|Friday 07th of February 2020
speech given at the Awards Ceremony by Carlos Fuentes, PRINCE OF ASTURIAS AWARD FOR LITERATURE 1994
Let us remember the terrible words that Achilles uttered to his
"Come now, my friend, you too have to die.
Patroclus war far greater than you, and, yet, he's dead".
Simone Weil, the great Judeo-Christian philosopher, uses this example
to remind us of what Homer already knew: the empire of violence is
infinite. It can be as big as nature. Imagine, if you will, this
horror, a violence so big that if becomes synonymous to nature!
Such a violence can only be dispelled by three words of advice: don't
admire power, don't detest the enemy and don't scorn those who suffer.
This is the other side of Pindar's Olympic song.
Our age has been deprived of a tragic culture, and, as a result, it
has not known how to respect these words of advice.
The Twentieth Century has worshipped power, has destroyed the enemy
with premeditated and quasi-scientific malice and has piled sorrow
upon sorrow onto the shoulders of suffering beings.
Today, as we approach the end of the Century and the Millenium, we
make the most of an exalting ceremony such as this to reflect on the
need to create a common civilization, one that is both diversified and
shared, and we do so in order to be deserving of our awards and the
glory that is bestowed on us by the homeland of Jovellanos and Clarín,
two men who, through their deeds, showed us how far the human spirit
can go when it is driven by the desire to add beauty and truth to the
Allow me, Your Highness, to seek protection for my words of tonight
under the aegis of two illustrious Asturians: Gaspar Melchor de
Jovellanos, the greatest thinker and statesman to ever lead us down
the road of reason and good guidance, and Leopoldo Alas "Clarín", the
greatest novelist to ever take us down the path of imagination and
sensuality. By presenting reason and sensuality together, without
sacrificing intelligence or human pleasure, these Asturian thinkers
have given our plural, though shared civilization a great lesson in
beauty and humanity.
Tonight, we gather in Asturias, the home of the rebel patriot, Pelayo,
and from its mountains heights, we can clearly distinguish what brings
us together: a common civilization.
It is the Mediterranean that makes us one, our Mediterranean, its
culture and the sea that embraces us from Israel, Palestine and the
Levant through Greece and Italy to Iberia and beyond.
The waves of the European Mediterranean reach as far as the American
Mediterranean -the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico-, and there they
fertilize a land rich in language: Castilian, English, Dutch, French
and all the verbal crossbreeding that was born on the plantation and
the slave ship.
The Mediterranean influence reaches down to southern shores, the
Maghreb and Egypt, up to northern limits, which are also the
tributaries of the Atlantic and the Baltic, of Greek philosophy, Roman
law, Arabic science and Judaism.
As I speak, I stand on Spanish soil, where all these values converge,
making this ceremony a commemoration and a regathering of these
It was not in vain that Christians, Jews and Muslims coexisted here
during five centuries.
It was not in vain that Saint Ferdinand, King of Spain, saw himself as
a descendent of three cultures: the Hebraic, the Islamic and the
Christian and indebted to these three Mediterranean pillars; he had
his tomb inscribed in Seville, on all four sides, in the four
languages of a diverse but shared culture: Latin, Spanish, Arabic and
It was not in vain that Alfonso X of Castile, the scholar, brought
Arab and Jewish intellectuals to his court to translate the Bible, the
Koran, the Cabal and the Talmud into Spanish.
The prose of Spain -a prose that brings together the 400 million men
and women in Spain and Latin America, not to mention the thirty
million Spanish-speaking people in the United States- originates in
Alfonso's court and is essentially the language of three cultures.
What a great example for the years of intolerance, persecution and
exile that followed!
What a great warning so that we never again degrade our humanity
through the barbarity of racism and xenophobia!
But will we know how to address a common goal for humanity, without
sacrificing the unique contributions of each of its peoples?
