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Venezuela’s Currencies Promote Cooperation Not Competition

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The global economic crisis has spread around the world and is bringing many problems in its wake.  As global currency markets gyrate wildly, and people find they can go from having wealth to being poor almost overnight, the question is being asked: “is there another way?”

The global economy is slowing rapidly. Even Iceland – a country recently named as having the best quality of life in the world (Human Development Index) (HDI) – has gone broke, and many other nations around the world will face serious economic crises. People will need to protect themselves from the worst effects of the fallout from various economic bubbles bursting.

Runaway inflation, as is occurring in Zimbabwe – reaching 231 million percent in October, 2008 according to official sources – shows faith in a country’s currency can be sorely tested. But do people and the poor in particular, need to be prisoners of the economy managed by a national currency?

The ‘prosumer’ movement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosumer), where consumers take an active role in re-shaping markets and economies to their benefit, around the world is looking for ways to bypass national currencies and make food, goods and services more affordable and stable, improving the lives of the poor. One way this is done is through alternative currencies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_currency).

Cimarrones, or the Cimarron, joins 10 other alternative currencies currently in operation across Venezuela. They are circular cardboard tokens with a picture of a runaway slave on them.

Supported by Hugo Chavez, the country’s president, the new currencies are aimed at tackling poverty and establishing new economies. The currencies can’t be exchanged for the Venezuelan currency, the bolivar.

It works like this: to be a prosumer, you must first bring something to sell before you can buy anything. The range of products for sale at prosumer markets is not vast, but that isn’t the point.

“It’s magic,” Pablo Mayayo, an Argentinian advising Venezuela on prosumer schemes, told The Economist. “ When you take away money, which is the cause of almost all the great evils in the world, people relate to each other in a different way, by cooperating, not competing.”

Argentina pioneered so-called “barter markets” in response to its economic crises, helping people avoid starvation, looting and perhaps a revolution. By the end of 2002, there were 4,500 barter markets being used by half a million people producing 600 million credits.

“They were organized geographically around church halls, car parks and baseball courts,” recalled Peter North, a Liverpool University geographer. “They offered a wide range of products and services, supplied by professionals, trades people and farmers, as well as housewives and the unemployed. Stalls attracted ‘prosumers’ in their thousands, who paid with credit coupons issued by one or more barter markets. Everyone involved was both a prosumer and a producer, since you couldn’t purchase credits or exchange them for pesos.”

In Rio Chico, a small town in the Venezuelan coastal region of Barlovento, the prosumer currency market has people happy with the prices.

“I grow coconuts,” said Angenia Hernandez. “In the shops they cost 3.5 bolivares each (US $1.63) at the official exchange rate), but we we’re going to sell them at [the equivalent of] 1.5.” She calls it an end to “commercial fascism.”

Because of global currency speculation and investment flows, national currencies are not entirely at the control of national governments. High inflation seriously hurts the poor and low-waged, and national currencies can hurt the rural poor, who become prisoners to high interest rates charged by urban lenders.

Turning to a local, alternative currency has many advantages: it stops currency speculation, stops the flow of wealth to urban areas, preserves purchasing power, keeps trading local. Avoiding the draining away of wealth to middlemen, it addresses currency scarcity, and fosters greater awareness of how economies function and the mechanisms of trade

Criticism of these schemes say it is just a re-run of regressive company currencies and feudal tokens that were used in the past to control people and force them to only buy products from the landowner or boss.

In Papua New Guinea , shells are used for money and are called Tabu.  It is an ancient currency system used by the Tolai people of East New Britain Island . Stephen Demeulenaere (www.network-economies.com), who has worked on alternative currencies around the world and helped with the re-introduction of the Tabu in Papua New Guinea , sees it playing a key role in the local economy.

“Tabu was very effective at addressing poverty,” he said, “because anything could be purchased with it, from a handful of peanuts up to a piece of land or even a car, without needing national currency.  Tabu is produced traditionally by women, so theoretically nobody would suffer from a lack of it.  The advantage over the national currency is that it has a very long history of use, and people trust it more than the national currency.

