Christine Lagarde Appointed President of European Central Bank

Christine Lagarde Appointed President of European Central Bank

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has been appointed to be the President of the European Central Bank (ECB). The primary function of the president of the ECB is to manage the monetary policy in the Eurozone of the European Union (EU), particularly about the Euro. Lagarde will take over from current president, Mario Draghi who has led the organization since 2011.  

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Colin Kaepernick and Nike's #JustDoIt Headed to the Emmys

Colin Kaepernick and Nike's #JustDoIt Headed to the Emmys

To realize greatness in one’s chosen field, it takes dedication, unwavering tenacity, and commitment to the dream of a future much different from the “now” in which we inhabit. All significant accomplishments started with what people often labeled as “crazy,” thus it is fitting that the Nike commercial narrated by Kaepernick and titled "Dream Crazy,” has been nominated for a 2019 Emmy for Outstanding Commercial.

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A Not So Sweet Situation - Cocoa and Cote d'Ivoire

A Not So Sweet Situation - Cocoa and Cote d'Ivoire

Although the default has proved harrowing for many, some people have outsmarted the system and began smuggling cocoa across the border to neighboring Ghana and Guinea where they can sell it to make a larger profit than in their homeland. Even though this has provided temporary relief for some, there does not exist a long term solution. As a result, many have taken to the streets in a cry for help for government assistance during this time of need. Likely fueling the protests is the fact that the Ivory Coast has not used either its stabilization fund or the Reserve Fund to support cocoa sales or otherwise mollify the situation.

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Globalization Express: Ethiopia's Chinese Railway

Globalization Express: Ethiopia's Chinese Railway

Traveling through Ethiopia's capital city one may notice bustling sidewalks filled with young professionals, construction sites looming with delicately built scaffolding, and street signs written in a language that is not Amharic as one might expect, but Mandarin Chinese.

While it is not unusual for African countries to have a heavy influence of non-native cultures and languages due to colonialism, China has never been one of these. When one thinks of Africa and the historic problems which currently beset it, many of these problems are inextricably connected to 19th century European colonialism during which Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, and Belgium to name a few, used military aggression to implement imperial agendas. Image: Light Railway System Built by the Chinese, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Photo by Etsutaro Tanaka

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Women in Bahrain: Living and Working in this Part of the Middle East

Women in Bahrain: Living and Working in this Part of the Middle East

Bahrain has always been believed that Bahrain is different from its other Gulf counterparts. It is true especially when it comes to women and their participation towards the economic growth of the country. According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Bahrain is counted amongst the fastest growing economies of the Middle East. This is due to the country’s emphasis on offering more opportunities for education and providing more rights to women.

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Will the ‘Enemy of my Enemy’ Strategy Foster Cooperation in the Middle East

Dome of the rock, jerusalem, israel

Dome of the rock, jerusalem, israel

ISRAEL, Jerusalem – Israel is a country which is well-recognized by both economists and global experts because of the extraordinary pace of the development in its technology, business, and tourism sectors. This economic growth has benefited Israelis as well as the growing number of immigrants who have become integrated into the Israeli society. This unprecedented growth illuminates a dynamic shift in the relationship which Israel maintains with its various allies.

Israel can be seen as dichotomous when viewed from the perspective that two of its most popular attractions; the famous Holy City of Jerusalem, with its religious significance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians, versus the more secular, rapidly moving and vibrant metropolis of Tel Aviv are attractive to tourists, both religious and secular, who annually vacation in the country.

But, this is only part of the story because most people who live outside of the region only associate Israel with terrorism, bombings, and its swift and violent responses to continuous threats from its Arab neighbors. In addition to this, the strong relationship which Israel maintains with America, one which has benefited the country in a number of ways, most notably in its access to advance weaponry which secures its position in the region as a formidable military force, is viewed by other Middle East nations with disdained because this support is viewed as providing the country with an unfair advantage.

It is this precarious balance between military might and advance technology that seems to thwart Israel’s continued efforts to reach a peaceful solution with its Arab neighboring nations. The lack of an accord in the Middle East is the result of recalcitrance on both sides of the proverbial negotiating table. But, in all of this people forget that Saudi Arabia also benefits mightily from its alliance with the United States. This relationship is complex, but provides the U.S. with a presence in a power Arab nation in the Middle East where continued relations and open dialogue with the ruling family provides entrée into and a voice in decision making affairs in the region from which the U.S. would otherwise be unaware.

