Browsing Tag: geopolitics

    The Rise of ETHIOPIA and its GEOPOLITICAL challenges – KJ VIDS
    Articles, Blog

    The Rise of ETHIOPIA and its GEOPOLITICAL challenges – KJ VIDS

    September 1, 2019

    (popping music) – [Kasim] Ethiopia is an emerging economy and the Horn of Africa’s power hub. But in spite of its
    considerable potential, it also has to face significant
    challenges to its rise. Depending on how it copes with them, Ethiopia could either become
    a leader of African progress or another fragmented
    state torn by conflict. I’m your host Kasim and
    thanks for joining me for another KJ Vid. In this video, we will discuss
    the geopolitics of Ethiopia. Just before we start, we are pleased to announce that we now provide geopolitical news and forecasts as well as analysis. You can access our content on and subscribe to one of our plans. We have left a 50% discount link in the description for all
    our YouTube subscribers. Ethiopia is a rather large country located in the Horn of Africa region. It extends for 1.13
    million square kilometres and its territory is
    largely made of highlands and plateaus that occupy
    its central-western part. The capital, Addis
    Ababa, lies at the centre of Ethiopia in the heart of its highlands. The mountain ranges are separated
    by the Great Rift Valley, which runs from the
    south-west to the north east. Yet, there are also some plains. To the north, the Danakil Depression runs along the eastern part of
    the border with Eritrea. To the south-east, the land descends into the arid Somalian
    plateau and the Ogaden Desert that mark the border with Somalia. This difficult terrain
    configuration complicates transport and communication in Ethiopia. However, the great geographic challenge for Ethiopia is its position. Firstly, it is a landlocked country, and this hinders its economic development. Ethiopia can of course reach
    the sea via its northern and eastern neighbours, but this is not an easy solution. To the east, Somalia
    is a failed state torn by fragmentation, poverty and conflict. Northwards, a war was fought with Eritrea over a territory dispute,
    and years of tense relations have denied Ethiopia the
    access to the Red Sea. Only a recent agreement
    has reopened the border, thus paving the way to better ties. However, there are doubts
    over the tenure of the deal, as the border has been closed again by Eritrean authorities in April. As such, Djibouti has been
    Ethiopia’s only access to the sea for a long time, to the point that its ports handle 95% of Ethiopia’s foreign trade. To secure its access to the sea the Ethiopian government acquired
    stakes in Djibouti’s ports and built a railway
    connecting the two countries. Yet, there is strong foreign
    competition in Djibouti, as many other states are present in economic and even military terms, the country hosts US, Chinese,
    Japanese and French forces. Another problem related
    to Ethiopia’s position is that it is surrounded
    by fragile neighbours. Somalia is the most prominent case, but even Eritrea and
    Djibouti do not perform well in terms of stability, especially Eritrea. The state of affairs to the
    west are also complicated. Sudan and South Sudan
    are two other weak states where armed conflict is common, notably in the case of South Sudan. The situation is better only to the south, where Kenya enjoys relative
    peace and prosperity. Such instability from
    its fragile neighbours could spill over to Ethiopia, also because it is socially
    fragmented state itself. Ethiopia’s growing population counts around 109 million people,
    most of whom are young, and is divided along
    ethnic and religious lines. In regards to religion,
    43.5% of the population was Ethiopian Orthodox in 2007, while 34% were Muslims
    and 18.5% Protestants. Other minor faiths were also present. But the most significant
    differences are ethnic-related. The most important groups
    are the Oromo and Amhara, representing respectively
    34.4% and 27% of the total. These are followed by the
    Somalis and the Tigray, who both count for a bit more than 6%, and many more groups also exist. This ethnic fragmentation
    is a cause of tensions in Ethiopian politics. As a matter of fact, the Oromo and Amhara, in spite of being the majoritarian groups, are politically and
    economically marginalised. By contrast, the Tigray minority holds much wealth and power. It dominates the ruling
    government coalition, called the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, and this creates resentment
    among the other larger groups. Contrasts between them
    is a prominent feature in current Ethiopian politics, as the recent events demonstrate. An army officer belonging to
    the Amhara attempted a coup in the north. He was known for his ethnic nationalism, demanding greater autonomy
    and even calling the Amharas to take up arms. The coup failed and he was killed. Two officers who opposed
    him also lost their lives. They belonged to the Tigrays, many of whom blame the
    government for the death of the two officers even though incumbent Prime Minister
    Abiy Ahmed mourned them. He is of mixed Oromo and Amhara ancestry, but is politically
    affiliated with the Oromos. This shows the complexity
    of Ethiopia’s political life and the tensions existing
    within its society. Yet, the country must also
    cope with other issues. Like many emerging countries,
    Ethiopia is in the middle of a transition phase. It experienced double-digits
    growth for most of the 2000s and in 2018 its GDP grew
    of 7.7% in real terms, reaching more than $84 billion. Income inequality is low, but unfortunately this
    is because large swathes of its population live in poverty. In 2014 almost 30% of the population lived below the poverty line. Agriculture remains a
    central economic sector, representing almost 35% of the GDP and absorbing close to
    73% of the workforce. Inflation is high, reaching almost 10%. The government runs a deficit
    of more than 3% of the GDP, but the public debt is
    currently relatively low at 54% of the economy’s size. In terms of trade, Ethiopia
    experiences a negative balance of around $6 billion. Its main export destinations
    are European countries, but also China and the US, while its imports comes
    primarily from China and Europe, with India being another
    important partner. This indicates that the status of Ethiopia’s economy is mixed. Its industrialization process
    is still in the early stages, and it does not enjoy the
    positive trade balance that allow other emerging
    countries to develop. Its economy is growing fast, but at the moment many
    people still live in poverty and their living conditions
    remain difficult. Droughts and livestock mortality
    can result into famine, and poor sanitary conditions
    favour the spread of disease. These problems could
    be further exacerbated by climate change, whose effects
    will be particularly marked in the Horn of Africa. According to estimates, Ethiopia’s GDP will be reduced of up to 10%
    due to climate change by 2045. Water scarcity will become more common as the region gets warmer, thus damaging crops and livestock. Pests and diseases will also spread. As a consequence, Ethiopia’s food security will be severely threatened, together with the health of its people. The effects of climate
    change are already visible. A recent USAID report
    shows that in 2016 Ethiopia was struck by the worst
    drought in 50 years. Around 8.5 million people requested emergency food assistance
    for a total value of $1.4 billion. Ethiopia hosted 730,000 refugees
    from neighbouring countries in 2017 plus 1.3 million
    internally displaced persons, many of whom belong to
    the Somali minority. More than half of them
    had fled the conflict in the Oromia and Somali regions, which are those that are projected to suffer the most from climate change. In other terms, food insecurity is already sparking conflict, and the situation will probably
    worsen in the coming years, also because of the population growth. In a country marked by ethnic tension, this could further exacerbate conflict with destabilising effects for a region that already experiences
    significant turmoil. The Horn of Africa is located on the important Bab el-Mandeb Strait which connects the Indian
    Ocean to the Red Sea. Along with Suez, it is the crossroad for trade between Europe and Asia, meaning it is one of the economically most relevant
    chokepoints in the world. Maritime trade in the area is threatened by pirates operating from Somalia. Piracy is itself a complex
    issue strictly linked to the poor conditions of that state, and has triggered a
    multinational patrol operation to ensure the safety of cargo ships. In addition, the region is
    also a hub for armed groups, notably the Islamists
    Al-Shabab based in Somalia. They perform terrorist
    attacks inside the country and across the borders, and are considered a regional threat. Piracy and armed factions are the factors explaining the presence of foreign military forces in Djibouti. It is therefore important
    to keep Ethiopia stable. If such a population country
    becomes a failed state, an already troublesome region would become even more unstable, and this would also increase the flow of migrants towards Europe. But there are also other issues. The source of many of the region’s rivers is located in the Ethiopian highlands. Among them, the most important
    is surely the Blue Nile, which joins the White Nile in
    Sudan to form the Nile proper. Any activity that Ethiopia
    conducts on the river’s course would have deep consequences
    on the downstream states. Egypt is particularly concerned,
    it depends on the Nile, and the water flow along
    the river is a major point of contention between the two countries, especially since Ethiopia began building the Grand Renaissance Dam in 2011. As such it is possible
    that conflicts over water will arise as the region
    becomes more arid. Finally, Ethiopia is an
    ambitious geopolitical actor. It wants to become the main
    power in the Horn of Africa and expand its influence
    beyond the region. Even though it is a landlocked country, last year it announced
    plans to build a navy, but the move is not regarded as credible. Most importantly, Ethiopia’s ability to play a greater
    international role depends on its success in tackling
    the numerous challenges it is facing, notably
    poverty, climate change and regional instability. This will not be easy, and Ethiopia must be
    careful not to aim too high if it wants to avoid becoming
    another failed state. That’s all for today, guys. Thanks for watching another KJ Vid. We hope you enjoyed the video and would love to hear your
    thoughts in the comments below especially if you’re from Ethiopia. Please don’t forget to visit and subscribe to one of our plans so that you can access
    our geopolitical news, analysis, and forecasts. We have also left a 50% discount link in the description below. Thanks for watching again
    and see you next time.