“Tabu builds wealth by facilitating the exchange of locally-produced goods and services which may not circulate in a ‘national-currency only’ economy, and values activities that may not be considered to be economically viable if the use of national currency was the only option.  In the west we see this where ‘mother’s work’, hobbies, mutual-aid and other traditional under-valued but economically important activities are not valued monetarily.

“By encouraging the exchange of locally-produced goods and services, wealth is built in the community from the ground up.”

Over 75,000 people now use the shells, usually traded in great rings.

Getting the introduction of an alternative currency right is critical. In Argentina, such currencies were criticised for being manipulated by criminal gangs and political forces.

“The main advice I have is to study the community closely, and our website at http://www.complementarycurrency.org, provides free resources for people wishing to start their system,” Demeulenaere said.

“The system must be transparent so that people trust it and participate in maintaining its health and stability; democratic, so that it can not be abused by those in power; appropriate, so that it achieves general social and economic goals and aspirations of the community; and to be complementary to the regular economy so that the system helps its members to improve their lives economically.”

At the Jai Marketplace in Thailand , all of the goods in the market can be bought entirely in the local currency called “Jai’. Jai is convertible to Thai Baht or to organic, locally made cow fertilizer, and is designed to improve the local economy and the climate for micro, small and medium enterprises through the local exchange network.

Published: January 2009

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

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This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Southern Drink Challenges Corporate Dominance

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Across the global South, its thirsty people have long been a target market for Northern drinks companies. The ubiquity of the American soft drink Coca Cola, or even its rival Pepsi Cola, is testimony to that. Even the most remote village on the impoverished island of Haiti can offer an ice-cold Coke.

But the marketing power of these companies has a down side: it has pushed aside local drink brands based on traditional formulations. But in some countries, local brands are fighting back.

In India, the Cow Protection Department of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak (called RSS) based in Hardwar (www.hardwar.com), one of the four holy cities on the River Ganges, has produced a soft drink made from recycled cow urine. They call it ‘gau jal’ (Sanskrit for ‘cow water’) and it is set for a launch at the end of 2009.

The urine is highly processed to make the drink. “Don’t worry, it won’t smell like urine and will be tasty too,” Om Prakash told the Daily Mail. “Its unique selling point will be that it’s going to be very healthy. It won’t be like carbonated drinks and will be devoid of any toxins.”

The price will be less than American brands such as Coca Cola.

“We’re going to give them good competition as our drink is good for mankind,” he continued. “We may also think of exporting it.”

The drink contains not only cow urine but a blend of medicinal and ayurvedic herbs. Ayurveda is the 5,000-year-old ancient Indian health system.

The RSS was founded in 1925 and claims to have eight million members.

Cows are sacred to India’s Hindu population and killing them is illegal in many parts of India.Finding ways to make a living from cows’ waste products is common. Cow dung (manure) is already used as a fertilizer in villages. It is claimed the new soda pop will help with cancer, obesity and liver disease.

Another drink that has been consumed for its health-giving properties is Mongolian mare’s (female horse) milk. Studies by female scientists from Mongolia, South Korea and China for UNDP in the late 1990s found the milk was packed with vitamins and minerals and effective in treating liver diseases, cancer, intestine inflammations and tuberculosis.

Mongolians have used mare’s milk for centuries in their traditional diet. The drink, called airag in Mongolian, is consumed especially during traditional holidays.

There are eight times as many horses in Mongolia as the human population, which numbers 2.7 million, so the potential for this drink is enormous. The Food and Biotechnology Institute of the Mongolian University of Science and Technology (www.must.edu.mn/beta_new/) in association with the Swiss International Development Agency (www.sdc.admin.ch), has been developing technology to process mare’s milk, and make value-added products with it to create rural jobs. Under the project, eight kinds of beauty products have been manufactured so far using mare’s milk.