Progress to Date

Despite numerous efforts toward securing peace in the Middle East, many of the negotiations brokered in large part by several U.S. Presidents and Secretaries of State, conflict persists as talks between Israel and its Middle East neighbors continually break-down due to the intractable positions which hardliners on both side are unwilling to relinquish. One such issue is the ownership and occupancy of the Dome of the Rock, considered one of the holiest and most revered piece of real-estate in the country and is considered the location of the Foundation Stone.

The Dome of the Rock is now owned by the Ministry of Awqaf Islamic Affairs and Holy Places. But, Israel also lays claim to the mountain because it is also considered the site of the Holy of Holies, which is the inner chamber of the sanctuary in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, separated by a veil from the outer chamber. It was reserved for the presence of God and could be entered only by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement.

Muslims by contrast revere this location as holy because “according to some Islamic scholars, the rock is the spot from which the Islamic prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel. Further, Muhammad was taken here by Gabriel to pray with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.” (Source: Temple MountThus, for the religious right on both sides, this is the most contentious issue, but for the secularist the true divide is the lack of a two state solution. For example, people had great hopes in 1993 that such a solution would be achieved when former U.S. President Bill Clinton brokered the Oslo Peace Treaty which failed to coalesce according to each side because it was felt that their needs and promises asserted as necessary to achieve and maintain peace were insincere and therefore would be unsustainable.

However, in the intervening decades the isolationist policies of some nation states have begun to dissolve as many recognize the inevitability of globalization and the need for nations to form alliances in order to maximize the vast potential for economic advantages, especially for countries with emerging economies. Though the ruling governments of nations entering into diplomatic discussions may espouse vastly different political, military, or even religious objectives, the greater opportunities often take precedence of potential future conflicts even as these nations enter into discreet agreements to meet internal goals and implement long-term strategies.

It is for such reasons of necessity that the leadership of many moderate Arab nations and Israel have reopened diplomatic discussions in earnest. However, instead of these negotiations being initiated by outside parties, Israel and its Arab neighboring nations have come to the table to dialogue about and formulate strategies to address the common threat of Iran. It is as the old proverb, an alliance built out of necessity because “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

On 4 January 2016 an article appeared in the Voice of America online news site highlighting the violent relationship that exists between Saudi Arabia and Iran, one that poses a grave threat of destabilizing the region especially after the lifting of U.S. sanctions. According to the report, on “Saturday [2 January 2016] protesters in Tehran attacked the Saudi embassy, ransacking and burning it as Iran ignored or refused Saudi requests to protect the building. Saudi Arabia formally broke off diplomatic relations with Iran on Sunday, on Monday saying it would cut commercial ties and ban Saudi travel to Iran as well. Sudan and Bahrain, both Saudi allies, severed ties as well.” (Source: VOX)

Speculation on the Future

Iran’s nuclear program continues to be a source of anxiety for the Middle East, and especially for the six energy rich monarchies that comprise the six member countries of the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC). Ironically it is this uncertainty which has helped to strengthen these GCC nations’ bonds with Israel. Presently, the bond between the GCC and Israel are both economic as well as diplomatic. This desire to achieve this common objective has led to a number of Israeli corporations establishing corporate headquarters in economically vibrant destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Doha.

These bold step will go a long way toward paving the way for future cohesiveness in the region. It is these commonalities which will encourage and foster growth opportunities in various economic sectors throughout the Middle East. Ultimately this will result in greater market demand for skilled and unskilled labor both foreign and domestic who will be able to take advantage of increased employment opportunities in the region.

All of these developments prognosticate a bright future and may be the economic impetus that unifies the region despite the ongoing challenges to a permanent peace solution. Perhaps the allure of increased economic prowess and greater influence in the geopolitical landscape is a commonality upon which many successful accords may be reached between all Middle East nations.

