Foreign farm purchases in the West are planting seeds for diplomatic clashes
Middle Eastern investors are growing hungry for land. Last week, it emerged that Al Dahra, an Abu Dhabi-based firm, was close to gobbling up Romania’s Agricost, which runs Europe’s largest farm. The deal will add 56,000 hectares to Al Dahra’s portfolio, near-doubling its size. There could soon be more: in October, the group formed a $1.3bn tie-up with the Saudi Agriculture and Livestock Investment Company (SALIC), a state-owned entity, to develop farmland in 10 countries around the Black Sea.
A mobile banking boom is boosting remittances to Bangladesh’s countryside
Kamal Quadir, a serial entrepreneur, is often on the money. After introducing e-commerce to Bangladesh via CellBazaar, an electronic marketplace sold to Norway’s Telenor in 2010, he joined forces with his brother to launch bKash, a mobile banking network. The six-year-old company now counts 29m accounts, the lion’s share of a national total of 58m. By providing unbanked people with an affordable solution to stash their cash, says Mr Quadir, bKash’s CEO, the payment system has become “the collective mattress for the whole country”.
Badly managed, China’s rising clout in orbit could trigger an arms race in space
At a time when Donald Trump wants tougher screening at the US border – an endeavour in which he has had some success this week – the country's vetting policies are making unlikely victims. In late March, Guobin Yu, a top-ranking Chinese scientist, was due to attend the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas to discuss China’s plans to explore the Moon and Mars. Yet his plans were grounded after the US embassy in Beijing denied him a visa, forcing the symposium’s organisers to scramble for a replacement speaker.
Sanctions relief has done little to solve Iran’s unemployment problem. Who is to blame?
In Tehran, exiting a cab used to take nearly as long as the journey itself. No longer: with the arrival of Snapp, Iran's answer to Uber, pre-agreed fares are paid instantly via a registered credit card, sparing travellers tortuous negotiations with their driver. But the start-up is driving efficiency gains in other ways. For a few lucky graduates, it can potentially cut short another drawn-out process: their search for a first job in a society where youth unemployment stands at 25%.
As India strives to become a manufacturing powerhouse, its relationship with China will probably get worse before it gets better
Throughout the year, they arrive in containers labelled “badminton rackets” or “adhesive tapes”. From India’s largest seaports, they are then dispatched to wholesalers all around the country, where any shopkeeper who knows whom to ask can buy them for next to nothing. Deemed “unreliable” and “dangerous” by the authorities, they’ve been banned since 2008. Yet Chinese firecrackers continue to be a massive hit – especially during Diwali, India’s biggest festival, which sees colourful rockets detonate without pause for at least five days.
But as this year’s edition nears its conclusion, Chinese bangers seem in danger of losing their spark.
A new breed of Indian artists is aiming to erode social barriers by painting on them
Earlier this month I was walking through the Mission neighbourhood of San Francisco, peering at the many graffitis sprayed over its shaded alleys. The art dwelled on plenty of subjects, but one theme in particular came back and again: the inexorable takeover of the immigrant, alternative district by high-earning Silicon Valley staff. "Stop the corporatocracy," said one painting. "Welcome to San Francisco: cleaner, whiter, brighter," read another. "Evict Google," said a third piece.
Throughout the developed world, graffiti has long been used by those who get the short end of the stick to hit out at the higher echelons of society through metaphor and satire. Lately it has started to take roots in developing countries, often to underline the hypocrisy of the powers that be (notably in Brazil). But in few other places could street art make a greater splash than India.
Five years after its creation, South Sudan is ever closer to being a failed state. What went so badly wrong in the world’s newest nation?
Nobody really knows how it started. “On that Friday, I’m not even sure what was concerning me so much,” says the South Sudan head of an international NGO. “But by lunchtime, we were asking staff to return to the office and putting all movements on stand by.”
By 4:30pm, that had become irrelevant anyway. Fierce fighting had erupted in front of the presidential palace, with president Salva Kiir and vice-president Riek Machar, who’d been meeting to discuss recent violence in the country, trapped like sitting ducks inside. Four hours later a ceasefire was declared, and soon after machine guns quietened down in the capital.
Should China be allowed to buy the West’s family jewels?
Seen from the Far East, the UK’s China policy must look like a Chinese puzzle. In 2012, when David Cameron met with the Dalai Lama in St Paul’s Cathedral, the then-prime minister didn’t seem to care much about what Beijing would think. Britain didn’t want its relationship with China “disrupted”, Cameron said, but the spiritual leader was “an important religious figure”. In so doing, he continued a long list of UK leaders unafraid of “hurting” Beijing’s feelings – as a furious China complained then – for the sake of displaying friendship towards Tibet.
Fast-forward three years, and here’s what the Dalai Lama had to say. "Money, money, money. That’s what this is about. Where is morality?"
During the Games, Rio was ‘the safest place in the world’. What happens now that they're done?
They’d had a few glasses of bubbly at the French Olympic pavilion, celebrating their respective triumphs in the pool. They were dozing at the back of the cab. The driver hit the brakes, jolting the swimmers out of their torpor. Then two men posing as police officers told the athletes to get down on the ground – and three of them obeyed. But not Ryan Lochte.