    Why Is China Investing Billions in Africa? | NowThis World
    Articles, Blog

    Why Is China Investing Billions in Africa? | NowThis World

    August 22, 2019

    China has invested billions of dollars into the continent of Africa to build massive infrastructure projects. Much of this infrastructure is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, an estimated 1 trillion dollar plan to connect the country to trade routes all over the world. African leaders like Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta have favorably compared China’s investments to earlier projects built by colonial powers. While the old railway was built by force and violence against the wishes of those whose land it divided, the new railway is built by consent and partnership both between ourselves and China and between the governments which will prosper and profit by it. But is China’s investment in the continent actually a “win-win” as some African and Chinese leaders have said? Or just a new form of colonialism on a continent that’s experienced so much of it? In this episode, we’re examining China’s Belt and Road Initiative and what it might mean for Africa. While China’s Belt and Road Initiative was only proposed in 2013, the country’s first infrastructure project on the African continent was built decades ago. The Tazara railway, completed in 1976, was built to connect copper mines in Zambia to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s former capital. The Tazara railway was the first infrastructure project built on a pan-African scale. China’s Belt and Road projects will be designed with this scale in mind, creating new trade routes within and between African countries. In 2017, a Chinese firm opened a railway network in Kenya, connecting its capital Nairobi to the port city of Mombasa. There are already plans to extend this network into South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. China, through its public and private sectors, has already loaned about $132 billion to African countries from 2006 to 2017. Many observers worry that African countries won’t be able to pay back these debts, placing them in what’s been called a quote “debt trap.” The Jubilee Debt Campaign, which campaigns for poor countries’ debts to be canceled, estimates that about 20% of debt held by African governments is owed to China, making it the single largest lending nation. For comparison, 35% of African debt is owed to multilateral, global institutions like the World Bank. Earlier waves of Chinese firms that invested in Africa made mistakes that caused problems for those countries’ governments. Starting in 2005, tens of thousands of workers from China poured into the west African country of Ghana to take advantage of a gold rush. This eventually provoked a local backlash due to accusations of illegal mining, inflaming tensions between Chinese miners and the local government. Many observers have pointed to projects like this as examples of China exploiting Africa for its natural resources through quote “neo-colonialist behavior.” However, other observers contend that the majority of investment from China has largely avoided creating the problems seen in Ghana’s gold mines, precisely because resource extraction has not been the main focus of other investments. In fact, the number one industry for Chinese investment has been the service industry, according to IMF economist Wenjie Cheng. She also points out that the countries where China’s investment has been largest include those without abundant natural resources, such as Ethiopia and Kenya, in addition to resource-rich countries like Nigeria. Ultimately, African governments may feel that the risk of accumulating debt is outweighed by the benefits of new infrastructure. The China Africa Research Initiative found that roughly 40% of China’s loans between 2000 and 2015 went towards paying for energy projects and another 30% went toward modernizing transportation on the continent. These loans were set at relatively low interest rates and with longer periods of time to pay them back. The Center for Global Development crunched the numbers on debt to China as a result of the Belt and Road Initiative, and found that eight of the 71 countries involved in the project were particularly vulnerable to getting caught in a debt trap. Of these eight countries, only one was in Africa: Djibouti, a port country that’s also become a military strategic point for China. The other seven countries are in Europe and Asia. Nevertheless, China has denied engaging in “debt trap” diplomacy. In an attempt at thisto strengthen this collaboration, China has also promised to align its goals for the Belt and Road Initiative with the African Union’s own development goals of greater interconnectivity on the continent. However, these promises have yet to be outlined. Ultimately, China’s push in Africa may be seeking to increase the country’s influence, rather than reap financial gains. Its investments are already strengthening China’s alliances with African governments, to China’s benefit. Every African country but eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, has cut ties with Taiwan, a prerequisite for diplomatic relations with mainland China. Some observers think that as African countries rise economically, they could actually have the upper hand by the time they negotiate payments back to China. This explains why African leaders have been so confident in calling Chinese investment a “win-win,” but only time will tell if their long game pans out. So do you think China’s investments in Africa will be a boon to the continent, or are they a form of neocolonialism? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for watching NowThis World, don’t forget to like and subscribe.

