Tuesday 6 October 2015 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 6/10/2015

The Monocle Minute

Image: GCIS

Affairs in Africa

A timely reality check for the Africa Rising narrative: governance, arguably the continent’s most important barometer, shows no sign of improvement. The latest Ibrahim Index of African Governance, released yesterday, makes for grim reading: 21 of the continent’s 54 nations, including five of the top 10, have deteriorated over the past four years. Central Africa is a particular problem, perhaps no surprise given the conflict in the Central African Republic and the constitutional shenanigans in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “This is a warning sign for all of us,” says Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-born businessman behind the index. The big question is whether enough African governments are listening.

Image: Getty Images

Room for improvement

Japan has a spotty record of using soft power to raise its profile overseas but Tokyo is starting to think more creatively. From next April the foreign ministry will set up training centres to teach Japan’s best business practices in 22 developing nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The centres will focus on such concepts as kaizen (continuous improvement), which Japanese manufacturing firms Toyota, Fanuc, Murata and others credit for their competitive edge and high-quality products. It’s all part of Japan’s broader effort to blunt rival China’s growing influence abroad. While China’s infrastructure-building projects overseas often rely on Chinese labour, Japan hopes to be seen as nurturing new talent in countries where its firms operate.

Image: Getty Images

American Apparel: boardroom drama

The struggles of American Apparel, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, have been dominated by references to the behaviour of its founder, Dov Charney, but it’s the failure of the business model that is more relevant for the rest of the industry. At a time when everyone was outsourcing, American Apparel stood apart from the crowd, insisting that all its clothes would proudly have a “Made in America” label. Workers were paid at least double the minimum wage and received the sort of employment perks that were rarely found at clothing companies. The irony is that while American Apparel worries for its future, many of its former rivals are now following in its footsteps, “reshoring” their factories as consumers begin to think more about where their clothes come from, not just how much they cost.

Image: Steenaire

Buzzing off

California’s ongoing drought is having some unexpected consequences: beekeepers are packing up their hives and heading east. The California State Beekeepers Association (CSBA) has reported a drop in members as beekeepers move to Montana, Idaho and the Dakotas. And their departure is not the only problem for honey production: the plants that are still flowering have much less nectar than usual thanks to the dry climate. If the drought continues more beekeepers are expected to leave, says the CSBA’s Carlen Jupe, though that would be the least of the state’s problems. “California historically has had droughts that have lasted up to 100 years,” says Jupe. “If that happens we’d see more impact than just beekeepers leaving the state.”

Sound effects

Why do tweeting birds have a calming effect on us? Why is music in a shop distracting? Julian Treasure differentiates between manmade and natural sounds and how they affect us.

Hospitality lessons

Be it an airport lounge or a cinema, feeling at ease is hugely dependent on your surroundings. Monocle films meets with the design experts crafting the warmest welcomes.


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