How Do You Say ‘Kimchi’ in Kinyarwanda?

korea in rwanda

 

Inspired by South Korea’s economic success, Rwanda, now under the leadership of strongman Paul Kagame (a.k.a. Africa’s Lee Kuan Yew), wants to emulate its experience. And here comes a Korean engagement in one of Africa’s fastest growing markets, not simply in terms of financial aids and project assistance, but also in foreign direct investment, and later on, a gradual emigration of Koreans to the country to set up new businesses and empower local population.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.

 

Excerpt:

 

To whatever degree that South Korea’s expanding Africa footprint has been informed by its own successes, the process also exposes some of the Korean growth model’s limitations. Aside from several oil and mining deals, much of Korea’s activity in Africa, including a major push by Samsung into the mobile phone market, can be linked to increasingly saturated consumer markets, and therefore limited growth potential, at home. From a workforce perspective, too, Korea’s hierarchical office culture and lengthy working hours have raised the attractiveness of overseas business and aid assignments. Jeong Jun-ho, chief strategy officer of Olleh Rwanda Networks, the KT-Rwandan joint venture, says he volunteered for his placement largely because it meant he’d have more time with his family. (He relocated with his wife and children.)

Then there are entrepreneurs like Shin Ji-yoon, who was driven to Africa in part by the influence of Korea’s chaebol, which, despite playing an essential role in driving the country’s growth, are increasingly blamed for inhibiting small and medium enterprises, discouraging entrepreneurship, and stifling innovation. “In the United States, everybody can be an entrepreneur and if they fail, oh OK, they can do another business,” Shin, 26, says over coffee at Rz Manna, a Korean-style cafe and pastry shop that he and five university colleagues opened in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, last year. “In Korea, if I fail the first time, everybody will say, ‘You’re a loser.’ And if I succeed, and I invent a really good thing, a big company will just come and take it over.”

Infographic: China is the secret winner in 2014 World Cup

world cup scmp infographic

 

Even before the World Cup commenced, China had secretly, through its intense investment in the stadiums, rail links, electricity, construction, and even the souvenirs – something by which even Brazil’s largest corporations might struggle to fund them all by themselves, become the invincible winner in the world’s most prestigious football competition.

Source: South China Morning Post

Jakarta, a new perspective

 

Jakarta now emerges not only as Indonesia’s largest city, but also one of the world’s fastest growing megacities, now containing a population approximately 10 million strong in an area barely larger than Singapore (the latter by which has ‘merely’ 5.4 million). As the epicenter of the emerging market, with strong economic boom and vibrant dynamism, this metropolis is currently being faced with numerous challenges, ranging from yearly flooding seasons, en masse traffic breakdown in nearly all important highways stretching across the city, overpopulation, and a lackadaisical of sanitary and hygiene management, the main cause of many infectious, but easily curable, diseases. Worse, it is now being faced with threats resulting from global warming, with its surface level gradually decreasing, placing more areas around the capital at higher stakes.

Nevertheless, last year, Jakarta’s authorities, led by Joko Widodo and Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, had eventually stricken a massive long-term joint investment deal with Dutch government, and some of the country’s major corporations, in order to build a series of megaprojects intended to support its so-called ‘Coastal Defense Strategy’, ranging from giant sea walls, new bridges and highways, and lastly, a wholly new planned city intended to house hundred thousands of people. These series of massive-scale public work projects are expected to significantly reduce the problems the capital is being faced at this moment.

Okay, despite Indonesia’s reputation as one of the world’s highly corrupt countries, let us put some assurance, at least, that this program will be implemented with complete transparency and public accountability.

Watch it, and support it in a new perspective.

Ashraf Ghani: How to rebuild a broken state

ashraf ghani

 

 

Ashraf Ghani (pictured above) believes there is something fundamentally wrong with our world today: he believes the world’s current aid system is not working and highly ineffective, that our world’s education system, in a 7-billion-strong population dominated by young people, is still based on that of 19th century, that capitalism and democracy are malfunctioning in many aspects in most developing countries, and that there is a great absence of a strong, international leadership to solve our world’s ages-old problems.

Afghanistan even suffers worse. It is beset by corruption, terrorism (by-products of Cold War, with thousands of combatants trained by both Russia and United States), and an economy largely domineered by illegal drug trading. Despite gigantic potential revenues from mining sector (the country’s mineral reserves are estimated to be worth nearly 3 trillion US$), all these problems, using current problem-solving approach, will take more than decades to solve. And, we must acquiesce, Ghani, having served as the country’s finance minister from 2002 to 2004, will not be able to solve these problems alone. However, at least, throughout his tenure, the country has seen some major improvements: currency stabilization, budget reforms, and long-term public investment schemes.

He once competed for 2009 presidential election, but didn’t manage to secure enough votes to win. For the second time, for the 2014 election, he will compete once again for the seat. Let’s hope he can bring more positive changes to this new, uneasy, and fledgling nation.

 

Listen to his TED talk to know more how he helped rebuilding a once broken state.

