Interview: Western countries need to understand Africa-China relations, says Kenyan official – Xinhua

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ken.jpgHenry Rotich, Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury of Kenya, speaks during an interview in Nairobi, Kenya, March 28, 2018. Henry Rotich has urged Western countries criticizing Chinese loans to Africa to try to understand the Africa-China relationship first, calling such criticism as “unwarranted”. (Xinhua/Lyu Shuai)

NAIROBI, March 29 (Xinhua) — A senior Kenyan government official has urged Western countries criticizing Chinese loans to Africa to try to understand the Africa-China relationship first, calling such criticism as “unwarranted”.

Chinese loans and development support has transformed Africa’s development and Africa-China relations are expected to get even stronger with time, Henry Rotich, Cabinet Secretary for The National Treasury, told Xinhua on Wednesday in an interview in Nairobi.

“Attacks on Chinese loans to Africa are unwarranted,” Rotich told Xinhua. “Those criticizing do not understand the relationship we have with China.”

He said Africa’s cooperation with China is “well structured” under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit which defines the direction of the relationship and development milestones that each country wants to reach with China.

“People need time to understand the relationship. China is walking with Africa to help the continent to get to the level of the developed countries faster. This is a partnership,” he said.

“The days of conditioning support are over,” said Rotich, in reference to the Western-controlled World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s demands for Africans to undertake some economic reforms and policies before they could receive development loans.

“The way to go is mutual cooperation,” Rotich said.

Kenya adopted China as its preferred development partner in 2002 when Kenya was under the leadership of retired President Mwai Kibaki.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has continued with a strong China-Kenya policy which has resulted in support for construction of the 500 kilometer Standard Gauge Railway from coastal city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi and constructions of several hundreds of kilometers of roads, the Treasury official said.

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The struggling retailer issued a lousy outlook last week, sending the stock to a nearly 10-year low. Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cut its rating on Bed Bath & Beyond late Tuesday to a BBB- level, the lowest that S&P still considers investment grade. S&P warned that it could soon downgrade Bed Bath & Beyond’s bonds…

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HSBC sets out new structure for private bank in Europe

International Finance, international News
hsbc.pngLONDON (Reuters) – HSBC (HSBA.L) said on Monday it would create a single regional structure for its private bank in Europe which includes its businesses in the UK, Channel Islands, France, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

FILE PHOTO: HSBC headquarters is seen at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

The new structure, which will be called HSBC Global Private Banking, EMEA, will be led by Chris Allen, who has been appointed regional head of global private banking.

“This will create a regional private banking business that is more integrated, strategically aligned and well positioned to deliver continued growth for HSBC Private Banking,” the bank said in a statement.

The move comes ahead of HSBC’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday – the first under new Chairman Mark Tucker, who joined last October, and Chief Executive John Flint, who joined in February.

Tucker, who has already spearheaded an initiative to streamline the bank’s board, and Flint gave their first hints of what strategy they would pursue at an analyst presentation earlier this month, outlining a plan to cut internal bureaucracy and expand investment in China.

Allen’s current role as CEO of HSBC’s private bank in the UK will be taken by Charles Boulton, who has held a number of senior roles in the bank, HSBC said.

Meanwhile, Franco Morra, CEO of HSBC’s private bank in Switzerland, will leave the bank with a permanent replacement to be decided in the coming months. Christophe Guillemot, CFO of global private banking, will take up the position on an interim basis.

HSBC’s global private banking business accounted for just over 3 percent of the bank’s adjusted global revenues in 2017, according to HSBC’s annual report for that year.

Reporting by Emma Rumney. Editing by Jane Merriman

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This is the sickening amount pharmaceutical companies pay top journal editors  by Jim Staab

Business, International Finance, international News, Phamaceuticals

editorThis is the sickening amount pharmaceutical companies pay top journal editors  

It’s no secret that scientists can be corrupted – in the past, researchers have purposefully hidden data onclimate change, and the dangers of sugar, just to name a few.But while people can be bought, the scientific method itself – the idea that a hypothesis must be observed, tested, replicated, and the results then published in a peer-reviewed journal – has always remained a beacon of objectivity, assumedly free of bias by its very nature.