Published: July 2009

Resources

Just Food is a web portal packed with the latest news on the global food industry and packed with events and special briefings to fill entrepreneurs in on the difficult issues and constantly shifting market demands. Website: www.just-food.com

Brandchannel: The world’s only online exchange about branding, packed with resources, debates and contacts to help businesses intelligently build their brand. Website: www.brandchannel.com

Small businesses looking to develop their brand can find plenty of free advice and resources here. Website: www.brandingstrategyinsider.com

Growing Inclusive Markets, a new web portal from UNDP packed with case studies, heat maps and strategies on how to use markets to help the poor. Website: www.growinginclusivemarkets.org

Asia-Pacific Traditional Medicine and Herbal Technology Network: an excellent first stop for any entrepreneur, where they can find out standards and regulations and connect with education and training opportunities. Website: www.apctt-tm.net

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Southern Innovator’s online archive portal was launched in New York City, U.S.A. (home to the UN’s headquarters) in 2011 (southerninnovator.org).
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This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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2011 Trends for the South

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The world has been through a dramatic and fascinating period since the global economic crisis erupted in 2008. While the wealthy, developed nations of the North have been pitched into one crisis after another, the countries of the global South (many of whom are well accustomed to crises) have been part of a powerful new economic phenomenon: the rapid growth of South-South trade, investment and exchange. Its effects include stronger ties between Asia and South America and between China and Africa.

South-South trade is the great economic success story of the past decade. World Trade Organization (WTO) (www.wto.org) figures show South-South trade grew to 16.4 percent of the US $14 trillion in total world exports in 2007, from 11.5 percent in 2000. While the global economic crisis has slowed trade down, the overall trend for South-South trade and connections seems firmly established.

South-South trade made up 20 percent of global exports by 2010, and foreign direct investment to developing economies rose by 10 percent in 2010 due to a rapid economic recovery and increasing South-South flows.

Trade between China and Africa has surged during the decade since China joined the WTO in 2001, from around US $10 billion in 2000 to US $73.3 billion in 2007, a year-on-year increase of 32.2 percent. By 2008, it had soared by 44.1 percent to reach a record high of US $106.84 billion, according to Zhang Yongpeng of the Institute for West Asian and African Studies (IWAAS).

The surge is remarkable and recent. For example, according to accountants KPMG, between 2001 and 2009 China invested just US $215 million in Brazil. But in 2010, China invested US $20 billion in energy and chemical companies in Argentina and Brazil. And Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, told the Financial Times that “seven percent of Colombian gasoline has been replaced by domestic ethanol, produced with green Indian technology – while Indian companies, including Infosys and Tata, now have 17,000 employees in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

This jump in investment has also had its downside: coming fast and furious as investment cash chases better investment profits in the global South, it has pushed up inflation and commodity prices and spawned property speculation bubbles. This, as can be seen across North Africa and the Middle East, can lead to political and social instability.

A review of the big trends bubbling under the surface in 2011 shows how important South-South exchange will be in alleviating poverty and improving lives in the run-up to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/). It also shows up the dangers inherent in this new environment – rising inflation without economic growth can crush the poor. A focus on innovation and new thinking will be necessary to get through this year and beyond.

Some of the top trends that will have a big impact in 2011 are:

– Inflation: In 2011 it looks like we will hear a lot about inflation. As the global economy tries to stabilize and return to growth, there will be inflation surges for a wide variety of reasons. People will need strategies and new techniques to make sure they can afford the necessities of life. This will be critical if development gains from the past decade are not to be lost.

– Super cycle: Some are putting forward the theory we are entering a ‘super cycle’ (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-01-23/super-cycle-leaves-no-economy-behind-as-davos-shifts-to-growth-from-crisis.html) created by better connectivity, global travel and mobility and the ease of moving around investment to create businesses and jobs. The super cycle theory claims that this will spark the greatest period of human development in history – raising all national economies – as more and more people benefit from rising living standards and opportunities.

– Switch to South-South trade: With the trend of increasing South-South trade now firmly established, there is a greater awareness now of the power of sharing ideas across the South. One example of this idea-sharing is the annual Global South-South Development Expo (http://www.southsouthexpo.org/) run by UNDP’s Special Unit for South-South Cooperation Unit (http://ssc.undp.org/).

– New technologies: The spread of new technologies around the world will continue and bring many changes. Africa is seeing increasing access to high-speed Internet as new undersea cables are laid around the continent. Mobile phones will continue to be a critical tool for many to stay in touch and boost incomes.

– MDGs on horizon in 2015: The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target of 2015 is just four years away. This will face the headwinds of the global economic crisis and urgent attention will be needed to make sure gains are not lost as 2015 approaches. The role played by South-South trade will be a critical partner in aiding goal achievements.

