What We’re Reading 7/24/09


Washington Post: Michael Gerson: A Humane Trade Reform
Michael Gerson writes that during a recession, the threat of foreign competition can seem more real than the opportunities of foreign markets. He argues that this perception is politically understandable, but economically insane because protectionism is outdated and economically and diplomatically self-destructive. He also says that it is unjust, because the world’s poorest countries are often the most dependent on exports. That is why he urges the Obama administration to enact “humane” trade reform: “even in the absence of a global trade agreement, America has a responsibility to fix its tariff system — a system that often punishes the poor.”

Financial Times: Stirrings in Kenya’s Slums
The Financial Times reports that young Kenyans of different tribes who live in the country’s slums are united in agreeing that their biggest problem is a lack of income and that the blame lies in one place: Kenya’s failing multi-tribal coalition government. The coalition was formed in February last year to end a post-election wave of violence. The FT point out that Kenya plays a crucial role as east Africa’s manufacturing base and a transport hub for a vast region. It is also home to the biggest United Nations offices in Africa. The country’s leaders signed up last year to a reform agenda that aimed to transform the government. Instead, it has been paralyzed by corruption, in-fighting and a poisonous lack of goodwill.

The Economist: South Africa’s Economy: A Battle for Control Has Begun
The Economist reports that South Africa is in dire economic shape: factories across the country have closed down, and the nation’s public sector and broadcasting, education and medical industries are all facing the same threat. President Jacob Zuma’s costly campaign pledges raised expectations high, just as South Africa was reaching its first recession since apartheid, and now it looks unlikely that he can fulfill many of those pledges. The situation has led to tensions between the factions in Mr. Zuma’s broad coalition of support, particularly between his party, the ANC, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions and South African Communist Party, which have hitherto had a three-way alliance.

Wall Street Journal: China Fund to Expand Africa Ties
The China-Africa Development Fund, which was founded by state-owned lender China Development Bank (CDB), plans to raise $2 billion by November to help expand business links between Africa and China. It will raise the money for expansion from Chinese financial institutions, including insurers. The fund, established in 2007 with an initial $1 billion investment by CDB, had said it aims to eventually increase its total assets for investment to $5 billion.

-Grace Lamb-Atkinson


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