Feb 26, 2018

Natural resource lessons from "Black Panther"

Photo: Jeff Spicer / FilmImage

Two Brookings Institution analysts say the acclaimed smash movie "Black Panther" offers lessons for how African countries can transform energy and mineral deposits into lasting public benefits.

Why it matters: The movie is putting fresh attention on how to mitigate or avoid the "resource curse"— the poverty, conflict, and corruption in many resource-rich nations in Africa and elsewhere.

  • Brookings' Mariama Sow and Amadou Sy look at management of the amazing metal vibranium in Wakanda, Black Panther's fictional African setting.
  • "[T]he country has wisely made use of the metal to enhance technology and economic development for its people," they write, noting governance features including use of revenues for a social safety net.
  • But they also suggest trading practices that could provide benefits beyond the isolationist Wakanda's borders.

Two real places to watch: Exxon has found massive oil fields off Guyana's coast in South America, while automakers need increasing supplies of cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo for batteries for electric vehicle expansion.

Yes, but: This Bloomberg Gadfly column, which also uses Black Panther as a hook, explores why Congo faces high hurdles to translating its cobalt bounty into a broader public good.

  • Those hurdles are population size; longstanding civil conflict; the prospect that changes in battery tech will erode demand; and endemic corruption.

Listen deeper: The latest International Monetary Fund podcast looks at a more recently recognized problem: the "presource curse" that can hinder economic growth in countries after petroleum discoveries but before any production occurs.

  • The expectation of development can lead to poor spending and borrowing decisions that leave a country exposed if energy companies don't ultimately make big investment decisions.

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Scoop: Census Bureau is paying Chinese state media to reach Americans

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The 2020 Census Paid Media Campaign, which sends U.S. taxpayer dollars to community media outlets to run ads about the upcoming census, is including a Chinese state-run broadcaster as one of its media vendors.

Why it matters: After China's yearslong campaign to co-opt independent Chinese-language media in the U.S., Washington is now paying Beijing-linked media outlets in order to reach Chinese Americans.

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Live updates: Coronavirus spreads to Latin America

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

Brazil confirmed the first novel coronavirus case in Latin America Wednesday — a 61-year-old that tested positive after returning from a visit to northern Italy, the epicenter of Europe's outbreak.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 81,000 others. By Wednesday morning, South Korea had the most cases outside China, with 1,261 infections. Europe's biggest outbreak is in Italy, where 374 cases have been confirmed.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

GOP congressman accuses California pension official of working for China

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The latest season of Red Scare has come to Sacramento.

Driving the news: Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) has repeatedly accused Ben Meng, chief investment officer of the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), of tacitly working on behalf of the Chinese government. Banks also says that, were it up to him, Meng would be fired — and has questioned the patriotism of California Gov. Gavin Newsom for not at least investigating Meng.

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