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By David Clark of the Russia Foundation

For all the attention given to the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk, it is clear that Ukraine cannot solve its problems by military means alone. If there is a route to national salvation it lies in the field of domestic reform and the quest to find a new model of internal development. It is only by emulating the achievement of neighbouring Poland and becoming a well-governed country with a strong, dynamic economy that Ukraine can hope to escape from its current predicament. As a ‘Slavic tiger’ it could provide a source of attraction strong enough to regain eventual control over the territories it has lost and perhaps even become a catalyst for change in Russia itself. Stuck in a post-Soviet rut of dysfunctional institutions and economic stagnation, it will remain weak and vulnerable to Putin’s policy of divide and rule. Read more

By Tassos Stassopoulos of AllianceBernstein

What’s the connection between electricity and women? Electricity is an agent of empowerment, able to transform societies and economies in emerging markets. It paves the way to buying home appliances like electric cookers, refrigerators and washing machines, freeing up women from hours of daily housework. In our view, more access to electricity in developing countries will be a catalyst for more women to join the workforce, leading to huge changes in consumer spending patterns. Read more

By Ryan Olson, The Heritage Foundation

For several years, now, Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil producing states have been working to create sovereign wealth funds (SWFs). But as oil prices and production decline, such funds may not be able to deliver the benefits they once promised.

Since 2007 Angola, Ghana, Nigeria and Mauritania have joined Equatorial Guinea and Gabon in the club of oil-producing countries with SWFs. Currently, four of sub-Saharan Africa’s five largest oil producers maintain some sort of SWF.

Attracted, perhaps, by the success of similar funds in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, sub-Saharan governments are looking to capture oil revenues in rainy day funds in order to smooth fiscal expenditures during suppressed commodity cycles. Read more

By Chris Tucker of MBX Systems

“What do you know about shipping product into Brazil?” When I think of the conversations I have had with our appliance customers over the last several years, this question makes a regular appearance. Brazil’s rapidly growing IT market (estimated at $191bn) and developing infrastructure have been appealing to our small and large customers alike, in markets from broadcast media to security. It is easily apparent why this market is so interesting, but it can actually be more taxing than one may think due to multiple factors.

Read on if you are considering shipping product into Brazil and want to know the challenges of selling and deploying your technology there. Read more

By Krisztián Szabados and Péter Krekó of the Political Capital Institute

Last week’s guest post by Balázs Orbán on Hungary’s foreign policy and the visit of Vladmir Putin adds little to the official government line – which is surprising, given that the visit demonstrated Budapest’s support for the Russian president when his country is under European Union sanctions for backing secessionist militants in a bloody insurrection in Ukraine. Read more

By Timothy Ash of Standard Bank

The crisis in Ukraine shows no sign of abating any time soon.

Minsk I and II have failed to bring a real ceasefire or to provide a basis for negotiations over a lasting settlement. Indeed, Minsk II appears likely to follow the script from Minsk I, bringing only a temporary lull in fighting, as the two sides tactically re-position on the ground and in the international diplomatic scene before recommitting to the battle to ensure delivery on their longer term strategic objectives. Read more

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta

Victory over Ukrainian forces at Debaltseve last week was the best present that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, could have hoped for on the first anniversary of the Euromaidan – a victory won with the increasingly open involvement of Russian military forces.

As European leaders marched with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, a terrorist attack on another march of dignity in Kharkiv killed two and wounded many more. Ukraine’s security service foiled further bomb attacks in Kharkiv and Odessa.

Why did it happen? Read more

By Dalibor Rohac of the Cato Institute

Are things finally turning around for Ukraine? In the space of a few hours on Thursday, a cease-fire with the Kremlin-sponsored separatists was agreed in Minsk, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pledged $17.5bn in financial assistance to the government as part of a package from various donors totalling $40bn.

The events on Kiev’s Maidan last year opened a window of opportunity to stop the economic, social and human devastation of Ukraine by its own political elites. The popular will to stop corruption and fix the country’s political and economic institutions was palpable. Two successive governments of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk have included a number of promising reformists, raising hopes that this time might be different. Read more

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta

European leaders desperate to avoid going down an Iranian-style route of economic and financial sanctions and to dissuade the US from sending weapons signed a second agreement to end the fighting in Ukraine on Thursday in the Belarus capital, Minsk. But it will be as unworkable as the first Minsk agreement signed in September 2014. The new agreement has weaknesses similar to those of its predecessor and will unravel in the next few months. Read more

By Ian Coles of Mayer Brown

Mining professionals are gathered in Cape Town this week for Indaba, one of the largest mining investment conferences in the world. At the top of the agenda for many will be Africa’s capabilities as the next global provider of rare earths.