It was this shared language and culture that crossed the Atlantic to
embrace the American coasts and continue an active and defiant
civilization that went beyond the crimes of the conquest and the
abuses of colonization, and gave to a counter-conquest and a
decolonization led by Creoles, Indians, Mestizos, blacks and mulatos,
who incorporated their own language to that of Spain and, through
doing so, discovered that a good third of our vocabulary comes from
the Arabic -words such as "acequia", "almohada", "alberca", "aljibe",
"alcázar", "alcachofa", "limón", "naranja" and "olé"- and that half of
our religion - from the Genesis to the Book of Daniel - is Jewish and
that in our Spanish and Latin-American thought we cannot separate the
Christian San Isidoro from the Jew Maimonides and the Arab Averroes.
There would be no Libro del buen amor by arciprest Juan Ruiz without
The Collar of the Pigeon by Ibn' Hazam of Cordoba, and, without both,
the converse Jew Fernando de Rojas would not have written the aurorean
work of the renaissance city, La Celestina.
Gabriel García Márquez told me that one day, upon arriving at the
Teheran airport, he was bombarded by reporters who wanted to know what
influence Persian literature had had on his work.
As though illuminated by the Holy Spirit, the author of One Hundred
Years of Solitude replied: The Arabian Nights.
Isn't every narrator a son of Scheherazade -that is, of the woman who
told a new story every night so as to see a new day and postpone
Similarly, we cannot separate the work of Jorge Luis Borges from the
great moral and ideal constructions of Judaism: the Cabal that governs
the interwoven destinies of Tlon, Uqbar and Orbis Tertius and the
Talmud that guides us in our delectable wanderings through the garden
of forked paths.
Since the Sixteenth Century, America has been sending verbal caravels
back to Spain to ply a new Mare Nostrum. The Spanish chronicles of
Bernal Díaz, for example.
The indigenous chronicles of Guamán Poma de Ayala. The mestizo
chronicles of the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who, from his Peru of the
Viceroys, gives us this advice: "There is only one world".
Gutierre de Cetina and Mateo Alemán came to Mexico from Spain, Juan
Luis de Alarcón went from Mexico to Spain and since them, the
Mediterranean flow has not ceased: Spain owes as much to Nicaragua's
Rubén Dario as America does to Granada's Federico García Lorca, and as
Spain does to Chile's Pablo Neruda, and as America does to the exiled
Spanish poets, Alberti, Cernuda, Prados and Altolaguirre.
All we need is the memory of this to understand that our culture is
two things: migratory and Mestizo.
It is a melting pot of many races and cultures, and this is the reason
for its continuity and strength.
But it is also the fruit of many exiles, migrations, moves; it is the
impetus of its pain, its courage and its virtue.
We have a culture that is Mestizo, migratory. Today both these
qualities are in danger, and this happens at a time when, after fifty
years of sterile cold war, exclusive ideologies are making room for
the inclusive cultures that have been put aside for a long time,
because they did not fit in the bipolar refrigerator of the East-West
Cultures as the protagonists of History. We are not used to his
challenge, especially now, when the vehicles of culture are not only
writers and artists, businessman and statesmen, but also the emigrant
workers and labourers who are forced to obey the demand of the market
in order to break the curse of poverty.
Our pilgrim cultures have become universal. They move in vast currents
from South to North and from East to West, carrying with them workers
and their families, and their prayers, their kitchens, their memories,
their greetings and songs and laughter and dreams and a desire to defy
prejudices, to reclaim equity alongside identity, to keep their own
cultural profile in an unfixed world that is determined by immediate
communication, a growing technology and the flux of both the capital
and labor markets. These pilgrims are trying to enrichen the national
identities of those countries into which they are integrating.
Can we deny these secular legacies their right to exist? In a universe
of such rapid change, they can turn into essential, if not lifesaving,
contributions to a future that is as complex as it is unpredictable.
The French romantic poet Alfred de Musset wrote the following words at
the end of the Napoleonic era: we live with one foot on ashes and the
other on seeds.
The same can be said for us today. We don't know how to separate the
past from the future, nor should we have to, for they both accompany
us in the present.
Our Century has been a brief one, full of contradictions. It began in
Sarajevo in 1914 and ended in Sarajevo in 1994. It has been a Century
of unmatched progress and incomparable inequality:
The biggest scientific step forward and the greatest political step backward.
The voyage to the Moon and the voyage to Siberia.
The glory of Einstein and the horror of Auschwitz.
