Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I cringed upon typing that title. Honestly, I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry upon reading this. It would appear that American (or Western, if you will) pop music serves the dual purpose of background music in cheesy teeny-boppy clubs, and as a torture strategy in prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay:
Indonesia is facing what some may argue is the worst shortage of all: an alcohol shortage
Observations and tips on developing mobile phones for developing countries
A wonderful animated map of immigration to the U.S. between 1820- 2007, designed by a Northwestern grad (go Wildcats!):
Immigration to the US, 1820-2007 v2 from Ian Stevenson on Vimeo.
Can charity porn save Africa? A Japanese company seems to think so
Gideon Rachman on China's plummeting economy
Our apologies to China. A list (and map, to boot!) of all the countries and organizations that have "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people" since 1946
Do economic grievances matter in explaining the onset of civil wars?
While (re)reading through Collier's Bottom Billion last night, a thought occurred to me: maybe the Chinese have it ('it' being part of the solution to Africa's development woes) right. Bear with me as I wade through my thoughts....
Collier places much emphasis on the importance of transport infrastructure - particularly among landlocked states - as one of the key engines for economic growth. Landlocked states are in a dubious position as without their own access to ports, for instance, they are reliant on those of their coastal neighbors. Yet, if your coastal neighbor is Sudan, or Nigeria, or Angola, chances are your goods aren't going to get very far - not only because of the rather, let's say, questionable political realities there, but also because their infrastructure is also, well, questionable.
Infrastructure development has become 'so last season' among many development agencies, who are instead focused on more fashionable objectives like HIV/AIDS research, education, women's rights, etc. While of course important (very important in most cases) and worth pursuing, exclusive emphasis on objectives such as these has blinded some donors to the need for infrastructure development. Not the Chinese. A report put out by the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Stellenbosch tracks the Chinese interests in Africa's construction and infrastructure projects. The Chinese are rebuilding a stretch of road connecting landlocked Ethiopian farms to ports in Kenya, and have generally taken to building roads, bridges, tunnels - you name it - left and right.
Of course questions abound over the percentage of local vs. imported labor, labor conditions, and the ultimate (or ulterior?) motives behind China's enthusiasm for construction in Africa (I have a few guesses). Placing those aside for a moment, I must admit that (re)reading Collier's arguments left me wondering whether Chinese investment in the form of construction may just be the ticket. Do the Chinese have it right after all?