Unfortunately, in recent years scientific publishing has been running into serious trouble.

Through predatory journals, publication bias, and a publish-or-perish mentality, the way we practice the scientific method has been corrupted right under our noses – we’re at a point now where some studies can’t even be reproduced.

More recently, it’s become clear that the system for publishing results on evidence-based medicine is broken, too.

On paper, evidence-based medicine is a good thing. It’s how we get life-saving treatments and medication, and it’s the requirement for any new drugs to be based on solid, peer-reviewed research.

But this assumes that peer-reviewed research will be unbiased, and that’s not always the case.

Just last week, a report concluded that many clinical trials are greenlit based on a shockingly poor evidence base, sometimes without any published data.

Now nephrologist Jason Fung has taken to Medium to highlight even more damning evidence against the journals we rely on to print the best academic research.

His article is a summary of information that’s already out there, published in the lead up to a presentation to the European Parliament this week. But seeing it all in one place is confronting.

Most shocking: medical journal editors are paid huge sums by pharmaceutical companies each year.

This is something most of us already know – we see the sponsored pens and all the fancy conferences doctors go on thanks to ‘big pharma’.

But that’s only a small part of it. The industry also just hands them money directly.

A paper published last year in the British Medical Journal examined how much money editors of the world’s most influential medical journals were taking from industry sources.

Of the journals that could be assessed, 50.6 percent of editors were receiving money from the pharmaceutical industry – in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Here’s just a small highlight showing editor payments received in 2014 – the amount on the left is direct payments, and the ‘research’ payments on the right are less regulated, usually made in the form of expensive research trips.

The average ‘in hand’ payment in 2014 alone was US$27,564, plus research funds.

Worst on that list is the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), where 19 of its editors received, on average, US$475,072 personally and another US$119,407 for ‘research’.

And that’s not even mentioning the amount of reprint money journals get whenever they publish a study that supports a pharmaceutical company, and the company pays for hundreds of copies to send out to doctors.

The Lancet earns 41 percent of its income from reprints, and the American Medical Association gets 53 percent.

“The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research,” said the late Arnold Relman, a former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in 2002. He passed away in 2014.

“The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.”

Why does all this matter? In the face of these kind of numbers it’s easy to see why journal editors would choose to print research that supports products of these companies, and ignore the evidence that goes against them.

And that’s exactly what’s happening.

Research backed by the pharmaceutical industry is far more likely to have positive results published than government-funded science.

Not only that, but negative results are often ignored. In a 2008 study that Fung cites, 36 out of 37 studies that were favourable to antidepressants were published.

In comparison, only 3 out of 36 studies that were not favourable to the drugs made it to print.

That means if you were to solely look at the published literature, you would think an overwhelming 94 percent of studies show these antidepressants work, when, in reality, only 51 percent of the studies conducted were actually positive.

Seeing these numbers in black and white is sobering.

Despite grumbles of ‘big pharma’, most of us still put our faith in the peer-review process, confident that the scientific method will guide us in the right direction regardless of people’s own bias.

Unfortunately, the results provided to us by the scientific method are only as good as the editors that gatekeep them.

This is why more and more researchers are publishing their work in pre-print and open-access journals, where the world can see their research for free.

There’s also a push to get organisations to publish all valid results, even if they’re negative.

We have a long way to go, but it’s only by acknowledging a system is broken that we can begin to fix it.

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South Africa and Nigeria are crucial for continental initiatives

Africa, Facts, International Finance, international News, Politics, World Bank
South Africa and Nigeria are crucial for continental initiatives
Africa will benefit from both countries backing free trade, and from cooperation between the continent’s two giants.

The impressive turnout at the African Union’s Extraordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on 21 March showed the continent’s united fervour to boost its economic opportunities. Delegations from 50 countries, including 27 heads of state, attended the summit in Kigali.

NasarawaThe fact that there were almost as many leaders present as attend the bi-annual AU summits contrasts with the majordivisions within the AU on much-needed reforms of the institution. Countries seem to agree on boosting intra-African trade, but disagree on strengthening the AU itself.