The relentless persecution of entire races, wars not directed against
armies but against civilians, six million Jews murdered by Nazism, two
million deaths in colonial wars and forty million children that die
unnecessary deaths every day in the Third World.
Self-determination for some peoples, but not for others, be the latter
sometimes neighbours of the former. This is an irony worthy of Orwell:
all nations are sovereign, bus some are more sovereign than others.
We are in need of renewed international organizations that reflect a
new world composition. In 1994, there are 200 independent states; in
1945, the year that the UNO was founded, there were 44. Today's world
is one of battles over transnational, national, regional and tribal
jurisdictions, one of opposition between the global and local
villages, between the technological village of Ted Turner and the
memory village of Emiliano Zapata, between the happy robot that lives
in the pent-house and the tribal idols that survive in the basement.
At present, we are undergoing a painful passage from a volume economy
to a value economy to a value economy, with the consequent sacrifice
of millions of workers. And these workers are the victims of the
following paradox: bigger productivity is coupled with bigger
unemployment. We are influenced by a worldwide info-net, but we are
informed of very little, because we have lost the organic relationship
between experience, information and knowledge.
This is an age of information explosion and significance implosion.
However, all these conflicts can be considered opportunities; after
all, they have the possibility to bring about contact, interchange,
dialogue and the concord.
Imagination and humanity needed to create that one world which the
Inca Garcilaso foresaw and which forces us today to acknowledge
ourselves in a common problem:
There are beggars in Birmingham, Bogota and Boston.
There are homeless in London, Lima and Los Angeles.
There is a Third World within the First World, but the problems of
women and the elderly, education, crime, violence, drugs and aids make
no distinction between a First, Second, Third or Fourth World.
Just as there are children who are being murdered by vigilantes on the
streets of Rio de Janeiro, there are children who are being murdered
by other children in the ghettos of Chicago, and children who are
caught in random gunfire in New York.
Yes, there is only one world: this is what we're are told by all the
hopeful artists, statesmen, athletes and scientists who are being
awarded here today, and, especially, Your Highness, by the three
recipients of the Awards for Concord: Spain's "The Messengers of
Peace", the Brazilian Movement of the "Meninos da Rua" and the British
organization "Save the Children".
Political willpower has shown us that it is possible to reduce the
empire of violence and put into practice the Homeric desire to respect
the old enemy and to love those who suffer history.
The South Africa and the Middle East of today -and, with any luck, the
Ireland and the Caribbean of tomorrow- are examples of how diplomacy
and negotiation are once again plausible means to avoid violence and
Tonight we toast to us, the men and women of the future, for men and
women of the future are what Shimon Peres has asked each and every one
of us to be.
Tonight Yasir Arafat and Yitzak Rabin honor our diverse but shared
humanity, they stretch the Mediterranean even farther and give us the
tranquillity that Moses found when he arrived in his homeland and
stopped being "a stranger in a strange land", a tranquillity which the
Palestinian poet Mahmud Darvish brilliantly defines in his poem
Reflections on exile: "Seal me with your eyes / Take me with you
wherever you are / Take me with you as if I were a toy or a brick / So
that our children do not forget to return".
@TencentGlobal Tencent may have accidentally leaked real data on Wuhan virus deaths says @TaiwanNews886
Law & Politics
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As many experts question the veracity of
China's statistics for the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, Tencent over
the weekend seems to have inadvertently released what is potentially
the actual number of infections and deaths, which were astronomically
higher than official figures.
On late Saturday evening (Feb. 1), Tencent, on its webpage titled
"Epidemic Situation Tracker", showed confirmed cases of novel
coronavirus (2019nCoV) in China as standing at 154,023, 10 times the
official figure at the time.
It listed the number of suspected cases as 79,808, four times the
The number of cured cases was only 269, well below the official number
that day of 300. Most ominously, the death toll listed was 24,589,
vastly higher than the 300 officially listed that day.
Moments later, Tencent updated the numbers to reflect the government's
"official" numbers that day.
Netizens noticed that Tencent has on at least three occasions posted
extremely high numbers, only to quickly lower them to
Netizens also noticed that each time the screen with the large numbers
appears, it shows a comparison with the previous day's data which
demonstrates a "reasonable" incremental increase, much like
comparisons of official numbers.