    Is CHINA the new tiger of BANGLADESH? – KJ VIDS
    Articles, Blog

    Is CHINA the new tiger of BANGLADESH? – KJ VIDS

    August 21, 2019

    (curious music) – [Narrator] Bangladesh
    and China have maintained good relations for much of history. Today the two countries share a strong strategic relationship, with China playing a vital role
    mainly in terms of economic and infrastructure
    development of Bangladesh. However, things weren’t so
    good especially during the time when Bangladesh gained
    independence from Pakistan and the subsequent years
    until around the mid 1970s. I’m your host, Kasim. Welcome to another KJ Vid. In this video we will
    look at the relationship between China and Bangladesh. During Bangladesh’s War
    of Liberation in 1971, there was a outbreak of
    complex geopolitical rivalries. India had allied with Bangladesh
    due to their long-term conflicts with Pakistan, and
    more so because Bangladesh was actually a part of Pakistan after the end of the
    British empire since 1947. China had been allied with
    Pakistan for most of history, and the ties strengthened
    especially around the time of the Sino-Indian war in 1962. As a result China opposed
    Bangladesh’s independence and vetoed their UN membership until 1974. It was only after the military
    coup in Bangladesh in 1975 that relations between
    Bangladesh and China started to improve. Prime Minister of Bangladesh
    since their independence, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had
    close ties with India, and only months after
    the military takeover, China eventually recognised
    Bangladesh as an independent state as diplomatic
    relations were secured. This dramatic transformation
    was fascinating, but it did not come as a
    surprise as the military rule led by President Ziaur
    Rahman distanced Bangladesh from India and the Soviets, which can possibly be
    regarded as one of the most significant reasons for
    their improved relationships. Ziaur Rahman helped
    restore free market economy in Bangladesh and made
    a visit to China in 1977 which is regarded as a crucial
    step in laying groundwork for bilateral cooperation, which was followed by
    Chinese visits to Bangladesh in the late 1970s. Since then, state visits
    between the two countries have been regular most of
    which have resulted in positive discussions and signings
    of agreements on political, economic, and security issues. Bangladesh and China have
    a very strong relationship that ranges from the
    spheres of the economy, politics, development,
    to defence and security. Today, Bangladesh considers China an “all-weather friend
    and a trusted ally”. In the 2010 visit to Bangladesh by then Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, he stated that Sino-Bangladesh
    relations would remain strong regardless of any change in the domestic or international situation. Bangladesh Prime Minister
    Sheikh Hasina on the other hand reiterated the importance
    of the country’s bilateral relations with China
    considering them a major ally of the highest significance. One of the most important
    aspects of the Sino-Bangla bilateral relations is
    the economic cooperation. China are by far the largest
    trading partner of Bangladesh with the latest World Bank
    figures revealing that Chinese exports to Bangladesh to be worth over 10 billion dollars in 2015. On the other hand Bangladesh is China’s third
    largest trade partner. Majority of Bangladesh’s
    imports from China consist of raw materials
    for clothing and textile. However, the balance of
    trade between the countries is significant with
    Bangladesh having a deficit of approximately nine billion dollars. Reduction in trade deficit
    has been a primary concern for Bangladesh over the years, and following negotiations China
    agreed to provide duty-free access to around 5,000
    Bangladeshi products to the Chinese market under the
    Asia Pacific Trade Agreement which has so far resulted
    in a slight decline in the ratio of trade deficit. Talks have been in
    progress for several years about Bangladesh seeking a
    zero-tariff access of 99 percent items including Ready-made
    garments products in order to improve balance of trade. China’s meteoric rise in becoming
    the second largest economy in the world only behind the United States by toppling Japan was possible largely due to its diversified economy, while having 14 FTA’s with developed as well as developing
    countries around the globe. However there are some
    challenges of the FTA, mainly with regard to
    China’s ‘Made in China 2015’ industrial policy plan. There are significant restrictions
    on investing in China, and also preference is given
    to state-owned enterprises that control 38 percent of
    industrial assets in China, skewing competition in the
    market in favour of those. Also another concern for foreign investors is the ‘Chinese ways’ of
    implementation and enforcement of laws and regulations which
    tend to be ambiguous and lax. A major geopolitical
    challenge concerning the FTA would come from the
    United States and India, especially with India also having a strong
    alliance with Bangladesh. Chances are that India may
    take the Chinese assertion in its backyard as a means
    of increasing influence in India’s sphere, while the
    United States may consider an FTA as a geo strategic
    obstacle in containing China at the Bay of Bengal and
    the Indian Ocean region. However, if Bangladesh
    wants to achieve a fairly unrestricted access to Chinese markets it needs to keep pushing further
    on the negotiation table, while asserting to their
    other major allies, India and the United
    States that the actions are for their own best interests mainly in terms of economic development. The recent trade war
    instigated by Donald Trump with his protectionist approach, with Chinese retaliations following by, has had impacts in the