 

China, we fear you.

taiwanprotestsign_afpgetty

 

A Taiwanese attorney explains in brief summary how the Cross Straits Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) between Taiwan and China will increasingly put the former in political jeopardy – an increasing dependence on the latter that, many fear, will eventually end up with a ‘complete Chinese reunification’.

The original essay is available on the attorney’s Facebook account (only in Mandarin). The translation itself, meanwhile, can also be read on Tea Leaf Nation. And here I’ve copied the essay’s translation below.

 

China, We Fear You

Think again: the China-Russia split in Central Asia

russia pipe

 

 

A look back at the uneasy, love-hate story in China-Russia relations, in particular when it comes to geopolitical influence in Central Asia. While the former continues to maintain its Soviet-like stature through establishment of numerous multilateral initiatives which tie countries ranging as far from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, to Turkmenistan, the latter, altogether with its rising GDP, and insatiable hunger for more natural resources control, is also making use of its economic boom to entice these countries’ leaders with promising investment in mega-projects worth tens of billions of US dollars, one that Russia, given its stagnating economic growth, is lacking of. For this reason, Central Asia remains a point of contention in the bilateral relations, and also one of the illustrations of the ongoing rivalries taking place between two Eurasian great powers.

Read the complete analysis in Al Jazeera.

 

Excerpt:

 

Putin’s regional integration project will likely not prevent, but rather pave the way for Chinese comprehensive economic expansion. While Russia needs Central Asian states in the Customs Union for the purpose of maintaining its geopolitical presence, China pursues its economic benefits. Russia relies on its military might and traditional soft power in the region, whereas China applies its financial clout.

So while Beijing refrains from all out confrontation with Russia’s interests (as opposed to PRC’s hawkish approach to its neighbours in the East and South-East Asia), Chinese policymakers certainly take advantage of the Kremlin’s missteps and limited capabilities.

China takes note of the stagnating Russian economy  that is gradually losing positions in the region. Russia and Central Asia overall trade turnover reached $27.3bn in 2011, when China’s commerce with Central Asia topped $46bn in 2012. Single-handedly, Beijing has become a main trade partner to all former Soviet states of Central Asia, except for Uzbekistan, where it is the second. 

Inside Nauru

nauru

Nauru, one of the world’s smallest countries with a population hardly surpassing 10,000 people, has experienced what people, having gained enough of its history, would obviously dub a ‘wheel of fortune’. Once when its phosphate reserves were among the largest on the planet, the nation could easily afford all the affinities provided. Investment was made globally, in numerous businesses, real estate projects, and even a huge musical production in United States (which later ended up in a similarly huge flop as well).

Then came the reversal of fortune, near the closing end of 20th century.

At the moment, with the reserves almost completely used up, and with very little savings, excluding their gone-wrong businesses’ bad debts, the tiny Pacific nation is hopelessly putting its final hope on Australia, one of its largest, and most influential, foreign donors. The country, as part of an agreement with the latter to accommodate illegal migrants detained in Australia, has for years received, in turn, over hundred million dollars in terms of foreign aid, mostly used for their annual expenditure. With things going upside down, in less than a generation, the whole nation has suffered from financial difficulties.

A former Australian financial adviser for Nauruan government described his half-year experience dealing with the people, and in particular, how he helped them reforming the country’s already dilapidated financial and budgetary sectors.

Read his full article on Australian Financial Review.

Excerpt:

One of my responsibilities was signing every spending receipt in the whole government. This was a big reform that had stopped money leaking out of the Nauru budget. Every cent of expenditure was confirmed by the Budget Adviser. It made sense, but it was an enormous pain.

Hundreds of complex spending receipts came over my desk every week. And then there was public sector pay.

Nauru had thousands of public servants, and every pay cheque had to be signed, by me or the head of the department. The Secretary of Finance did exactly what I would have done in his shoes, and delegated.

I saw and signed everyone’s pay cheque, from the president down to the gardeners who controlled weeds near the airstrip. The lowest pay was $180 a fortnight; the highest only about $350 – even for the president.

Katanga’s forgotten children

democratic-republic-of-congo-political-map

 

 

In the 1970s, Japanese companies, in a quest to secure natural resources in Democratic Republic of the Congo, then-named Zaire, invested heavily in the province of Katanga (as seen from the map above). With all the investment flowing in, so was the influx of over 1,000 Japanese workers.

Virtually, all of these employees left their spouses and children behind back in their home country, often for years. Nevertheless, this was also, at a heavy cost, what triggered them to do something beyond their families’ knowledge: many of them ended up impregnating local women, and unexpectedly fathered the so-called ‘Katanga Afro-Japanese’ children. To ‘clean up’ their sins, often, in collaboration with several Japanese physicians brought in as well, they, unbeknownst of the women’s families, poisoned bulk of the babies to death. Every ‘unusual’ baby brought in by their mothers to these Japanese-run clinics would most likely end up passing out. Realizing such abnormality, some of the families decided to keep the babies themselves.

And now they label themselves as ‘Survivors’, having escaped the infanticides. They are seeking truth from both Congolese and Japanese governments, and to this day, their fate remains deeply unknown.