This has led some netizens to speculate that Tencent has two sets of
data, the real data and "processed" data.
Some are speculating that a coding problem could be causing the real
"internal" data to accidentally appear.
Others believe that someone behind the scenes is trying to leak the
However, the "internal" data held by Beijing may not reflect the true
extent of the epidemic.
According to multiple sources in Wuhan, many coronavirus patients are
unable to receive treatment and die outside of hospitals.
A severe shortage of test kits also leads to a lower number of
diagnosed cases of infection and death.
In addition, there have been many reports of doctors being ordered to
list other forms of death instead of coronavirus to keep the death
toll artificially low.
AI Predicts #Coronavirus Could Infect 2.5 Billion And Kill 53 Million. Doctors Say That's Not Credible, And Here's Why @Forbes #nCoV2019
Law & Politics
An AI-powered simulation run by a technology executive says that
Coronavirus could infect as many as 2.5 billion people within 45 days
and kill as many as 52.9 million of them.
Fortunately, however, conditions of infection and detection are
changing, which in turn changes incredibly important factors that the
AI isn’t aware of.
"I started with day over day growth,” he told me, using publicly
available data released by China. “[I then] took that data and dumped
it into an AI neural net using a RNN [recurrent neural network] model
and ran the simulation ten million times.
That output dictated the forecast for the following day. Once the
following day’s output was published, I grabbed that data, added it to
the training data, and re-ran ten million times.”
From 50,000 infections and 1,000 deaths after a week to 208,000
infections and almost 4,400 deaths after two weeks, the numbers keep
growing as each infected person infects others in turn.
In 30 days, the model says, two million could die. And in just 15 more
days, the death toll skyrockets.
But there is good news.
The model doesn’t know every factor, which Ross knows.
And multiple doctors and medical professionals says the good news is
that the conditions and data fed into the neural network are changing.
As those conditions change, the results will change massively.
One important change: the mortality rate.
“If a high proportion of infected persons are asymptomatic, or develop
only mild symptoms, these patients may not be reported and the actual
number of persons infected in China may be much higher than reported,”
says Professor Eyal Leshem at Sheba Medical Center in Israel.
“This may also mean that the mortality rate (currently estimated at 2%
of infected persons) may be much lower.”
Wider infection doesn’t sound like good news, but if it means that the
death rate is only .5% or even .1% ... Coronavirus is all of a sudden
a much less significant problem.
Also, now that the alarm has gone out, behavior changes.
And that changes the spread of the disease.
“Effective containment of this outbreak in China and prevention of
spread to other countries is expected to result in a much lower number
infected and deaths than estimated,” Leshem says.
Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for
Health Security, agrees.
“The death rate is falling as we understand that the majority of cases
are not severe and once testing is done on larger groups of the
population — not just hospitalized patients — we will see that the
breadth of illness argues against this being a severe pandemic.”
That’s one of the key factors: who are medical doctors seeing? What
data are we not getting?
“The reported death rate early in an outbreak is usually inflated
because we investigate the sickest people first and many of them die,
giving a skewed picture,” says Brian Labus, an assistant professor at
the UNLV school of public health.
“The projections seem unrealistically high. Flu infected about 8% of
the population over 7-8 months last year; this model has one-third of
Earth’s population being infected in 6 weeks.”
All these factors combined create potentially large changes in both
the rate of infection and mortality, and even small changes have huge
impacts on computer forecasts, says Dr. Jack Regan, CEO and founder of
LexaGene, which makes automated diagnostic equipment.
“Small changes in transmissibility, case fatality rate, etc., can have
big changes in total worldwide mortality rate.”
Even so, we’re not completely out of the woods yet.
"To date, with every passing day, we have only seen an increase in the
number of cases and total deaths,” Regan says.
“As each sick individual appears to be infecting more than one other -
the rate of spread seems to be increasing (i.e. accelerating), making
it even more difficult to contain. It appears clear that this disease
will continue to spread, and arguably - is unlikely to be contained
and as such may very well balloon into a worldwide pandemic.”
In other words, despite all medical efforts, Coronavirus is likely to go global.
But, thanks to all those medical efforts, it’s unlikely to be as
deadly as predicted.
It’s worth noting, after all, that the common flu, which has been
around forever — and is blamed for killing 50 million people after
World War I, is still around. So far this season, the flu has infected
19 million, caused 180,000 hospitalizations, and killed 10,000 ...
just in the United States.
And no-one’s buying masks, closing borders, or stopping flights for that.
As for the technologist who created the AI-driven model in the first
place? No-one would be happier if its predictions turn out to be just
“Although AI and neural nets can be used to solve for and/or predict
for many things, there are always additional variables which need to
be added to fine tune the models,” Ross told me.
“Hopefully governments will understand that additional proactive
action today will result in less reactive action tomorrow.”
The result so far have successfully predicted the following day’s
publicly-released numbers within 3%, Ross says.
Great interview: @_DanielSinclair
Law & Politics
- China: 10% of cases detected
- Overseas: 25% of cases detected
- 50,000 new infections /day in China
- Doubling every 5 days
- Limited evidence of slowing
- Wuhan peak: 1 month
- China peak: 2 to 3 months
- Mild carriers self-sustaining
- Onset to death >20 day
Blood and Soil in @narendramodi's India @NewYorker
Amit Shah, Modi’s deputy, told a group of election workers that the
Party’s social-media networks were an unstoppable force. “Do you
understand what I’m saying?” he said. “We are capable of delivering
any message we want to the public—whether sweet or sour, true or
Pratik Sinha, a former software engineer and the founder of Alt News,
which tracks online disinformation, described a nimble social-media
operation that works on behalf of the B.J.P. In 2017, his group made a
typical discovery, when a pro-B.J.P. Web site called Hindutva.info
released a video of a gruesome stabbing, which was passed around on
social media as evidence that Muslims were killing Hindus in Kerala.
Puneet Sharma, an R.S.S. apparatchik whom Modi follows on Twitter,
promoted the video, saying that it should make Hindus’ “blood boil.”
But, when Alt News tracked the video to its source, it turned out to
depict a gang killing in Mexico. Sinha told me he believes that some
of the most aggressive social-media posts are instigated by an
unofficial “I.T. cell,” staffed and funded by B.J.P. loyalists. He
said that people affiliated with the B.J.P. maintain Web sites that
push pro-Modi propaganda and attack his enemies. “They are organized
and quick,” he said. “They got their act down a long time ago, in
Gujarat.” As Modi consolidated his hold on the government, he used its
power to silence mainstream outlets. In 2016, his administration began
moving to crush the television news network NDTV. Since it went on the
air, in 1988, the station has been one of the liveliest and most
credible news channels; this spring, as votes were tallied in the
general election, its Web site received 16.5 billion hits in a single
day. According to two people familiar with the situation, Modi’s
administration has pulled nearly all government advertising from the
network—one of its primary sources of revenue—and members of his
Cabinet have pressured private companies to stop buying ads. NDTV
recently laid off some four hundred employees, a quarter of its staff.
The journalists who remain say that they don’t know how long they can
persist. “These are dark times,” one told me. That year, Karan Thapar,
the journalist who had asked Modi whether he wanted to express remorse
for the Gujarat riots, found that no one from the B.J.P. would appear
on his nightly show any longer. Thapar, perhaps the country’s most
prominent television journalist, was suddenly unable to meaningfully
cover politics. Then he discovered that Modi’s Cabinet members were
pushing his bosses to take him off the air. “They make you toxic,”
Thapar told me. “These are not things that are put in writing. They’re
conversations—‘We think it’s not a good idea to have him around.’ ”
(His network, India Today, denies being influenced by “external
pressures.”) In 2017, his employers expressed reluctance to renew his
contract, so he left the network. Modi’s government has targeted
enterprising editors as well. Last year, Bobby Ghosh, the editor of
the Hindustan Times, one of the country’s most respected newspapers,
ran a series tracking violence against Muslims. Modi met privately
with the Times’ owner, and the next day Ghosh was asked to leave. In
2016, Outlook ran a disturbing investigation by Neha Dixit, revealing
that the R.S.S. had offered schooling to dozens of disadvantaged
children in the state of Assam, and then sent them to be indoctrinated
in Hindu-nationalist camps on the other side of the country. According
to a person with knowledge of the situation, Outlook’s owners—one of
India’s wealthiest families, whose businesses depended on government
approvals—came under pressure from Modi’s administration. “They were
going to ruin their empire,” the person said. Not long after, Krishna
Prasad, Outlook’s longtime editor, resigned. Both Ayyub and Dixit said
that no mainstream publication would sponsor their work. “So many of
the really good reporters in India are freelance,” Ayyub told me.
