudi Arabia, the International Monetary Fund, and China.
More such stories are likely, according to a report by the Center for Global Development, which notes that eight BRI countries are vulnerable to debt crises. Five of the eight border China, and two more—Djibouti and the Maldives—are choke points on the Maritime Silk Road.
Arguments against the BRI have in some cases helped propel politicians across the region into office. Christopher Balding, a former professor at the HSBC Business School in Shenzhen, says that the BRI’s “no-strings approach” has, counterintuitively, made some of its investments less attractive. The approach “has fueled corruption while allowing governments to burden their countries with unpayable debts,” he says. Political backlash is perhaps less of a concern in authoritarian countries taking part in the BRI, where autocrats face less public scrutiny and where the Chinese model of governance might hold more appeal. But some governments, in places such as Kenya and Zambia, are carefully studying BRI investments before they sign up, and candidates in Malaysia have explicitly run—and won—campaigns on anti-BRI platforms.
From the article:
LONDON — India’s decision to rejoin a prestigious global education ranking has been welcomed by education experts as a positive signal, but some questioned whether the move will bring about meaningful reform.
In January, the Indian government announced its plan to rejoin the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, after a 10-year absence. The country dropped out of the ranking, run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2009 after being placed 72nd out of 74 nations.
Anit Mukherjee, a policy fellow focusing on education at the Center for Global Development, told Devex that by having Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas schools take part in the test, the government is trying to have more control over the sample in the hopes of getting a better score. However, he said this is not unusual and that other countries have done the same.
“Learning outcome measurement across the world against a global benchmark is good … I would rather have India going to PISA in some way which is acceptable to both the government in India and OECD than to sit outside, otherwise we don’t have any comparator,” he said.
From the article:
Women who are pregnant and lactating, as well as children under the age of 1, will be offered access to an experimental Ebola vaccine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, officials said Wednesday, marking the reversal of a controversial policy that had drawn fire from public health experts.
The decision was made by a committee advising the Congolese Ministry of Health, but received the support of the World Health Organization.
The decision to exclude pregnant women from the vaccination program sparked blowback from some experts, with some calling the policy “indefensible.”
Carleigh Krubiner, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, welcomed the news.
“The DRC’s decision to extend Ebola vaccine coverage to pregnant women is a huge step forward, not only for pregnant women in areas affected by outbreaks but for all pregnant women who may face the threat of Ebola in the future,” Krubiner said in a statement.
To date, there have been 844 confirmed and probable cases in this outbreak, which is now in its seventh month. Of those, 528 people have died.
Krubiner said the policy reversal will not only offer pregnant women the protection of the vaccine, but also provide a critical chance to see how the vaccine, which is being developed by Merck, works in these women. That knowledge will be of benefit in future outbreaks, she said.
Reluctance to offer the vaccine to pregnant and lactating women has stemmed from the fact it is a live-virus vaccine. The virus it contains is not Ebola; it is a livestock virus called vesicular stomatitis virus that can infect, but does not sicken people. A key protein from the Ebola virus has been fused to the VSV virus, which then induces the immune system to develop a protective response when it encounters Ebola.
Traditionally there has been concern about using live-virus vaccines in pregnant women. Krubiner and others have argued that women ought to be informed of the risks and offered the choice.
From the article:
President Trump has named his selection to lead the World Bank.
David Malpass is a veteran of Ronald Reagan’s Treasury Department and the George H. W. Bush’s State Department, but it’s his more recent criticisms of the World Bank’s size and of multilateralism in general that are turning heads.
With America already pulling back from the United Nations, NATO and other multilateral institutions, is the World Bank next?
This week on ‘Wake’ we’ll look at the history, present and future of the World Bank and consider how it could change in the Trump era.
· Nancy Birdsall, founding president, Center for Global Development
· Catherine Weaver, professor of public policy, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin