globalEDGE Blog

Somewhat provocatively, let's pose the question: Are good dictators better for a country (and the world) than bad elected presidents?

Traveling the world, mainly for business-related reasons, has gotten me thinking about country governments, infrastructure-building, and the world community. The United Nations has 193 members, which means almost all countries in the world are UN members (54 countries or territories, recognized as such, are not, including notable exceptions such as Taiwan, Kosovo, Vatican City, and Palestine).

On my most recent trip to Kenya and the meetings of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Investment Forum, there was a plethora of countries represented and numerous high-level officials. And, since the meeting was in Africa, most of the 55 countries in Africa and its 1.2 billion people were represented by officials. Africa has seen its share of “dictators” and elected leaders, and that begs the question of which is the best – it seems the answer should be easy, but is it?

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China has set a deadline to significantly increase its robotic presence in its manufacturing industry by 2020. Currently, there are 36 robotics per 10,000 industrial workers; the 2020 goal is 150 per 10,000 workers. The driving forces of this shift include labor shortages due to an aging population, as well as the rising of wages due to decreased interest for low-level jobs. 

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In 2009, Brazil won the 2016 Summer Olympics bid. Their economy was healthy, the sixth largest in the world by 2011, and the Olympics were expected to be exceptionally profitable. Despite this, with less than one month until the start of the Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil may be experiencing one of their worst economic crises since the 1930's. Brazil has been declared a state of financial disaster, and has remained entrapped in a recession causing their economy to shrink 3.8 percent in 2015. A federal bailout of $900 million given to the government was insufficient to revert the crisis. Government corruption, tax exemptions, falling commodity and oil prices, and the Zika outbreak are all contributing factors to the economic turmoil.

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File under: Gas Prices, Oil, Global Economy

U.S. crude oil prices have been falling for the past two years and some claim that prices may not change until 2019, when oil production will reach its peak. Ever since the global oil-price collapse, oil has become a lot more affordable for consumers, hitting a two-month low on Wednesday, July 20th. As a result of excess oil productions, many suspect that oil prices may go back to $20 per barrel while others predict prices to reach $80 a barrel because the excess is overestimated.

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Want a quick way to compare data across multiple countries? The globalEDGE Comparator Tool offers an easy way to find labor, health, economic, and trade data for various countries, using data from the World Bank. Data fields include population, total tax rate, adult literacy, foreign direct investment, and more. The tools allows users to compare up to five data fields and twenty countries at once, in an easy to read format. Check out the Comparator Tool, a great way to gain more international business insights!

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This blog was written using a wealth of materials promoted by the United Nations, UNCTAD, and various UN Forums, such as the World Investment Forum, but with my take on the implications and where to go from here. This inclusion of official, publicly available UN materials sets the tone for the debate about UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 2030 Agenda, funding and bold leadership required, and the worldwide collaboration needed by the UN’s 193 member states. My take is that collaboration – whether it be structured as a series of multilateral agreements and/or regional agreements – is the way to go over any form of isolationism.

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Ok, so normally my globalEDGE blogs are a bit more topical, serious, and germane to my international business and trade interests. But I’m finding myself up early, from jetlag, in my hotel room in Nairobi, Kenya where I am attending the joint meeting of UNCTAD and the World Investment Forum, and it strikes me that cocoa beans have been in the news lately. And the world may not have noticed!

Let’s connect the dots. Kenya is of course in Africa, and Africa accounts for 73 percent of the world’s cocoa bean production according to a 2016 report by UNCTAD (but only 19 percent of the cocoa bean roasting/grinding/refinement which is done mainly in other parts of the world, led by Europe at 39 percent). In Africa, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire lead the way – each country has about 30 percent of their export earnings coming from the cocoa bean commodity. And therein lies the crux perhaps; that cocoa beans are viewed as a commodity.

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Nairobi, Kenya is the scene for the 2016 World Investment Forum and also the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The parallel, and in some cases joint, meetings attract a plethora of intellectual power, decision-making authorities, and other invited and influential parties. A key agenda item across the meetings is investment opportunities based on the newly established Sustainable Development Goals.

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Big data has long been a buzz word in the business world, with the seemingly endless benefits more data can bring. Companies use data to spot trends and find consumer preferences, allowing for things like personal advertising and targeted pricing. While big data can be very helpful, some businesses find trouble transforming the vast amount of information into useful insights.

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