“There’s nowhere to go.” Even news that ought to cause scandal has
little effect. In June, the Business Standard reported that Modi’s
government had been inflating G.D.P.-growth figures by a factor of
nearly two. The report prompted a public outcry, but Modi did not
apologize, and no official was forced to resign. Only a few small
outfits regularly offer aggressive coverage. The most prominent of
them, The Caravan and a news site called the Wire, employ a total of
about seventy journalists—barely enough to cover a large city, let
alone a country of more than a billion people. In 2017, after the Wire
ran a story examining questionable business dealings by Amit Shah’s
son, Modi’s ministers began pressuring donors who sustain the site to
stop providing funding. Shah’s son, who denied the allegations, also
filed a lawsuit, which has been costly to defend. Siddharth
Varadarajan, the site’s founding editor, told me that he is battling
not only the government but also the compliant media. “We reckon that
people in this country very much value their freedoms and
democracy—and that they will realize when their freedoms are being
eroded,” he said. “But a huge section of the media is busy telling
them something entirely different.” Modi’s supporters often get their
news from Republic TV, which features shouting matches, public
shamings, and scathing insults of all but the most slavish Modi
partisans; next to it, Fox News resembles the BBC’s “Newshour.”
Founded in 2017 with B.J.P. support, Republic TV stars Arnab Goswami,
a floppy-haired Oxford graduate who acts as a kind of public scourge
for opponents of Modi’s initiatives. In a typical program, from 2017,
Goswami mentioned a law mandating that movie theatres play the
national anthem, and asked whether people should be required to stand;
his guest Waris Pathan, a Muslim assemblyman, argued that it should be
a matter of choice. “Why can’t you stand up?” Goswami shouted at
Pathan. Before Pathan could get out an answer, he yelled again, “Why
can’t you stand up? What’s your problem with it?” Pathan kept trying,
but Goswami, his hair flying, shouted over him. “I’ll tell you why,
because—I’ll tell you why. I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you why. Can I
tell you? Then why don’t you stop, and I’ll tell you why? Don’t be an
anti-national! Don’t be an anti-national! Don’t be an anti-national!”
The lack of journalistic scrutiny has given Modi immense freedom to
control the narrative. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the
months leading up to his reëlection, in 2019. Backed by his allies in
business, Modi ran a campaign that was said to cost some five billion
dollars. (Its exact cost is unknown, owing to weak campaign-finance
Preparedness and vulnerability of African countries against 2019-nCoV introductions. @inserm #2019ncov #Africa Vittoria Colizza @vcolizza
Preparedness and vulnerability of African countries against 2019-nCoV
introductions. W/ @mariusgilbert @MOUGK @pullano_giulia @fpinotti92
@eugeValdano @chpoletto @EricDortenzio @yazdanpanah_y @REACTing_fr PY
Boelle @inserm #2019ncov #Africa
No African country has reported cases yet. The management and control
of 2019-nCoV introductions heavily relies on country’s health
capacity. We evaluated the preparedness and vulnerability of African
countries against their risk of importation of 2019-nCoV.
Global distribution of introduction risk over human population density
(left) and distribution of the SPAR capacity index (top right) and
Infectious Disease Vulnerability Index (IDVI, bottom right). Countries
with no estimates of introduction risk correspond to situations where
the risk of entry was found to be negligible at the time of analysis.
Methods. We used data on air travel volumes departing from airports in
the infected provinces in China and directed to Africa to estimate the
risk of introduction per country.
We determined the country’s capacity to detect and respond to cases
with two indicators: preparedness, using the WHO International Health
Regulation Monitoring and Evaluation Framework; and vulnerability,
with the Infectious Disease Vulnerability Index.
Countries were clustered according to the Chinese regions contributing
the most to their risk.