    Bangladeshi economy. There has been a rise in
    steel prices, mainly rods, in the domestic market
    threatening both the major public infrastructure projects
    and the real estate market due to the US imposing
    tariff on 34 billion dollars worth of exports from China. While the latter imposed
    tariffs on American cotton, and while China plan on
    importing cotton from India, the prices had already
    increased by 10 to 12 percent. It must be noted that more
    than half of Bangladesh’s cotton imports are from India. Soaring cotton prices would
    significantly hurt Bangladesh’s economy as they would affect
    the ready made garment sector. Despite having strong economic ties there have been disagreements; a significant one is
    Bangladesh’s refusal of agreeing to China’s terms and
    conditions for the construction of the Sonadia deep-sea port in 2014. But generally, defence cooperation
    has been one of the major strengths in the bilateral relations between the two countries. China happens to be the
    only country that Bangladesh has signed a defence agreement
    with, which was done in 2002. Since then China had been the
    largest supplier of weapons and military equipment to Bangladesh, with latter being the
    second largest recipient of Chinese arms in the
    world between 2011 and 2015. Between 2013 and 2017, China
    has provided Bangladesh with 71 percent of all
    their arms purchases. Bangladesh also recently
    purchased their first submarine to add to their naval fleet
    causing concerns in India. The Bangladeshi armed forces
    have acquired large numbers of tanks, large-caliber artillery, armoured personnel carriers, small arms and light weapons, as Chinese arms are the
    Bangladeshi Army’s weapon of choice while the Navy use Chinese
    frigates with missiles, missile boats, torpedo boats among others. China has also been supplying fighter jets and training aircraft to the Bangladeshi Air Force since 1977. Very recently, China and Bangladesh made crucial developments
    in security cooperation. The bilateral relations
    between the two countries have been elevated to “Strategic Partnership of Cooperation”. The deal is aimed at intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism activities, although other important
    matters such as cyber crime, militancy, transnational
    crimes, narcotics, fire service, and visa issues were also discussed during the signing of
    this major agreement. Development cooperation
    is an integral part of the bilateral relations
    between China and Bangladesh. China has played a crucial role in the infrastructure
    development of Bangladesh over the years. It has assisted Bangladesh
    in building bridges, roads and railway tracks and power plants. The development assistance
    from China to Bangladesh and other developing countries
    mostly come as LOC’s. During a recent Bangladesh visit in 2016, President Xi Jingping
    promised 24 billion dollars in economic assistance to Bangladesh mainly as LOCs related to 24 projects. China assisted Bangladesh
    in the construction of six bridges commonly known as the “”China- Bangladesh
    Friendship” bridges. China also helped
    Bangladesh in constructing the Barapukuria coal-fired
    power plant located in Dinajpur in the
    North West of Bangladesh and was commissioned in 2006. During Jingpin’s visit
    to Bangladesh in 2016, the two countries signed
    agreements for two 1320 Megawatt coal-fired power plants. One in Payra, Patuakhali and the other in Banshkhali, Chittagong. Making China the largest energy partner to Bangladesh overtaking India. China has also provided economic
    assistance to Bangladesh in terms of free aid and token gifts. Two major agreements were signed in 2010 for establishing a fertiliser factory, and telecommunications
    network systems in Bangladesh that were to be set up with
    a 770 million dollar LOC from China with a two
    percent interest rate payable within 20 years. There had been discussions
    for several years on potential road and railway connections
    linking Chittagong with Kunming that would boost the economies
    of both the countries. However, that has not
    materialised as of yet. Currently China is developing
    a 750 acre industrial park in Chittagong which will take five years to become fully operational
    and it will largely be used by Chinese manufacturing firms. The good relations shared
    between China and Bangladesh have always been of mutual interests and both countries benefit from that. Although the growing relations
    between China and Bangladesh raise geopolitical tensions
    in the South Asia region and the Bay of Bengal, there
    should not be much doubt about China’s primary interest lies in the booming economy of Bangladesh, which has been ever so dependent on their bilateral trade relations. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has recently said that there
    is nothing to be concerned about for India while not
    explicitly mentioning China or any other country, and
    that Bangladesh need funds for the sole purpose of development and that she would welcome any country that is willing to invest in the country. She also urged India to
    maintain cordial relationship with all its neighbours. Keeping close ties with
    Bangladesh will no doubt be hugely beneficial for China as
    the demand for oil and gas have risen largely owing
    to its growing industries, and having a strong geopolitical presence in the Bay of Bengal and
    the littoral countries could give them an advantage
    in terms of accessibility to various ports. On the other hand, as it stands, Bangladesh can only benefit
    from the cooperation with a major economic power
    as it has done so in terms of their diplomatic, economic,
    and security affairs. And would be keenly anticipating
    further developments in their bilateral cooperation. (curious music)