This video, released in March 2010, provides more insight about those Katanga ‘survivors’. Watch it on France 24.

The American who took Mongolia by storm

passin

 

 

The profile of James Passin, an American equity-fund investor who really strikes when the iron is hot – that is, the resource boom that drives Mongolia’s economic growth to an unprecedented double-digit percentage today. His full article is available on Bloomberg Businessweek.

Excerpt:

Passin, 41, has at least $130 million in three funds that he oversees for his employer, Firebird Management, a Manhattan firm that specializes in emerging markets. Passin controls four companies listed on the Mongolian Stock Exchange—in coal, fluorite, and real estate—as well as an undisclosed number of private enterprises. His placements make Firebird one of Mongolia’s largest and most diversified foreign private equity funds.

Until a few months ago, many other international investors shared Passin’s enthusiasm for the Mongolian market. The country, with a 17.3 percent growth rate in 2011, had the fastest-growing economy in the world. A sparsely populated nation of 3.2 million run by communists until 1990, Mongolia has discovered a bounty of natural resources. Lying on an ancient seabed, where sedimentary basins cooked carbon for millennia, the country has about 130 billion tons of coal. Iron, copper, uranium, silver, fluorite, and many other minerals are also in abundance. The estimated value of it all runs into the trillions of dollars.

Analyzing Gita Wirjawan

Gita Wirjawan - World Economic Forum on East Asia 2010

 

 

Gita Irawan Wirjawan, as his full name sounds, has nearly everything you may deem damn perfect: educated in Harvard, well-experienced in international banking giants (JP Morgan Indonesia and Goldman Sachs being his notable ones), speaks greatly, and fluently, native English (he claims his TOEFL paper-based test scores were 650), becomes a highly successful entrepreneur who predicted the 2008 financial crisis (he established Ancora Group as an anticipation to the recession by buying out shares in companies he believes will be impacted by the crisis), and contributes significantly to the massive increase of foreign direct investment in Indonesia. And, well, he’s also immensely talented in badminton and music, and develops huge connections worldwide, which easily enable him to lobby world leaders to advance Indonesia’s economic agenda on a global scale.

C’est parfait, n’est pas?

Well, I guess we have to balance the pros and cons of everybody. Not that he’s a God-like prowess, though.

We have to acknowledge that without him, Indonesia’s investment climate would have never been this bustling, despite all the commotion and rambunctiousness taking place around our country. Nevertheless, just as everybody does, he also has his Achilles’ heel: he’s no good in handling kitchen stuff.

Serving as Minister of Trade, he has – several other ministers are also actually to blame – indirectly contributed to the massive increase of garlic prices, and of other commodities altogether, that millions of people must tighten up their expenditure, at great pains, to afford the amenities. Should we deny the facts? Nationwide, television news reports – despite their oftentimes politically distorted views – displayed to us, with all the double-digit, and to a lesser extent, triple-digit, increase in percentage of the prices of commodities, only to be solved, in short term, by allowing unlimited imports from neighboring countries like India.

This scenario takes place in a totally tropical country where garlic should have grown damn easy.

Okay, forgive his mistake, though: he owns numerous philanthropic foundations, all of which aggregated under Ancora Foundation, which award scholarship for visionary, like-minded, and ambitious graduate students to world-class universities like Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Sciences Po, Stanford, or Singapore’s beloved NTU. Now taking lead, also, as president of Indonesia’s badminton association, he has groomed many successful players, and he’s now ready to prepare locally-trained world-class golfers, using his personal wealth. Must be a good brief entertainment at times where commodity prices run high, eh?

And now he’s a presidential nominee for upcoming election in 2014. His vision: a technocrat-driven government. This is one I particularly very endorse. About our current leader? Without mentioning his name (you know what I mean), he’s been too much consensus-driven. Other political parties are claiming a bigger stake in governance, for the parties’ own sake. Were he elected, could he endorse technocrats to take seats in the state apparatus? This country, now with all its golden opportunities, should have been led by a government based on meritocracy, not one solely dependent on uneasy coalition.

Okay, let’s forgive our current president for the mistakes he made regarding the cabinet structure, which derives mainly from proportion of political parties included in his coalition; maybe this was his Hobson’s choice, given the relatively fragile political situation at that time. Now, with GDP surpassing 1 trillion US$, with more than 100 million people now entering middle-class status, Indonesia should have been ready to embrace for a merit-based regime. Where a ministerial seat should have been occupied by one really well-experienced in that field, not a leader of a certain political party showing superficial loyalty to the president.

Gita Wirjawan has a bonus for that. He only lacks another finesse, though: most of those who have heard his name are solely based on major cities. And those living on countryside? I doubt if many of them are well acquainted with him.

Will you support him on upcoming election? You decide.

 

Read his profile in Wikipedia.

Listen to his interview on Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), back in 2010, when he was serving Head of Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board, the one tasked with persuading foreign businesses to invest in the country.

And this is his main vision as a presidential hopeful. Read it at The Jakarta Globe.