Findings. Countries at the highest importation risk (Egypt, Algeria,
Republic of South Africa) have moderate to high capacity to respond to
Countries at moderate risk (Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Angola,
Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya) have variable capacity and high vulnerability.
Three clusters of countries are identified that share the same
exposure to the risk originating from the provinces of Guangdong,
Fujian, and Beijing, respectively.
@flyethiopian Airlines gambles brand equity by continuing to fly to China @TheAfricaReport @eolander
Ethiopian Airlines’ decision to continue operating direct flights to
China amid the worsening coronavirus outbreak threatens to erode the
airline’s hard-won brand equity.
While 59 other carriers from 44 different countries have all grounded
their flights to China, Ethiopian Airlines insists that it will follow
directives from the World Health Organization and until it is deemed
unsafe by the international body, the airline will continue its daily
flight schedule to/from China.
Their decision to keep flying to China is provoking an increasingly
toxic response online and in the Ethiopian press.
The company’s Twitter page is flooded with pleas from African users
for the airline to change course.
“This decision is reckless as it put entire African continent at
risk,” said Zimbabwean entrepreneur Kelvin Mupungu, adding that threat
posed by the continued flights endangers the entire continent since
“most African transit via Ethiopia.”
To make matters worse, the company is not communicating at all with
the public, creating an information vacuum that can potentially do
severe damage to the airline’s pristine brand reputation in Africa.
The company, so far, has only published one statement on the matter
published last Friday and since then has not provided a single update.
“@flyethiopian do you employ brand and reputation management
expertise?” asked Aly-Khan Satchu, a Nairobi-based investment banker,
to his half-million+ followers on Twitter.
“This decision is going to be diabolical. It’s wilful. And it’s
scientifically outrageous,” he added.
Here’s the nightmare scenario that Ethiopian Airlines should be
worried about from a brand positioning point of view: since the Novel
Coronavirus is reportedly undetectable at the earliest stage of
infection, and an outbreak does occur in an African country where the
“patient zero” was deemed to have traveled on an Ethiopian Airlines
flight long after the risks were well-documented and most other
carriers had ceased operations to China… the adverse brand
repercussions could be severe.
The wording of a recent CGTN news report on ETH’s decision to keep
flying to China provided a tiny clue that politics may also play a
In a segment that aired on Sunday, the presenter said that the
airline’s decision to maintain its flight scheduled “reaffirmed its
support to the Chinese government and its people.“
As a state-owned company, Ethiopian Airlines is no doubt exposed to
more internal political pressure than a similar privately-owned
company would be.
Of course, there’s no indication that either the Chinese or Ethiopian
governments are pressuring the company to keep flying, it’s just
speculation given the lack of communication from the company, but it
is certainly a possibility worth considering.
Lourenco faces the crunch @Africa_Conf
The campaign to recover loot is popular, and the IMF is supportive,
but the numbers are terrible
The pursuit by investigative journalists and Luanda's prosecutors of
Isabel dos Santos offers a temporary distraction from the country's
Enthusiasm to see Isabel dos Santos on trial in Luanda may wane as the
myriad legal cases around her US$2.2 billion fortune drag on and the
prospects of assets returning from overseas fade into the distance.
Much will depend on the investigations into what bankers reckon to be
more than $100bn of illicit financial flows out of the country between
2002 and 2017.
Stock Values in Johannesburg @JSE_Group So Low They're Tough to Resist @markets
South African stocks may have become too cheap for investors to ignore
and Old Mutual Investment Group is among money managers seeing an
increasing number of attractively valued shares.
The Johannesburg market has fallen to its least expensive levels in
more than seven years, dragged lower by a faltering local economy
grappling with a long list of challenges.
Concerns that the coronavirus outbreak will hurt global growth have
added to the woes early in 2020.
Evidence the government is serious about sparking growth, repairing
battered business confidence and rehabilitating the creaking state
power company would help spur buying, said Peter Brooke, head of Macro
Solutions at OMIG, which manages about 663 billion rand ($45 billion)
“The South African market five years ago was expensive, but there is
more and more value appearing, and there are more and more companies
that we see as attractive, and we would be looking to apply cash in
those areas,” Cape Town-based Brooke said in an interview.