– Cities: A surge to the urban was pronounced by 2007 and we are now living in a majority urban world. Innovation and sharing experiences and knowledge will play a key role in ensuring this is not a disaster. A recent book, Arrival City by Canadian journalist Doug Saunders, detailed this urban surge occurring across the global South, the largest movement of people to cities and urban and semi-urban areas in human history. It follows the pattern that was seen in Europe in the 19th century, as economies change and people seek the new opportunities promised by cities, or find rural economies unsustainable.

– The China model of development: The big talking point will be China’s economic model for eradicating poverty on a mass scale. A new book by Dambisa Moyo, How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly – And the Stark Choices Ahead, investigates the mistakes made in developed, Western nations and what can be learned from the experiences in the global South.

– Food crisis: At the beginning of February, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) issued a warning about the risk of a new global food crisis after its food price index reached a record high in January 2011. The FAO also issued an alert about severe drought in China, the world’s largest wheat producer. Flooding in Brazil and Australia have also devastated crops, much of which are exported to countries across the South. There is also risk to crops from flooding in southern Africa. Wheat, corn and soybean prices are rising, and prices reached a peak just as they did in 2008 (FAO).

Even developed countries normally used to food surpluses are at risk. In the US, corn reserves are at a 15 year low (US Department of Agriculture), and the price of corn has doubled in past six months.

A billion people go to bed hungry every night; someone starves to death every 3.6 seconds – 75 percent are children under five, according to the World Food Programme (http://www.wfp.org/1billion).

Published: 2011

Resources
1) Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture: A data mix tracking global food prices and situation reports. Website: http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/wfs-home/en/
2) World Bank Food Crisis blog: Website: http://www.worldbank.org/foodcrisis/
3) Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa: “Building capacity to help Africa trade better”: tralac’s mission is to build trade law capacity in southern Africa so that these countries can participate effectively in the global economy; to negotiate trade agreements that will support their development objectives, and so that they can implement the agreements to ensure that they realise the potential benefits of international trade. Website: http://www.tralac.org/cgi-bin/giga.cgi?cmd=cause_dir_cause&cause_id=1694
4) Future Forum world videos: Compelling animated videos exploring the hard choices of an urbanizing world and the need to promote sustainable development and environmental harmony. Website: http://www.youtube.com/user/forumforthefuture96

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

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This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Global South’s Rising Economies Gain Investor Spotlight

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

A new book is arguing that the world’s attention should switch away from BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – and take another look at nations and regions elsewhere across the global South. It argues many are lodestones of future growth and prosperity in the making and will see dramatic changes over the next decade.

The story of the BRIC and BRICS countries is an impressive one. In just eight years from 2000 to 2008, the BRIC countries’ combined share of total world economic output rose from 16 to 22 per cent. This led to a 30 per cent increase in global output during the period, showing how key these countries were to global prosperity in the 2000s. BRIC countries make up nearly half the world’s population and are regional leaders. Taken together, their gross domestic products (GDPs) are not far behind the United States.

Ruchir Sharma’s Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles (http://www.amazon.com/Breakout-Nations-Pursuit-Economic-Miracles/dp/0393080269) argues that the BRICS are now entering a more stable growth path and thus will not see the rapid-fire expansion and quick profits investors have become used to in the past decade.

“The BRICs,” Sharma told Forbes magazine, “were last decade’s team.”

The BRIC acronym (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRIC) was coined in 2001 by Goldman Sachs managing director Jim O’Neill, in a 2001 paper titled “Building Better Global Economic BRICs” (http://www.goldmansachs.com/ourthinking/brics/building-better.html). O’Neill predicted that this handful of countries would dominate the growth and economic development story for the years 2000 to 2010. This was because they all shared a similar stage of advanced economic development.

The BRIC states first began meeting together in 2006. South Africa was added in 2010 to form the BRICS acronym.

The buzz surrounding the BRICS countries over the past decade has been justified by their impressive growth rates, declining poverty levels,modernizing economies and societies and growing middle class populations.

China alone had seen its gross domestic product grow by US $5 trillion between 2001 and 2011.

Now, Sharma argues, it is someone else’s turn.

