Davos Newbies Home

Agriculture in Africa 

There’s quite a radical story on development in, of all places, The Wall Street Journal (subscribers only). It describes the work of Norman Borlaug, who spurred the green revolution in Asia, to bring an agricultural revolution to sub-Saharan Africa.

“Now, sub-Saharan Africa is staggering toward its worst food crisis in decades, with as many as 38 million people threatened with starvation in the coming months, according to the U.N. To Dr. Borlaug, the solution is simple: sow the seeds of a second green revolution… To the World Bank and the industrialized governments that control it, giving free rein to free markets is more appropriate for Africa — even though the U.S., for one, is expanding the subsidies it pays to its own farmers. The theory, as it applies to policy toward Africa, is that an unfettered private sector will jump in to serve efficiently where governments once served inefficiently, and people and resources will be channeled to their best purposes.”

World Bank loans for agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa will total $416 million this year, half the 1990 total, according to the article. The developed world’s annual subsidies for their own, comparatively vastly rich, farmers was $311 billion last year.

The Bush policy process 

Brad DeLong has the complete text of John DiIulio’s memo on the Bush policy process. I certainly haven’t seen it in unexpurgated form over here and it is fascinating reading, top to bottom. The Mayberry Machiavelli quote is good, but what’s important is the overall impression of a White House uninterested in policy at almost any level. An essential text for our times.

Internet in China 

Jonathan Zittrain and Benjamin Edelman’s report on Internet filtering in China is now available. “The blocking systems are becoming more refined even as they are likely more labor- and technology-intensive to maintain than cruder predecessors.”

Dear Leader 

“Impressed with the brown bread at a Khabarovsk restaurant, North Korea’s leader had an aide fly 20 loaves to Pyongyang so that it would be fresh on his arrival.” Rare insight into the bizarre world of Kim Jung Il, who is quite a gourmet while much of his population is starving.

Mob maps 

As a lover of both maps and technology, I adore the RealTime map of Amsterdam. Volunteers are given GPS devices that signal their position in real time. Over days and weeks, as they journey through the city, the map is built up. After 40 days, something traditional cartographers would be proud of is already emerging.

China’s rise 

Nicholas Kristof’s latest dispatch from China emphasises one of my convictions: “When historians look back on our time, I think they’ll focus on the resurgence of China after 500 years of weakness — and the way America was oblivious as this happened.” He doesn’t get carried away in his perspective of China’s rise. No sensible person says this is going to happen quickly. But it will be one of the key events of this century.

Charles Kupchan doesn’t disagree, but he believes Americans need to focus first on the rise of Europe. Salon’s interesting interview with Kupchan treads the ground laid 13 years ago by Paul Kennedy in his Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. I’m less convinced than Kupchan about Europe’s ability to speak and act with a single voice, but it’s important that an American is saying these things.

On China, Kupchan reckons you need to look beyond 2025. “Ten years from now China will be an Italy with nuclear weapons. Once you get into the second quarter of the century, 2025 and beyond, then China starts to begin to take its place as one of the top-ranking countries.” Even if that’s the timescale, policy makers need to start thinking about it now.

On a completely unrelated point, I don’t understand how Salon can be so poorly edited. There’s one major error in the interview, where Nigerian is substituted for Algerian (since it’s about what happened to the French in north Africa, the mistake matters a lot) and a few other annoying typos. Is no one reading these things?

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