The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 28 February 2017

Energetic effort

You don’t see many hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles on the streets of Tokyo but that’s about to change. Beginning in March the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will introduce the country’s first buses that run on hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe. It’s the start of the city’s roll-out of 100 Toyota-made fuel-cell buses in time for the 2020 Olympics. Unlike today’s petrol-powered cars, fuel-cell vehicles don’t spew pollutants: once hydrogen is converted to electricity, all that drips from the exhaust is water. The Japanese government wants to have 40,000 fuel-cell vehicles on the road by 2020, 200,000 by 2025 and 800,000 by 2030. Getting enough of these vehicles on the road to make hydrogen-refuelling stations worthwhile is a major hurdle. But if Tokyo’s bus programme can expand quickly and showcase the benefits of the technology – and car-makers can churn out affordable and attractive models – there might be something to those ambitious government targets.

Image: Alamy

Higher standards

Toronto’s construction boom has been criticised for the uniformity of the structures it has produced, namely cookie-cutter glass condominium towers that loom above the city. However, there have been welcome signs that developers are attempting to approach new projects differently. The Toronto-based Cresford property developer has unveiled its design for a sleek sculptural tower (and what would be Canada’s tallest residential building) by New York’s Kohn Pedersen Fox. The building will house residential and commercial property and will be located at one of downtown Toronto’s busiest intersections. The design is already dividing opinion but the steel sinews that line the tower’s glass shell, and its elegantly curved corners, offer a refreshing alternative to what can be seen on Toronto’s skyline at the moment.

Image: Getty Images

Making airwaves

Yesterday saw the opening of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, a four-day bonanza for the mobile-technology industry and, with 100,000 attendees expected, one of the biggest events in the technology calendar. An in-house report released in the run-up to the show found that the number of people subscribed to a mobile service will hit the five billion mark midway through this year; by the end of the decade the figure will represent close to three-quarters of the world’s population. This week, however, the focus will be on a series of major players mulling significant mergers and takeovers; keep an eye out for news from Softbank, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone, whose CEOs are all present in the Catalan capital.

Image: Getty Images

Political shift

It may seem a far cry from Geert Wilders’s Party For Freedom or Marine Le Pen’s Front National but there’s a growing populist movement in South Africa that has some hallmarks of its European counterparts. The political party South African First (SAF) was registered in December and taps into a wave of resentment against migrant workers from across the continent, particularly Nigerians. Founded by Mario Khumalo, who grew up in the US, SAF vows to get foreigners out of the country with only 48 hours’ notice. It’s worrying rhetoric, especially given that Nigeria has been the continent’s biggest customer for South African business, from telecoms to supermarkets. Now ill feeling has shifted to the streets, manifesting in protests in both countries. Pretoria must take note: SAF may find fertile ground if job creation doesn’t keep pace and citizens feel that their concerns are not being taken seriously.

From Monocle 24

Image: Felix Bruggeman

Czech Republic: the new music-making capital?

When Adele wants strings on one of her globe-straddling recordings she goes to Prague. The same goes for film-soundtrack maestros, including Ennio Morricone and James Newton Howard. So what attracts people to the Czech capital and its musicians? Price is certainly a factor but it’s the quality – and quantity – of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra musicians that really stands out. Our correspondent Guy De Launey heads to Prague to meet them.

From Monocle Films

Masters of glass

The small Venetian island of Murano has a grand glass-blowing reputation. In the glow of the furnaces, Monocle Films witnesses a new generation of designers at work.

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