Sharma is head of emerging markets with Morgan Stanley Investment Management in New York, and Breakout Nations looks at where the next economic surprise stories will take place.

“A breakout nation is a nation that will grow above expectations, and will grow more than nations with similar per capita income,” Sharma told Forbes. “You can’t bunch all of the emerging markets together anymore. The last decade saw these countries behaving the same economically, but I think that is behind us now. Investors today will really have to pick their spots.”

He points out that Indonesia was the best performing emerging market in 2011 and has an economy that will surpass a trillion dollars in the coming years.

He also believes Sri Lanka and Nigeria are economies to watch.

Sharma says funds flowing into emerging market stocks grew by 478 per cent from 2005 to 2010, a massive jump compared to 2000 to 2005, when they grew by 92 per cent.

As he sees it, China has now reached middle-income status and its growth rates will not be as high as they have been for the past two decades. In his research, he found that countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all slowed down once their per capita income went past US $5,000.

Investors who watch the emerging markets predict the hot growth areas for the next decade will be around energy, technology, and agricultural resources.

Sharma picks out Indonesia, Turkey, the Philippines, Poland and the Czech Republic for future investment interest, but urges caution with thinking all emerging economies are on course to boom.

“You’ve got to pick your spots, rather than just assume that because you put a tag of emerging on a particular nation, it’s going to boom,” Sharma told The Globe and Mail newspaper.

To make sense of the complexity of fast-emerging economies, a flurry of new investor acronyms has popped up. One of the country clusters is called the CIVETS: Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIVETS).

The MINTS (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) are also set for great growth in the next decade, many investors believe.

Then there is the N-11 or Next 11. This is the MINTS plus Bangladesh, Egypt,Iran, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam.

And after that there is VISTA (Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey and Argentina). While clearly the creative juices are flowing at investment houses as they come up with ever-catchier acronyms, a more serious point is being made: many countries in the global South, for the first time in history, are no longer solely dependent on the Western economic system for demand.

These countries, investors note, now have an unprecedented range of options uncoupled from the political, financial and economic legacy of Western developed nations. They say that many nations in the global South are set for a runaway investment boom because they are making changes and modernizing their economies faster than many expect.

As the BRICS economies mature and slow down and take on different priorities based around improving the quality of life of their citizens, those seeking faster profits will look elsewhere. This trend is even happening within the BRICS, as Chinese and Brazilian companies offshore work to Vietnam and Colombia.

There are many new centres of economic activity and rising prosperity across the emerging markets that often fail to gain wider attention. Few would probably know that the Northeast Asian nation of Mongolia – mired in the 1990s in the worst peacetime economic collapse in half a century (http://www.scribd.com/doc/20864541/Mongolia-Update-1998-Book) – is now the world’s fastest-growing economy (http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/2012/02/28/what-behind-mongoliaeconomic-boom) and one of the top places for mobile phone usage and penetration (http://www.businessmongolia.com/mongolia/2012/03/19/mongolia-ringing-the-changes/).

Then there is Myanmar (formerly Burma), where many are hoping recent moves toward democracy and improvements in diplomatic relations will lead to an economic boon for the region. Investors are also targeting Kazakhstan in Central Asia.

Reflecting these changing realities, Standard Bank, Africa’s largest bank, has been documenting the rising role played by the Chinese currency in international trade. A recent report forecast US $100 billion (R768 billion) in Sino-African trade would be settled in the Chinese currency, the renminbi, by 2015. This would be double the trade between China and Africa in 2010. It also found 70,000 Chinese companies are using the renminbi in international trade transactions.

Resources 

1) Beyondbrics blog: A blog by the Financial Times calling itself “The Ft’s emerging markets hub”. Website: http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/

2) BRICS Summit: The Fourth BRICS Summit was hosted in New Delhi on 29 March 2012 under the overarching theme of “BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Security and Prosperity.” The Summit has imparted further momentum to the BRICS process. Website: bricsindia.in

3) Market Oracle: A good source for updates on investor sentiment about the emerging market economies. Website: marketoracle.co.uk

4) Monocle magazine: “A briefing on global affairs, business, culture and design” often featuring trends in the emerging market countries. Website:

monocle.com

5) BRICS Information Centre, University of Toronto. Website: brics.utoronto.ca

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022