    Brazil’s Geography Problem
    Articles, Blog

    Brazil’s Geography Problem

    August 14, 2019

    This video was made possible by Skillshare. Learn from 21,000 classes for free for two
    months at There are plenty of lines you can draw on
    the globe but perhaps none is more consequential than the equator. Of the 15 wealthiest countries
    in the world as measured by GDP per capita, all are in the northern hemisphere. Only 800
    million of earth’s 7.6 billion residents live south of the equator. There is a clear
    divide between north and south but of those 800 million people a quarter of them, about
    207 million, live here in Brazil. The country is an exception to the global trend. Brazil
    is the fifth most populous country in the world and the most populous entirely within
    the southern hemisphere. Its economy has grown enormously and the country is quickly developing.
    Although, the very land it sits on stacks the odds against it. Its location gives it
    a disadvantage. Given this, the question is whether Brazil can develop into a world superpower
    by the likes of the US, Europe, Russia, India, and China or if the country is doomed to fail? Brazil, of course, looks like this but in
    reality almost 80% of the country’s population lives here—within 200 miles of the coast.
    You do see a concentration of population near the coast in any country as it provides a
    cheap and easy means of transportation by boats and a source of food through fishing
    but few countries have such a severe concentration of people by the oceans as Brazil. This small
    area, for example, is home to three of Brazil’s six largest cities. Normally this would help
    development as the area in between cities will urbanize but this map doesn’t tell
    the whole story—this one does. You see, this area of Brazil is rather mountainous.
    The major cities mostly exist in small pockets of low-altitude, flat land on the ocean. This
    is because major cities need easy water access to get goods in and out. The majority of Brazil’s
    coast is defined by steep, sheer cliffs. Petrópolis, for example, a suburb of Rio, is a mere 13
    miles from the ocean and yet it sits at almost 3,000 feet of altitude. The rare areas with
    low-altitude land on the water are where cities like Porte Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, and Recife
    are but this pattern has two consequences. First, these cities, while being on flat land
    themselves are surrounded by cliffs and mountainous regions which means their growth is limited.
    There are plenty of cities that exist in mountainous regions but the world’s largest and most
    influential cities like London and Delhi and Beijing all exist in areas with absolutely
    no geographical features limiting their growth. The fact that Brazil’s cities locate in
    rare low-altitude coastal land means that the country will likely never have a megalopolis
    by the likes of the Pearl River Delta or the US Northeast. It takes a surprising six hours
    to drive between Rio and Sao Paolo and since there’s no low-altitude coastal land in
    between them, there are really no major cities in between them too. Brazil’s cities are
    confined to the geographically convenient areas which are spread out from each other.
    This means the cities can’t collaborate easily with each other thereby limiting Brazil’s
    impact on the world stage. Like any large country, Brazil’s development
    potential is also linked to how it gets its food. This, in fact, might be Brazil’s greatest
    obstacle as it really doesn’t hav e much great farmland, at least yet. The country’s
    main agricultural region is its south which is blessed with great soil and great rivers
    that help transport crops away from their farms. Interestingly, the same elevation that
    leads to steep coastal cliffs causes rivers to run in a counterintuitive direction. The
    Tietê river, for example, starts near Sao Paolo a mere 10 miles away from the Atlantic
    ocean but then runs inland almost 500 miles where it flows into the Paraná River which
    eventually flows out into the ocean near Buenos Aires, Argentina. If a farmer wants to export
    their food abroad, it’s often cheaper to first ship it the thousands of miles by boat
    on these rivers than just hundreds of miles overland to Brazil’s coast due to their
    poor road infrastructure. This means that Argentina gets the business of packing up
    and shipping Brazil’s food to other countries. That’s just lost money for Brazil as a result
    of their geography. Brazil’s south, though, does not even have enough land to feed the
    country’s own 200 million residents. Given that, the question is where to put the rest
    of the farms. In Brazil’s north is the Amazon basin. The
    central feature of this region is, of course, the Amazon River which is navigable for boats.
    Normally this feature would lead to a significant population as navigable rivers serve as cheap
    and easy transport for crops and goods but the banks of the Amazon are a tough place
    to farm or live. Not only are they muddy and unstable which makes building difficult, but
    the Amazon also regularly floods which means that every year many of the communities on
    the banks of the Amazon can have their streets underwater for months. Building and living
    in the Amazonian cities is difficult, but what’s more difficult is building the roads
    in and out. The largest city in the Amazon, Manaus, is home to 2.6 million people, it’s
    as big as Baltimore, and yet there are only three roads connecting the city to the outside
    world. Many of the smaller towns around the Amazon have no roads going in and out as its
    just incredibly costly and difficult to build roads through the rainforest. In fact, rather
    unbelievably, there is not a single bridge spanning over the Amazon so there is no way
    to drive from the northernmost region of Brazil to the rest without taking a ferry. Overall,
    this whole area is just empty. Even if there was the infrastructure to transport crops
    to market, farming in the Amazon involves clearing huge amounts of land and even then,
    the soil is relatively infertile which leads to poor yields. Despite being Brazil’s largest
