No, that's not the new American bailout estimate (indeed, that figure will be much, much greater), but rather the trade volume between China and Africa in 2008. Goodness! Now if this figure is true, or some version of the truth, then there remains little doubt that China has become the most important actor in the continent, having surpassed both the U.K. and the United States in terms of trade. Of course Chinese trade carries with it a great price tag, but it also does well to build China's growing sphere of influence. Geopolitical expansion at its finest.
Monday, January 26, 2009
I generally approach any statistics having to do with Sino-African relations with a great deal of caution, especially when they are drawn from Chinese sources. Yet I couldn't help but marvel at this figure announced several days ago by Chinese Commerce Minister Cheng Deming:
This year's Freedom House annual Freedom of the World Report, released on 12 January, offers a somber accounting of a general worldwide decline in freedom of association and expression, and decreased respect for the rule of law. The decline is most pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet Union.
The report offers telling regional breakdowns of 'free,' 'partly free' and 'not free' countries. In the Americas, for instance, there are 25 free countries, 9 partly free, and 1 not free country. In Central and Eastern Europe there are 13 free countries, 8 partly free and 7 not free countries. In the Middle East and North Africa there is 1 (!) free country, 6 partly free countries and 11 not free countries. In sub-Saharan Africa there are 10 free countries, 23 partly free and 15 not free countries, respectively.
Not surprisingly, North Korea was cited as the least free country on earth, while Finland topped the list as the most free and respectful of individual rights.
Before the global economic meltdown, soaring food prices and rising hunger dominated development debates. The economic crisis rages on, but so does the food crisis. Although food prices fell in the final months of 2008, they remain well above the long-term trend and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future:
What does this mean in practice? A near 1 billion people - 1 in 6 of the world's population - goes hungry.
An Oxfam paper released today - "A Billion Hungry People" - considers some of the ways in which governments and aid agencies can address this growing problem. Read the paper for more detailed recommendations, but in a nutshell: improving hunger early warning systems; more and better development assistance; food reserves; an enabling environment for private businesses and citizens (e.g. access to credit, technical assistance); social protection programs; and counterproductive rich country programs such as biofuel subsidies.