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Hello Everyone, welcome to another edition of Knowledge Dispatches.
We open this edition with the story about a food blockade. Some group of persons called Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AUFCDN) were restricting the movement of farm produce to the Southern part of the country in protest. The result so far has offered all of us a quick lesson in economics. The loss by the farmers has been huge and significant, as lack of storage facilities has meant farmers are selling at giveaway prices (meaning at a loss). The situation is reminiscent of some parts of the Qatari blockade which has led to a boost in agricultural production of dairy products in the country. Qatar now exports surplus milk to other countries. The food blockade has been called off, but the fabric of unity holding the country together has frayed further. It is a reminder that nation-building is not a superficial rhetorical exercise as our elites have approached it. A good observation is offered by this article on some of the lessons Lee Kuan Yew learnt by visiting African countries immediately after decolonization in the 60s - and his prescient observation on Nigeria's ethnic alliances is more relevant than ever.
2. Africa's energy needs and the balance with environmental concerns will become much more important as the century continues. This is against the backdrop that Africa currently is the least polluter, contributing about 2.7% of global CO2 emissions. Although Africa seems to bear the brunt disproportionately because of the institutional weakness. This thread which was a response to environmentalist concerns leading a bank to stop the financing of this project provides some interesting perspectives. The challenge for developing countries will be to figure out how to industrialize in this age while maintaining environmentally friendly standards. Gyude Moore and Vijay Ramachandran make this argument extremely well in a recent essay. Already, this article by Michael Shellenberger shows that Germany, the industrial giant of Europe, is also coming to realize the inadequacy of renewable energy sources in powering their country. The broader discussion should cover how African countries can finance major public projects like this. We had a discussion on infrastructure financing on the continent on the podcast with Femi Edun, and it provides some interesting insights. You can listen here.
3.Nigeria took delivery of vaccines some days ago, There are reasons to express scepticism about the sincerity of the distribution process. A website was launched for citizens to register for the Vaccine in Nigeria. The availability of the mRNA vaccine has sparked interest in the creation of vaccines for other diseases as there are now talks that a Malaria vaccine is in the works, this article goes deeper on how this might work, a huge game changer considering the loss of productivity because of malaria in Africa. The economic cost is huge and impacting the GDP by as much as 5-6 per cent.
4. An article by Noah Smith stressed the importance of the future from the African perspective, his declaration that all Futurism is Afrofuturism sets an interesting stage. The accompanying thread on Twitter makes a note of some dissent among the popular narrative. Noah quickly notes that Africa needs industrialization and cited the current book we are reading in our Book Club, The Next Factory of the world by Irene Yuan Sun which is much more optimistic on the subject. He also mentions Dani Rodrik’s hypothesis that Africa is currently experiencing premature De-Industrialization which is an interesting hypothesis. We have had a lot of discussion on industrialization here and the perspective Professor Dani Rodrik presents is challenging, which implies that Africa may have missed the boat, but still, there are still some signs of growth in manufacturing on the continent. The focus will be on how to fan this nascent flame into a fire. All this will be for nought if we adopt policies that seem eerily familiar to the one expressed in this article about India and self-sufficiency. Our large population will be unproductive if we still power it with bad ideas. A core mission of ours at Ideas Untrapped is to ensure the spread of good ideas.
5. China's growth has been impressive to watch, the focus has moved on to what’s next, China has now set a new target which is to focus on surpassing the American economy, there are lessons here that can be learned by developing countries, the challenge of getting to 30 trillion by 2035 reveals some key positions they would have to take to achieve this. There is a lot of focus on how long-term thinking will be critical to achieving this goal. Speaking of goals, this article by the BBC asks if they've met their latest poverty numbers target and explores some methods that were employed in doing this. The sheer ability of the Chinese to plan long-term is something worth admiring in our context, despite the emotional cost of this. This emotional cost affects how and why long-term thinking is hard, Michelle Hutchinson explores this in-depth here.