    state, Amazonas is home to just 1.8% of its population. It just costs too much to build
    the infrastructure needed to live there. To the south of the Amazon, though, is an
    area known as the Cerrado. This vast savanna used to be in the same category as the Amazon—it
    was empty. The problem was not only that there was no natural network of rivers to get crops
    out of the area but also that the soil was too acidic and lacking enough nutrients to
    easily grow large quantities of crops. Between both the Amazon and the Cerrado being off-limits
    for large-scale farming, that meant that Brazil really didn’t have much land at all for
    farming. 30 years ago, with only the south to farm, Brazil was actually a net importer
    of food—it bought more food from other countries than it sold. That was until researchers discovered
    that all you needed to do to fix the soil was add phosphorous and lime. The phosphorous
    served as a fertilizer in the place of natural nutrients and the lime worked to reduce the
    level of acidity. In the early 2000’s, the country spread more than 25 million tons of
    lime per year and so today the Cerrado accounts for 70% of Brazil’s farmland. In addition,
    Brazil has begun growing soybeans. This plant is normally grown in more temperate climates
    such as the US, northern China, or Japan, but through cross-breeding and genetic modification
    it can be modified to grow in warmer and acidic environments such as the Brazilian Cerrado.
    Thanks to the enormous amount of land Brazil has and these technological advancements the
    country has gone from producing 16% of the world’s soybean in 2005 to 31% today.
    A country’s level of development is often to linked to how good its natural transportation
    system is. That’s part of why the US developed so much so fast—it has a great system of
    navigable rivers right in its agricultural heartland that helps get goods from the fields
    to cities fast and inexpensively. The Brazilian Cerrado, though, does not have that. It doesn’t
    even have much of a preexisting network of roads since before this recent agricultural
    advancement barely anyone lived there. Therefore anyone who wants to farm in the Cerrado has
    to find land, level it, treat it with phosphate and lime, and build roads to get supplies
    in and crops out. Cerrado farms can be profitable but it takes an enormous amount of money to
    build the infrastructure needed to start a farm. It’s not like the US or France or
    China where all you need is some land. The consequence of this is that farms in Brazil
    tend to owned by corporations rather than individuals because only corporations have
    the money to build farms. That therefore increases the level of wealth disparity in Brazil. According
    to the World Bank’s Gini index, Brazil is the 11th most economically unequal country
    in the world. Lower wealth disparity and the emergence of a middle class are indicators
    of economic development so the country should want to fix this. Brazil’s government has
    recognized its infrastructure problem as a source of its wealth disparity and has therefore
    worked to build roads in the interior so that more individuals can run farms but the government
    only has so much money to spend and it’s a big country.
    Brazil does, though, understand the importance of its core. It understands that the coastal
    cities are constrained and that economic development will come from the center. It was partially
    for that reason that the country decided to move its capital from Rio de Janeiro to here—Brasília.
    The thinking was that putting the capital in the core would stimulate the economically
    underdeveloped region and, in many ways, it worked. The city simply did not exist before
    1960 yet today more than 4 million people live in its metropolitan area. Being located
    on relatively flat land unlike Rio, the city can just grow and grow and grow without hinderance.
    Brazil has potential, but its defining issue is that it’s an expensive place. It’s a
    vicious cycle. In order to make money, Brazil needs to invest in its infrastructure but
    without people making money it doesn’t have the tax money to build what it takes t o transition
    into the first world. The question of why tropical countries are less developed is an
    enormous one without a clear answer, but Brazil is one of the most likely candidates to break
    this trend. It certainly lags behind other developing countries like China, but as its
    agriculture industry develops it will become a bigger and bigger exporter which will bring
    more money in. With time, its average income will inch up. The country already does have
    major companies in other industries such as banking, manufacturing, and oil but with how
    big Brazil is, agriculture is the one that’s the world’s focus right now. Only France,
    Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States export more agricultural products per year
    which is good company to be in. Brazil may not have the explosive growth rate of some
    other less developed countries but by continuously taking what it earns and reinvesting it to
    open up more of the country to agricultural production it will continue its path to superpower
    status. One of the common questions I receive is how
    I started making these videos. The first step was learning the skills needed from writing
    to research to sound design and editing, but for each and every one of them there’s a
    course on Skillshare. Skillshare, you see, is an online learning community that has more
    than 21,000 classes on whatever you want to learn. The variety is astounding. You can
    learn skills to help you make videos, to show off at parties, or even to help you get a
    job. There are also some great courses taught by fellow YouTubers such as Mike Boyd and
    Kurzgesagt. What’s best about Skillshare is that you can try it all for free for two
    months exclusively by going to Skillshare makes this show possible and its
    a great place to learn or improve your skills so please do check them out, once again, at Thanks for watching and I’ll see you again in three weeks for another
    Wendover Productions video.