At the January AU summit, 23 countries signed up to the Single African Air Transport Market and 30 have signed the AU’s Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment.

Even though many hurdles lie ahead in establishing the free trade area and even more in allowing free movement of Africans across the continent, these agreements are important first steps. The AfCFTA initiative in particular has been hailed as a major achievement, paving the way for greater intra-African trade and more economic opportunities for all African states.

However while 44 countries signed the agreement, two of Africa’s biggest economies, South Africa and Nigeria, didn’t. Due to their economic, military and diplomatic strength and their history of driving change in Africa, these two countries are crucial for such initiatives. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa did attend the Kigali summit, and made upbeat statements about the benefits of the AfCFTA.

South Africa did sign the Kigali Declaration – showing its intent to sign the free trade deal in future, pending finalisation of outstanding aspects of the agreement. South Africa in fact proposed the drawing up of such a declaration, says the country’s Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies. Ratification of the AfCFTA would also need the nod from South Africa’s Parliament.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari decided at the last moment not to attend the summit, citing the need for further consultation. According to local reports, concerns were raised by private-sector organisations such as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. This came as a blow to Rwanda, the event’s host, and its President Paul Kagame, current AU chairperson.

Nigeria has a major role to play in Africa’s free trade deal. In fact, Buhari leads a country that has historically been at the forefront of getting the AfCFTA off the ground. The creation of such a free trade area was first mooted in the Lagos Plan of Action that followed a summit in Nigeria’s commercial capital in 1980. The 1991 Abuja Treaty on establishing the African Economic Community was the forerunner of the AfCFTA and trade experts often still refer to the process as the Abuja road map.

Nigeria initially proposed to host the secretariat of the AfCFTA. The country is also the undisputed leader of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – one of Africa’s most pro-active regional economic communities. Within the AU, Buhari has also been appointed the lead head of state on the AU theme for 2018 – winning the fight against corruption: a sustainable path to Africa’s transformation.

So why did Nigeria stay away?

While the only official explanation has so far been that the decision was put on hold ‘for further consultation with local stakeholders’, it is also clear that some Nigerians might not see intra-African trade in the same way as, say, South Africans do. Nigerians have in the past been on the receiving end of South Africa’s strong economic drive on the continent – the cellphone giant MTN being one obvious example.

This was also one of the reasons given for strong opposition in Nigeria to Morocco’s application to join ECOWAS at the end of 2017. Morocco is one of the biggest investors on the continent, especially in West Africa – and there have been fears that greater access via ECOWAS agreements on free movement of people and goods could threaten local businesses in Nigeria.

However Nigeria is also a major exporter and investor on the continent in financial services, manufactured goods, agricultural products and the like. Trade experts concur that in the long run, the AfCFTA can be a win-win for all, especially the bigger economies. Former United Nations Economic Commission for Africa head Carlos Lopes commented during the summit that Nigeria would come around on the trade agreement – although he later tweeted that it had missed a symbol of historic significance by not signing.

Clearly the two giants of sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria and South Africa, both have a lot to gain from greater intra-African trade. In the past, strong cooperation between South Africa and Nigeria has led to major advances, such as the transformation of the Organisation of African Unity into the AU.

In his new book on Nigerian and South African foreign policy, The Eagle and the Springbok, University of Johannesburg Professor Adekeye Adebajo calls South Africa and Nigeria the two ‘Gullivers’ in their respective regions. After a ‘lost decade’ where ‘Africa’s indispensable bilateral relationship’ between South Africa and Nigeria was marked by competition and diplomatic squabbles, there is a need for greater cooperation between these African powers, together with others such as Algeria, Ethiopia or Angola, he says.

‘The combined political clout of these two states represents a potentially formidable force in shaping Africa’s integration and representing the continent’s interests on the world stage,’ he says.

The AfCFTA and other AU initiatives need both South Africa and Nigeria. Ramaphosa has so far indicated that he is committed to regional integration and intra-African trade. Now is a good time to strengthen diplomatic links with Nigeria to keep the Abuja road map on track.

Liesl Louw-Vaudran, ISS Consultant

Source: ISS