Middle East Correspondent: @AnshumanKukreti
LinkedIn: Anshuman Kukreti

The Complicated Dynamic of Arab’s Love-Hate Relationship with the Rest of the World

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry & Arab League Secretary-General Dr. Nabil Elaraby,, Photo by U.S. Department of State

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry & Arab League Secretary-General Dr. Nabil Elaraby,, Photo by U.S. Department of State

MIDDLE EAST - The relationship the Middle East maintains with other global nations is complicated. Whether political relations or social ties, trying to understand the depth of Arab’s love-hate relationship with other countries sometimes seems like an impenetrable task.

Without taking into consideration foreign nations, the countries that make up the Middle East are themselves strategically aligned despite differences in terms of social issues, beliefs, regulations, and political dominance. The conflicts and alliances within the boundaries of Arab nations impacts the global landscape in innumerable ways and has great significance.

The Middle East maintains a very definite and elaborate relationship with the rest of the world. Some of these relationships are cordial, others born of necessity and political expediency such as Gulf security, while others are mutually beneficial and actively nurtured. It is very interesting to study and understand the relationship between Arab nations and rest of the world.

Here is a snapshot of the relationships shared with different countries:

With The USA

This relationship depicts an underlying distrust of the fundamentalist values that govern most Arab nations, juxtaposed with an insatiable dependence upon Arab’s vast oil reserves. This high energy consumption is a primary reason that the United States walks a delicate balance in maintaining cordial relationships with Middle East countries despite periodic conflicting priorities. For instance, after 9/11 there were numerous allegations by the U.S. government that some of terrorists originated from Saudi Arabia. This caused a potential rift in relations, but unlike Iran, the dependence on the oil and Saudi Arabia as a formidable ally in the region, the U.S. negotiated terms under which it could continue to receive the much needed petroleum.

"The United States imported approximately 9 million barrels per day (MMbbl/d) of petroleum in 2014 from about 80 countries. Petroleum includes crude oil, natural gas plant liquids, liquefied refinery gases, refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel, and biofuels, including ethanol and biodiesel. In 2014, about 80% of gross petroleum imports were crude oil, and about 44% of the crude oil that was processed in U.S. refineries was imported.

The top five source countries of U.S. petroleum imports in 2014 were Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Iraq.  The country rankings vary based on gross petroleum imports or net petroleum imports (gross imports minus exports)." (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration)

The intricate relationship between the U.S. and Saudia Arabia started with ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Ibn Saud’, the founding monarch of Saudi Arabia. The event was initiated by most respected American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt in the year 1951. The outcome of these negotiations forever connected Arab’s oil with American national security.

In the current climate in the Middle East as well as the continuing instability in the entire region, the increasingly interdependent relationship between the kingdom and the U.S. is largely driven by the supply of cheap oil in in exchange for American protection. The ‘hate’ factor cannot be denied as well; as xenophia against all Arabs is rampant in the U.S. in some instances with cause, but in many it is the result of a lack of education and exposure.

With China

The relationship between the Peoples' Republic of China and Saudi Arabia goes beyond the love for ‘oil’ or rather the greed for it. The mutually beneficial relationship is predicated by an exchange of goodsfor petrol. This success of this relationship can be seen in the ubiquity of Chinese goods being sold in throughout the Middle East. Like most countries that are voracious consumers of the low price goods manufactured in China, Saudi Arabia procures many of these items through bilateral agreements in which China gets oil in exchange. In addition, there are a number of infrastructure projects being undertaken by the two countries which include:

  • Saudi Arabia has become increasingly important as an investment location for the Chinese (with the Saudi reciprocating the interest by increasing their presence in China as part of King Abdullah’s “Look East” strategy).
  • Chinese firms have begun to invest in infrastructure and industry in Saudi Arabia, including in an aluminum smelter in the southern province of Jizan, at a cost of US$3 billion.
  • Direct flights from China
    • Beijing-Jeddah (4 flights weekly)
    • Guangzhou-Jeddah (1 flight weekly)
    • Guangzhou-Riyadh (3 flights weekly) (Source: China Briefing)

The Middle East clearly understands that China’s global rise is a force to be reckoned with and that a strong relationship between the two will be mutually beneficial. The price for this relationship is built upon economic and infrastructure interests versus the quid pro quo relationship that exists between the Saudi Arabia and the U.S. which trades oil in exchange for Gulf security.

