Tag Archives: Books

Countries Succeed And Fail According To Leaders’ Choices

May seem obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded of the blindingly obvious. I challenge you to find a more worthy way to spend the next three minutes of your time. Here we have Nasir El-Rufai, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory under Obasanjo, who has just published a memoir, “The Accidental Public Servant.” For those of you in London, here’s a schedule of his appearances there this week. For those of you more accustomed to the American political format, imagine that the mayor of Washington, DC was appointed by the president and that it was a cabinet-level position and you have an idea of El-Rufai’s role in the Obasanjo Administration.

Do not miss this: Blood Lily

After 12 years of being out of touch, I’ve just reconnected on LinkedIn with an old work colleague from a previous life of mine named Mason Cranswick. Apparently this is what he’s been up to:

Scott is facing bankruptcy amid the turmoil that grips the financial markets of 2008. He is saved when money is transferred to his account from an unexpected source. We flash back to war-torn 1970’s Rhodesia where Scott is growing up as a privileged white boy alongside his best friend, Simba, a black boy, on his parents’ farm …

A sweeping tale of naivety, treachery, war and genocide, of love and friendship…and ultimately of hope and regeneration.

I cannot wait to read this. Book website is here.

Theory vs. Practice: Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic

“Journalism,” George Orwell is supposed to have said, “is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

I don’t know if Hugh Sinclair realizes this, but despite lacking any formal journalism training, he has indeed committed an act of journalism in his recently published book, “Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic: How Microlending Lost Its Way and Betrayed the Poor.”

The book’s title is indicative of what’s inside and Mr. Sinclair does a nice job backing up his claims with well researched and annotated sources where the source is not his own decade of experience in the field. Among the basic findings:

  • Microborrowers at some of the industry’s poster child institutions pay interest rates considered usurious, extortionate and predatory in any other context, but somehow the microfinance canon has convinced a critical mass of people that this is the road to solving poverty;
  • Due diligence by American and European microfinance investment funds into microfinance lenders is all too often a joke, and not a very funny one;
  • In certain cases, financiers, some of whom represent the largest banks in the world, are aware of what are arguably unsustainable and unethical practices at microfinance institutions but turn a blind eye to them in the pursuit of greater yield.

And much, much more. Here’s a short list of what else this book is: jarring, jaw-dropping, infuriating, inflammatory, and yes, heretical. At the same time: enlightening, engaging, inspiring, illuminating.

And now here’s an even shorter list of what this book is not: bullshit.
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The future for Breakout Nations

I haven’t yet read Ruchir Sharma’s Breakout Nations (if you must know, I’m in the middle of reading this), but this recent excerpt of Sharma’s book in Forbes, followed by Leopard Capital’s consequent review got me to thinking more about general things that set developing countries apart from developed countries today.

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Antoine van Agtmael on the future of Emerging Markets

While refining the themes for this blog, I came across this video of Antoine van Agtmael, best known for originally coining the term “Emerging Markets” in the early 1980s while working for the World Bank. The video is from his … Continue reading