Twenty years ago, when Herman Chinery-Hesse returned home after studying in the United States with plans to start a Ghanaian software company, his friends told him he was crazy. But his company, SOFTtribe, is now West Africa's leading software company, helping imagine a new Africa for a digital age.
Today, Chinery-Hesse is working to develop a payment system via mobile-phone text messages that will allow African entrepreneurs to sell their products abroad. Ghana can be a world-class center of technological innovation, he insists -- a Singapore for the continent -- but the technology has to meet local needs by being what he calls "tropically tolerant." His ambition is nothing less than the reimagining of an entire continent: more tech-savvy, more prosperous, but always African. "Our colonial education systems gave us a legacy of rote learning; now we need to liberate innovative thinking to reinvent Africa," he says.
Muse The Internet.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Can't tell yet.
Best idea mPedigree.
Worst idea Continued construction of nuclear plants.
With a right-wing coalition installed in Jerusalem and the chaos of the Arab Spring putting Israelis in a defensive mood, Israel's hawks are ascendant. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has a surprising new critic: former Mossad chief Meir Dagan. After nearly a decade in the shadows, the spymaster this year embarked on an extraordinary media blitz, challenging what he called Netanyahu's march to war against Iran and unwillingness to pursue peace with the Palestinians. "I am afraid that there is no one to stop Bibi and [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak," Dagan said. Netanyahu quickly yanked Dagan's diplomatic passport. But as the man likely responsible for sabotaging Iranian nuclear research and orchestrating the assassination of a top Hezbollah operative in 2008, Dagan can't be dismissed as a mere peacenik. Ariel Sharon is said to have hired him in 2002 because he wanted a Mossad with "a knife between its teeth." So when Dagan refers to an Israeli airstrike on Iran's nuclear installations as "the stupidest thing I have ever heard," we should pay attention.
When Foreign Policy asked 10 prominent American political scholars what prospective 2012 presidential candidates should read, four picked books by Joseph Nye, the longtime Harvard University professor and former deputy undersecretary of state best known for coining the now-ubiquitous term "soft power." In 2011 Nye was back on the bookshelves with The Future of Power, his thoughts on global governance in a world where U.S. dominance is slipping. "Two great power shifts are occurring in this century," he writes, "a power transition among states and a power diffusion away from all states to nonstate actors." He thinks the second may ultimately prove more disruptive.
But don't call Nye a declinist. He argues that despite America's current difficulties, the U.S. economy is still more vibrant, and U.S. culture more influential, than China's. "The U.S. faces serious problems," he writes. "But one should remember that these problems are only part of the picture -- and, in principle, they can be solved over the long term."
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? A different answer for each of 21 countries.
Reading list Why the West Rules -- for Now, by Ian Morris; 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe, by Mary Elise Sarotte.
Best idea A price on carbon.
Worst idea Climate-change denial.
It may not be surprising to learn that Nancy Birdsall, founder of the increasingly influential Washington-based think tank Center for Global Development, agrees with critics of foreign aid that the system is broken: poorly administered from afar based on donor priorities, damaging to local institutions, and a sap on motivation. Unlike most critics, though, Birdsall -- an economist by training who spent years at the World Bank and working on Latin American economic development -- has an answer. Send money, she says, but pay only for results. In their 2010 book, Cash on Delivery, she and co-author William Savedoff argued that foreign aid should be based on a contract system in which aid is only disbursed after certain agreed-upon goals are met.
This year, COD is catching on, with Britain's Department for International Development sponsoring pilot programs in Ethiopia and India. Cash on Delivery now has a chance to deliver.
Muse Bob Dylan (the times they are a-changin').
Stimulus or austerity? For the U.S., short-term stimulus plus Medicare reforms to bend the cost curve and avoid long-term austerity. Essentially the same, by the way for, Greece.
America or China? America for my lifetime. My children's?
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring.
Reading list Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed; How to Live, by Sarah Bakewell; Grand Pursuit, by Sylvia Nasar; Eclipse, by Arvind Subramanian.
Best idea A little more emigration from poor to rich countries would add trillions of dollars to the world's GDP.
Worst idea Debt prison for the Greek middle class.