With India & Other Asian Countries

India has become a major business partner with Saudia Arabia. Like other nations the relationship between the two countries is primarily a "buyer-seller" relationship with oil being the primary commodity. The recent visit of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to New Delhi boosted strategic ties and the two countries agreed to explore ways and means to transform their buyer-seller relationship. According to Saudi Arabia is India's fourth largest trading partner at $43.78 billion in fiscal 2012-13. In the April-November period of the current fiscal, the two-way trade was $32.7 billion. Imports of crude by India form a major part of this trade. Almost one-fifth of India's oil imports come from Saudi Arabia. (Source: Times of India)

Further, India provides companies stationed in Arab nations like the UAE and Qatar with an efficient and cost effective laborer force and the Gulf employment market has benefited immensely from this exchange.

In summary, each of these relationships was initially established on a foundation of oil trade, but have since diversified their partnerships to the mutual benefit of each nation. Call it the greed for oil or the Middle East’s initiative to achieve economic diversification, the ‘love-hate’ relationship that exists between it and other nations will continue to balance on a delicate fulcrum. These relationships, though fraught with dangers, will ultimately result in greater interdependence, increased stability in the region,  and the development of alternate sources of revenue.

Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204

Russian Billionaire Funds Search For Alien Life

stephen hawking nasa 50th, Photo by Nasa HQ

stephen hawking nasa 50th, Photo by Nasa HQ

RUSSIA - Yesterday, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced that he will spend $100 million to further the search for life beyond Earth. His plan, called "Breakthrough Listen," uses radio telescopes and a handpicked team of scientists to conduct a ten-year search for radio signals that would be indicative of life. Milner's estimate is that during the span of the project, radio transmissions can be collected from the Milky Way as well as 100 other nearby galaxies. Scientists will then look for patterns in the data and figure out what radio signals came from natural causes and what, if any, came from intelligent life. (Source: Reuters)

The financial backing behind "Breakthrough Listen" is unprecedented. Typically, the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) receives less than $2 million a year.

Most of the money will be spent in renting time to use radio telescopes, including those at Australia's Parkes Observatory in New South Wales and the Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia.  Astronomers must pay top dollar to use these telescopes and most can only afford to reserve a few days of sky-watching time. Milner plans to book the telescopes for two months every year -- admittedly an inconvenience for other scientists jockeying for time at the observatories.

Advising Milner and his team are Frank Drake, former partner of Carl Sagan and chairman of SETI, and physicist Stephen Hawking.

NASA has long known that there are "Goldilocks planets" -- Earthlike, potentially habitable planets. The term references the Goldilocks fairy-tale's quest for something "just right" -- for instance, an atmosphere that isn't too hot to cause all water to evaporate nor too cold for water to become inaccessibly frozen. Breakthrough Listen will find out if anything on these planets has something to say.

LINKEDIN: Sarah Jakubowski

Mohed Altrad, a Bedouin Who Flees the Desert, Becomes Billionaire, Wins Coveted 2015 EY Award

eiffel eyeful, photo by iwc photo

eiffel eyeful, photo by iwc photo

MARSEILLE, France - How many of us could walk through the desert to sit outside of school because we had such a thirst for knowledge? Would you be motivated enough to gaze through a hole in mud and tin roof schoolhouse and stare at a chalk board covered in symbols which meant nothing to you because you have never seen writing?

What if in addition to this, you knew that everyday after a several hour walk home that you would be beaten upon your arrival because your destiny was predetermined to be a sheepherder? Well not only did he learn to write, he excelled.

The man who did all of this and more is Mohed Altrad, a Syrian son of a Bedouin girl who was either 12 or 13-years-old when she was raped for the second time by his father who was the leader of their nomadic tribe. It was into these horrific circumstances that Altrad and his elder brother were born. In interviews, Altrad says that he doesn't remember his mother's name, but he does know that she died giving birth to him.

His elder brother was eventually murdered by his father, leaving Mohed to be raised by his maternal grandmother just outside Raqqa, which like many towns and cities in Syria, it is now controlled by the Islamic State (ISIS), but back then it was the place he called home.

