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“Girls with dreams become women with vision.”

IMG_2548This was written on one of my birthday cards last year. I have a lot of dreams, from running my own company, getting a phd and finally writing a book about start-ups. Living in London, I am surrounded by ambitious women with equally bold dreams. However, the devil is in the detail and turning dreams into a vision whilst juggling all the competing demands of work, friends, family and life in general can be tough. Alex Hess, a partner at a private equity firm, philanthropist and mother said at a recent Eyedea event: “The desire to always want do more when there is never enough time is a trap that catches us all.”

What if we could just do more things a little bit better and a little bit faster? New York Times reporter, Charles Duhigg, has attempted to solve this conundrum for us and compiled his lessons into eight neat chapters in his recent book: smarter, faster better. The Secrets of Being Productive. As can be expected from a Pulitzer price winning author, the book is a pleasure to read and provides inspiring tales of Jack Welsh’s turn around of General Electric to how Disney’s Frozen became a hit (and almost didn’t get made), alongside a set of practical recommendations from agile thinking to forecasting the future. I have road tested his tips this year and below is a summary of my personal highlights on how to do more things better.

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In 2015 Senegal’s central government blocked Dakar’s first municipal bond launch a pioneering transaction supported by the World Bank. This post first appeared on Medium

Transport for Dakar.

Nestled on the shores of the Atlantic, Senegal’s capital Dakar has been changing radically in the past decade with some large investments in roads and infrastructure. Yet, poverty and poor service delivery remain endemic especially in the ‘other Dakar’, informal settlements where 40 per cent of city dwellers live. As in many African cities, chronic shortage of jobs and affordable housing, poor transport services, flooding, erratic waste management and frequent power cuts hamper economic development. Running on a ticket for improving the city for all citizens, Khalifa Sall, member of the opposition party Parti Socialiste, was elected Mayor of Dakar, unseating an ally of Senegal’s long-time president Abdoulaye Wade.[1]

To realise his ambitious plans, the reformer Sall needed capital and technical support. He enlisted help from the donor community to strengthen the cities administrative capacity and fiscal management and attract financing to improve Dakar’s infrastructure. As a first step, the World Bank led Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF)’s Sub-national Technical Assistance Program (SNTA) reviewed the municipality’s financial management systems and potential for accessing loans and other external finance: the first African sub-national entity to be assessed under this programme. While the review highlighted deficiencies in Dakar’s financial management, SNTA proposed a number of reform to improve its financial management systems and increase revenue collection. These reforms produced rapid benefits in enabling Dakar to borrow on commercial terms to finance investments to develop municipal markets and road rehabilitation.

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After years of delays, Guinea’s first legislative elections since the 2008 coup have gone relatively smoothly. But the hardest task is yet to come. This Saturday, an estimated five million Guineans cast their ballots to choose a new parliament in the nation’s first legislative elections since a 2008 coup. There were reports of missing voting cards, shortages of indelible ink, and polling stations opening late. Many waited for hours to vote, but amidst high security, proceedings remained calm. The independent national electoral commission (CENI by its French acronym) congratulated Guineans for the peaceful conduct of the process, while the Economic Community of West African States observer mission said they believed the elections “were held in acceptable conditions of freedom and transparency”. Read More

Gustave Moynier is rumoured to have invented the International Criminal Court of Justice. True? Not really, but read on and you’ll also find out who Gustave Moynier was.

Battle of SolferinoThe historian Mark Mazower concluded in his recent book that “we have moved from an era that had faith in the idea of international institutions to one that has lost it.” He examines the nineteenth century as a starting point to the evolution of our present day international institutions, but largely omits the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, it is the successfully operating institution of the ICC that could turn his conclusion around. But where did this all start and how did this mentioned ‘era of faith’, the nineteenth century, figure in the history of the ICC?

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“Buy Land. They are not making it anymore.” This statement by Mark Twain uttered more than one hundred years ago still holds a sad and powerful truth and makes a telling start for Fred Pearce ‘s account about the fight over the Earth’s most precious resources, land and water. On 356 pages the reader is taken on a whirlwind tour around the globe and witnesses through Pearce’s eyes and pen a new colonialism driven not by countries but by the most powerful private capitalists, which constitutes a final enclosure of the planet’s last wild places. We encounter illustrious figures such as George Soros and Richard Branson, learn about the conflicts in the DRC and Liberia and why the Land Take of Mugabe in Zimbabwe wasn’t too bad after all for small scale farmers and how the global financial crisis and the intricate mechanisms of stock market speculations in commodities exacerbate the round-up on the global commons. Pearce’s passion and his outrage about this sell-out of communal resources shines through the lines. Each chapter is dedicated to a certain country, where protagonists change, yet the storyline stays the same: Governments around the globe grant large concessions to Machiavellian investors to advance their economies whilst displacing and disadvantaging large part of their own population. The classical land-based development conundrum.

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