Global demand for rare earth production continues to increase. Ernst & Young has estimated the value of the market this year between $4bn and $6bn. The greatest demand comes from Japan, where annual imports are estimated in the region of $500m. Read more

By Joy K Gallup of Paul Hastings

The transformation of Mexico’s telecoms sector has begun. Reforms enacted in 2013 promise to transform the investment opportunities and market dynamics of the sector and have already had a major influence, managing the current market dominance of América Móvil through the regulatory actions of IFETEL and opening the sector to foreign investment. In the past few months we have seen fines and other regulatory decisions taken against the dominant players, including América Móvil’s subsidiaries Telmex (which controls 80 per cent of Mexico’s fixed-line telephone market) and Telcel (which controls 70 per cent of its mobile phone market). In recent days, AT&T completed the purchase of Mexico’s third-largest wireless company Iusacell for $2.5bn from Grupo Salinas, and announced an agreement to buy Nextel Mexico from NII Holdings for $1.8 bn (expected to close mid-year). So, what do these reforms mean for the future of the smaller telco companies in Mexico, such as Axtel, Alestra and Maxcom? Read more

By Simon Quijano-Evans of Commerzbank

Today’s surprise visit by President François Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel to Moscow must be seen as the final attempt to find peace in Ukraine. This can only be brought about through: 1) full coordination between the EU and Russia at all levels, with clear pledges from the Ukrainian government and separatist forces to do the same and 2) the presence of a meaningful international peacekeeping force to secure the agreed-on buffer zone in eastern Ukraine. Indeed, as we hear from the US debate on providing arms to Ukraine, the alternative to peace would be full escalation and definitely not a “frozen” conflict, given that Russia’s military doctrine sees Nato as one of the main threats to national security. Read more

By Mohga Kamal-Yanni, Oxfam senior health advisor

Gone are the days when cancer was seen as a problem only faced by rich countries. With the trend of rising cancer rates set to continue because of changing lifestyles and increasingly ageing populations in developing nations, cancer is becoming a huge challenge for emerging economies and the situation is being exacerbated by a lack of affordable medicines. Read more

By Philippe Dauba-Pantanacce, Standard Chartered

The news that Dubai has overtaken London Heathrow as the world’s busiest international airport is a timely reminder that not all Middle East economies are dependent on energy as a mainstay of growth and job creation.

With oil prices plunging 60 per cent, much attention is justifiably focused on the Middle East’s traditional dependence on hydrocarbons. But it is easy to overlook a few oases of economic activity that are not only uncorrelated with oil but also starting to achieve meaningful, critical economic mass. Read more

By Hugo Swire of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

A year ago I spoke at a summit in London hosted by the Financial Times and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) about how the UK could work most effectively with the ‘Pacific Alliance’. The consensus then, as it remains today, was that this economic bloc, made up of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, offered new opportunities for the UK to forge closer ties with Latin America for our mutual benefit. Read more

By Kavaljit Singh of Madhyam

It’s official: India and the US will resume negotiations on a high-standard bilateral investment treaty (BIT). In a joint statement on Sunday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama, the leaders affirmed their “shared commitment to facilitating increased bilateral investment flows and fostering an open and predictable climate for investment.”

Since 2008, the two countries have been engaged in sporadic discussions to arrive at such a treaty. In the coming days, negotiations will begin on its wording, based on each country’s revised model treaty textsRead more

By Tony Elumelu of Heirs Holdings

This week, world leaders from the public and private sectors, civil society and academia are gathered at Davos to discuss a “new global context” – the theme of the World Economic Forum’s 2015 annual meeting. In this new context, the WEF fears that profound transformations – social, economic, political and technological – are hastening the end of “economic integration and international partnership”. Read more

Timothy AshBy Timothy Ash of Standard Bank

While we all enjoy the ECB-inspired feeding frenzy across all risk assets this week it might be well to remember why Mario Draghi opted for yet another extraordinary measure in line with the message that he will do “whatever it takes”. Indeed, it is perhaps a reflection of the immense challenges facing Europe that he is betting the bank and, especially, other peoples’ (Germans’) money. Europe is in the worst state it has been in at any point in the entire post WWII era. Read more

By Joy K Gallup of Paul Hastings

A year ago, the reforms of Mexico’s restructuring law for financially distressed companies were just taking effect. Most practitioners felt the changes addressed many of the flaws in the existing bankruptcy or concurso process. One year later, the new restructuring law is again in the spotlight, as the three largest bankruptcies currently before the courts are proving terrible test cases for the revised law and highlighting where further improvements are needed. Read more

By Kavaljit Singh of Madhyam

President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to India is likely to kick-start stalled negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) between the US and India that has been under sporadic discussion since 2008, aimed at facilitating greater cross-border investment flows.

Negotiations will resume based on model treaty texts prepared by each side. In April 2012, the US released a new version of its model BIT. New Delhi launched a review of its investment treaties in mid-2012 in the wake of public outcry over arbitration notices served by 17 foreign companies (including Vodafone and Sistema) challenging various policy measures and demanding billions of dollars in compensation for the alleged violation of India’s BITs. Read more