Because his family were Bedouin tribesmen wandering the deserts of Syria, they kept no records of births or deaths so Altrad has no idea of his true age. According to interviews, he surmises that he is perhaps as old as 65, but this figure is not as important to him as all that he has achieved in remembrance of his mother. The pursuit of this promise to honor her has culminated in his becoming a billionaire, but the prize that has allowed him the visibility to publicly honor her was in being chosen as the 2014 French Entrepreneur of the Year.

As a result of the French Entrepreneur of the Year, he was nominated to represent France in the annual Ernst and Young World Entrepreneur of the Year competition. This year, 52 national award winners were nominated, but Altrad won the coveted 2015 award. Of course his ascent wasn't immediate, but his success was a consequence of his thirst for knowledge, his persistence, and triumph over the limitations set for him by his grandmother.

Once she died he was free to fully engage in the pursuit of his academic studies. He was just 17-years-old when he was awarded a scholarship by a Syrian foundation which granted him admission to the University of Kiev in Ukraine. He packed what little possessions he had and traveled to Europe where he knew no one and didn't speak the language. Upon his arrival he was told that the course was full, so he traveled to France. He recounted how he arrived during the coldest of winter days in France, unable to speak French, and with little means to support himself. He sometimes ate only one meal a day but this did not deter him. It seemed that the hardness of life in the Syrian desert prepared him to face any type of difficulty, and gave him the fortitude to withstand hardship and persevere.

In France he became fluent in French and matriculated into one of the oldest universities in Europe located in the city of Montpellier. There he pursued his undergraduate studies, eventually receiving his PhD in Computer Science. According to interviews, upon graduation he began to look for a business venture and as if destined, while sitting in a cafe he picked up a newspaper and noticed an advertisement from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company which was seeking engineers to help design the infrastructure for their burgeoning oil and gas industry.

He made the decision to take the job because it would provide him with the opportunity to save money and perhaps to buy a business. Like other foreign nationals who even today work in the Middle East, they are paid astronomical salaries with nothing to spend the money on. Upon the completion of his contract, he returned to France in search of a business venture into which he could invest. He and his partner worked on and brought to market one of the first laptop computers.

These laptops were large and clunky, and according to interviews "were about the size of a suitcase." They were initially used as the precursor to the airport terminal computers that announce flight arrivals and departures. At that time he and his partner lacked the resources to scale and thus sold the company and continued to save money. Always in search of opportunities, he considered and discarded ventures into which he could invest. One day he was approached by a man who had been trying to sell his bankrupt scaffolding business, thus Altrad and his partner bought the faltering business in 1985.

Despite knowing nothing about scaffolding a decidedly non-tech business, he and his partner decided to assume the risk, plus the investment was relatively small. Altrad capitalized his investments by buying and selling not only scaffolding, but also everything that might be of benefit to builders. This included the expansion into the tool market, machinery, and cement etcetera. He also invested in the workforce by providing excellent employee benefits that made them happier and thus more productive. His company philosophy incentivize his employees to take ownership of their work product and feel like they were valuable to the company.

In the past 30 years under his management the Altrad Group has grown to 17,000 employees, with customers in 100 countries, and 170 subsidiary companies. According to their website the company "sells and hires out equipment for building and public works and for industry (mixers, scaffolding, tubular equipment)." An amazing feat for a non-technical company, especially one that was birthed from such meager beginnings but now has $2bn (£1.3bn) in turnover and $200m annual profit.

In a BBC interview Altrad said that he sleeps less than 4 hours a night. He doesn't know why; however from the outside looking in, it is because of this drive and creativity that he is a prolific businessman and a successful writer who has two books in publication. One which is autobiographical and the other which is read in schools across France. Between the two he has sold millions of copies.

In a time when xenophobia is at its height both in Europe where illegal African immigrants arrive daily, or in America where people like the Republican candidate Donald Trump espouse hatred and vitriol toward Mexican immigrants and garners a large following; Mr. Altrad is a shinning example of what it truly means to be an immigrant. A citizen who uses their culture and history to enrich the society into which they assimilate, and as a consequence makes the country stronger and better because of their tenacity, vision, and drive to succeed despite all odds.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: @ ayannanahmias
LINKEDIN: Ayanna Nahmias