Share-price declines have outpaced the drop in company earnings,
resulting in higher dividend yields and relatively low price-earnings
Investor-friendly steps Brooke would like to see include streamlining
the management and operation of state-owned companies.
The contents of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s budget next month
could be key to a re-rating of South African stocks, depending on what
he says about issues such as debt-crippled electricity supplier Eskom
Holdings SOC Ltd.
“It is very hard for companies to manufacture profits, so to get a
proper turn around, we would need structural reform,” he said. “South
Africa is cheap without the improving outlook. We can create that, but
it will require political will.”
Business confidence had the worst start to a year since 1993, an index
published Thursday showed, underscoring weakness in an economy that’s
been stuck in a downward cycle for more than 70 months.
Among proposals Brooke said could help jump-start growth is one by
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe to set up an
alternative to Eskom that makes use of greener technology.
The utility has been described by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. as the
biggest threat to South Africa’s economy because of its rolling
blackouts and debt burden of about $30 billion.
“If we allow the private sector to deliver electricity, that means in
the next 12 to 24 months, we will get more electricity into the grid
and then we can grow a little bit,” Brooke said.
Here are more of Brooke’s views:
South African Bonds
Global bond market has grown more expensive as a result of the
coronavirus, so it is hard to see return in that space. However, South
African bonds offer exceptional value.
Moody’s Investors Service may downgrade South Africa to sub-investment
grade rating, which will create a buying opportunity.
“If I had to guess, I would say that they will downgrade us in 2020,
just because we have not done enough in terms of reducing our debt to
GDP. But obviously, we have the budget coming, and we have to see if
Tito Mboweni manages to pull a rabbit out of the hat.”
“The interesting element is rather how sensitive South Africa is to
what is happening in the rest of the world, because our own
fundamentals are weak, so it is a leveraged effect of what is
America and Kenya eye up a trade deal @TheEconomist @ItsRachelDobbs
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP has spent much of his time in office erecting
barriers to trade. Now his administration is signalling that it wants
to tear some down. On February 6th Mr Trump, fresh from his acquittal
on impeachment charges, will meet Uhuru Kenyatta, his Kenyan
counterpart, to start negotiations on a free-trade agreement (FTA),
America’s first in sub-Saharan Africa. Robert Lighthizer, the United
States Trade Representative, has long sought a partner for such a deal
(Ghana and Ivory Coast were reportedly also considered). The hope is
that an FTA with Kenya, which exchanged nearly $1.1bn-worth of goods
with America in 2019, could serve as a model for future trade
agreements in the region.
Kenya would no doubt welcome such a deal. America was the country’s
third-biggest trading partner in 2019, importing $667m-worth of
clothing, fruit, nuts and coffee. The African Growth and Opportunity
Act (AGOA), which gives 39 sub-Saharan African countries duty-free
access to the American market, is due to expire in 2025. The affected
countries are anxious to have something in place when that happens,
even though in recent years, despite the AGOA, more sub-Saharan
exports have headed to the EU, China and India than to America (see
chart). Rather than extend the AGOA like his predecessor, Mr
Lighthizer has called for a more permanent arrangement. With that in
mind, America and Kenya set up a working group in 2018 aimed at, among
other things, pursuing talks on a “future bilateral trade and
@TullowOilplc will reduce its headcount in Kenya by about 40% as part of a company-wide restructuring following poor performances at its Africa and Guyana operations. 1 Year Return-75.99% @BBGAfrica
Tullow Oil Plc will reduce its headcount in Kenya by about 40% as part
of a company-wide restructuring following poor performances at its
Africa and Guyana operations.
About 35 workers will become redundant, Tullow Kenya Managing Director
Martin Mbogo said in an emailed response to questions.
The reduced team “will focus” on achieving a final investment decision
for the Kenya project this year, Mbogo said.
Tullow’s projects have been delayed in Kenya and Uganda, where the
explorer is looking to reduce its stake in oil discoveries.
Assets in Ghana performed poorly last year, and a Guyana crude oil
deposit turned out to be smaller than expected.
Tullow said Feb. 5 that it expects its total workforce to shrink by a
third and offices in Dublin and Cape Town to close as part of the
That would result in “considerable savings,” the company said.