    Canada’s New Shipping Shortcut
    Articles, Blog

    Canada’s New Shipping Shortcut

    August 13, 2019

    This is a Wendover Productions video made
    possible by Hover. Get 10% off your custom Domain from Hover
    with the code “Wendover” at checkout. The Arctic will be perhaps the single most
    influential region on earth in the coming century and yet almost no-one even lives there. Eight nations have territory above the Arctic
    Circle—Denmark though their constituent country: Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden,
    Finland, Russia, the United States, and Canada—and they are all in close quarters. This circle represents the distance a plane
    can fly in three hours. Most of these countries can reach each other
    faster than they watch Titanic. Anchorage, Alaska is, in fact, closer to Tromsø,
    Norway than it is to New York because of the short-cut over the pole. Alert, Canada is so close to Tromsø, Norway
    that it could be flown by a turboprop plane (Pilatus PC-12 NG.) The only issue is, there’s about to be some
    serious money in the high north. The Arctic ice is melting, there’s no question
    about that. Some may debate the cause of the melt, but
    one cannot debate that there’s simply less ice up north than there was 50 years ago. This melt has profound consequences. Whole countries like Tuvalu and the Maldives
    could be largely underwater by the end of the century because of the rising sea levels
    from melting ice. But the melt has a different, more obvious
    effect—where there was once ice there’s now liquid, navigable water. One of the greatest quests for early explorers
    was to find a Northwest Passage—a navigable sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific
    Oceans through the Canadian Archipelago. It was long thought to be myth until in 1906
    Roald Amundsen and his six crew members arrived at Herchel Island, Canada, having successfully
    completed a three-year voyage from Norway via the new Northwest Passage. The significance of the Northwest Passage
    is that, until 1914 when the Panama Canal opened, traffic from the Atlantic could only
    reach the Pacific by sailing around Cape Horn—the southern tip of South America. This meant that a sea route between London
    and San Francisco—5,000 miles apart as the crow flies—took 14,000 miles. This was not efficient. It was a significant hamper to development
    to the American west coast. The Northwest passage would’ve revolutionized
    maritime trade—if it wasn’t covered in ice. Roald Amundsen’s ship, the Gjøa, was small
    enough that it could snake through and slide over ice. Some of the waterways Amundsen took were as
    few as three feet deep—far too shallow for the increasingly large commercial ships of
    the time. More than 100 years later, in September of
    2013, however, for the very first time, a commercial bulk carrier, the MS Nordic Orion,
    transited an almost ice-free Northwest Passage on its journey from Vancouver, Canada to Pori,
    Finland, and this was far from a publicity stunt. This ship saved $80,000 in fuel costs and
    was able to take 25% more cargo than if it had gone through the Panama Canal. Even thousand passenger cruise ships are now
    making the journey. Ironically, global warming is actually opening
    a route that’s better for the environment. China is a country with a vested interest
    in the navigability of the northwest passage. As an economy largely based on manufacturing
    for the western world, their maritime accessibility has an enormous effect on their national wellbeing. A reduction in time and cost of shipping to
    the American east coast would renew their competitiveness in the manufacturing industry
    against emerging rivals such as Vietnam and Bangladesh. As China industrialized largely thanks to
    its manufacturing industry the standard of living in the country increased which correspondently
    increased labour costs. China’s Maritime Safety Administration,
    recognizing the imminent explosion in usage, recently published a 356 page guide to navigating
    the northwest passage and the country has announced plans to send more and more commercial
    shipping traffic through the passage in the coming summers. The introduction of maritime traffic to the
    northwest passage could present a significant opportunity for Canada. The northern territories of Canada, through
    which northwest passage runs, are historically underdeveloped. Less than 120,000 people live in the Yukon,
    the Northwest territories, and Nunavut. That’s less than the population of Saguenay—a
    town small enough that you probably haven’t even heard of it—living in an area larger
    than the entire country of India. It’s not all that surprising considering
    just how inhospitable the area is, but other places at similar latitudes such as Anchorage,
    Longyearbyen, and Murmansk have managed to overcome the conditions thanks to the money
    that can be made in the far north. If a large chunk of the worlds maritime traffic
    heads through the Canadian north, industry will develop to support these ships. Except, there’s a problem. Despite the general friendliness of most of
    the arctic countries, there are geopolitical issues in the high north. Even more surprisingly, one of them is between
    the US and Canada. When there’s a navigation choke-point restricting
    certain countries from accessing an ocean, it’s convention to declare that waterway
    an international waterway. For example, the Danish Straits—fully surrounded
    by Denmark—are an international waterway in order to give the Baltic and Scandinavian
    countries ocean access; the Turkish straits, fully surrounded by Turkey, are international
    waterways to give the black sea countries ocean access; and the Danube River is an international
    waterway to give landlocked Austria, Hungary, Moldova, Serbia, and Slovakia ocean access. When a waterway is declared an international
