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from Counterparties:

Mandela’s economic legacy

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Nelson Mandela’s economic legacy is intertwined with, and nearly as important as, his political one. Charles Kenny has the numbers: economic growth in South Africa rose to just under 3% between 1995 and 2003 (Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999), up from roughly 1.5% in the 1980s. Average incomes in the country increased by 93%, secondary school enrollment increased to 70% from 50%, and “the proportion of the country that cooked using electricity from the mains climbed from 45 percent in 1993 to 73 percent by 2011”. Yet, inequality grew in the first decade after Mandela was elected in 1994.

The story behind that rising inequality is told by Noah Feldman. Mandela faced a difficult choice when he struck a deal with then-president FW de Klerk from prison. In the end, he allowed white South Africans to keep their property rights in exchange for an end to apartheid. Black South Africans gave up their “material patrimony” (essentially, their historical right to the land) in order to avoid the flight of white capital that happened in many other parts of Africa in the mid-20th century. As a result, Feldman argues that Mandela “brought peace through his ability to convince millions of his countrymen that they should accept much less than they were in justice owed”.

Andrew Ross Sorkin dives into Mandela’s embrace of capitalism after he got out of prison. Madiba changed his mind rather dramatically at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 1992, after campaigning on a promise to nationalize South Africa’s main businesses. Adrian Monck quotes Anthony Sampson’s biography of Mandela:

from Photographers' Blog:

Seeing world leaders at shoe level

Davos, Switzerland

By Denis Balibouse

Seeing world leaders at shoe level - you can tell a lot about them.

Last week my colleague Pascal Lauener and I covered the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Alpine ski resort of Davos in Switzerland. According to its website the WEF is "an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas."

The 2,500 participants can take their pick from 258 official sessions over a four-day period. Some only come for informal meetings in the hotels surrounding Davos' congress center, where discreet talks covering business, politics and deal-making thrive away from the spotlight. Contracts are signed, soirees take place, deals are made.

from FaithWorld:

French religious leaders warn against divisive Islam debate

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(Abderrahmane Dahmane displays green star to protest against France's Islam debate, March 29, 2011/Gonzalo Fuentes)

The leaders of France's six main religions warned the government on Wednesday against a planned debate on Islam they say could stigmatise Muslims and fuel prejudice as the country nears national elections next year. Weighing in on an issue that is tearing apart President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, the Conference of French Religious Leaders said the discussion about respect for France's secular system could only spread confusion at a turbulent time.

from Africa News blog:

Does the “billionth African” mean boon or burden?











One day this year, in all probability, the "billionth African" will have been born, a milestone that will only benefit the poorest continent if it can get its act together and unify its piecemeal markets.
   Nobody knows, of course, when or where in its 53 countries the child arrived to push Africa's population into ten figures.
   The U.N. merely estimates that in mid-2008 there were 987 million people, and in mid-2009, 1,010 million.
   Given the difficulties of obtaining accurate data from the likes of Nigeria, where provincial population figures are often hostage to the ambitions of local politicians, or any data at all from the likes of Somalia, experts are reluctant to hazard any greater degree of accuracy.
   There is less doubt, however, about the underlying trend -- that Africa's population is set to grow faster than in any other part of the world in the coming decades, and to double by 2050.
   To some, the statistics from the U.N.'s population division will invite comparisons to the Asian giants, and inspire hopes of a flood of investment from Africans and outsiders to meet the needs of a continent likely to be home to one in five people by the middle of this century.
   By contrast, China's projected population of 1.4 billion in 40 years will be shrinking, while India will only be adding an annual 3 million to its 1.6 billion people.
   To others, the numbers are stark reminders of the mammoth task Africa's leaders face in providing the food, jobs, schools, housing and healthcare that are still so sorely lacking.
   UNFPA, the U.N.'s population arm, summarises by saying that sub-Saharan Africa faces "serious political, economic and social challenges" and points to the last two decades as evidence that more people does not mean more wealth.
   "Twenty years of almost three percent annual population growth has outpaced economic gains, leaving Africans, on average, 22 percent poorer than they were in the mid-1970s," it says.
    Are Africa's leaders ready and willing to create the truly unified common market needed to boost investment, trade and economic growth, or are short-term national interests likely to prevail, consigning Africa to a century of overpopulated poverty?