    waterway no country can restrict access or charge dues to passing boats except during
    a time of war. Canada considers the waterways comprising
    the northwest passage in their archipelago as their own waters. In the past nobody challenged this since there
    was no reason anyone would cross through these frozen waters. With its promise to cut shipping routes by
    thousands of miles, the northwest passage will almost certainly become an important
    shipping route so that’s why countries like the US firmly believe that the northwest passage
    should be and already is an international waterway. One of the tensest moments in history between
    the US and Canada was when, in 1985, a US Coast Guard Icebreaker travelled through the
    northwest passage without prior permission from Canada. In Canada’s mind, this was a military invasion
    of their sovereign territory—debatably an act of war. Canada argues that the northwest passage is
    not an international waterway because it has failed to meet an important criteria—usefulness. Of course the northwest passage is useful
    on paper—it shortens the route between the oceans—but Canada has pointed out that in
    previous cases determining whether a waterway is international, what proves a route’s
    usefulness is if a significant number of ships have already successfully transited it. In the northwest passage’s case, the number
    of successful commercial journeys is in the double digits. There’s also merit to Canada’s argument
    that the passage should be their sovereign waters. Currently, Canada has almost no search-and-rescue
    capabilities in their archipelago. Since there’s almost no traffic yet, there’s
    no real reason to spend the money to put ships and aircraft up there. Most previous journeys have been highly coordinated
    and often escorted by the Canadian Coast Guard. If a ship just went through with no prior
    coordination nowadays and sank, however, there would be almost no chance of rescue for the
    victims. If in a few summers hundreds of ships transit
    the passage, Canada would have an obligation to put resources in the northern provinces
    for the safety of both the country and sailors and that takes money. If treated as an internal waterway, Canada
    could charge passage fees just as there are for the Panama or Suez Canal—the other major
    shipping shortcuts of the world. These could fund the infrastructure needed
    to safety regulate and police the route. But on the other hand, should one country
    have the capability to chose who can get from the Pacific to Atlantic faster? Letting, for example, Vietnamese ships through
    the route but banning Chinese ships would make the Chinese goods uncompetitive for the
    Western European and Eastern American market. Canada would have the capability to choose
    which economies can succeed and which will fail. There’s a reason the issue’s so contentious. Scientists disagree on the exact date, but
    there’s a general consensus that by the year 2050 there will be a summer when there
    is no ice in the Arctic. This will have enormous and irreversible consequences
    on our globe, but it could further revolutionize how we get our goods. An ice-free arctic will open up the greatest
    shipping short-cut in the world—the Arctic Ocean. Ships traveling between Japan and western
    Europe, for example, instead of heading south, across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez
    Canal, and across the Mediterranean sea, will be able to head north through the bering strait,
    directly across the arctic ocean, and down between Greenland and Norway to Europe. That’s a 7,000 mile route compared to the
    13,000 mile route of today. That has the potential to slash shipping prices
    in half. That means cheaper products across the entire
    world. But at what cost. Every degree of climate warming in the US
    alone is expected to cause $144 billion dollars per year of economic loss. If the US climate warms by 12 degrees, which
    the EPA says is possible by 2100, the US can expect to lose more than $1.7 trillion per
    year—that’s more than a full percent of its GDP. On top of that, by 2050, climate change is
    expected to cause more than 250,000 deaths per year. Surely that can’t be worth it for some cheaper
    goods. This video was made possible by Hover. I recently bought two new domains with Hover—the
    website for my new podcast,, and an extra domain for my Wendover Productions
    site, With, I connected it to a hosting
    provider in seconds, and with I set it to redirect to my site in seconds. It was incredibly easy. I also love how the price they show you is
    the price you pay—there aren’t page after page of add on’s like with some other sites. Now, having a professional web presence is
    important and it all starts with the domain. What really can set you apart is a unique
    domain extension—that’s the bit at the end like .com, .fm, or even .pizza—and Hover
    has over 400 of them. Once you buy a domain through Hover you can
    set up an email account using that domain which will truly help you stand out. However you want to use Hover, you can get
    10% off your first order and help out Wendover Productions by going to
    and using the code “wendover” at checkout. Get your unique domain and email to help you
    stand out with Hover. Please also be sure to check out my new podcast
    with Brian from Real Engineering called Showmakers. Episode one with Hank Green and two with Destin
    Sandlin from Smarter Every Day are already out. Links are in the description. You can also support Wendover Productions
    on Patreon here, follow me on Twitter @WendoverPro, watch my last video here, check out my fan-moderated
    subreddit here, and lastly subscribe to this channel by clicking here. Thanks again for watching and I’ll see you
    in two weeks for another Wendover Productions video.