Globetrotting: news from around the world — September 2014

The US government announces more than US$14 billion of investment in Africa at the first US-Africa Summit, while researchers highlight the rise in China’s systemic risk and programmers develop a database for locating lost dogs.


Catching up in Africa

China has been positioning itself in Africa for many years, vying for resources, markets and influence. Now, the US is running to catch up, according to the Financial Times.

At the first US-Africa Summit, held in August in Washington, Barack Obama announced more than US$14 billion of investment by US companies in Africa. Among other deals, Coca-Cola pledged US$5 billion. Blackstone, the colossus of private equity, made a commitment with the industrial conglomerate of Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest businessman (pictured above). "It is fear of China pushing them," said US lawyer Peter Hansen, who advises on commercial deals in Africa. Last May, Chinese premier Li Keqiang announced that Beijing would increase its bilateral credit lines to African countries to a total of US$30 billion for 2013-’15.



Finding pooch, 21st-century style

Five days after her dog Roxy disappeared, Joanne Cox of San Diego and her 10-year-old daughter uploaded a photo of the pet on the website. In an instant, the site matched her photo to one taken at a nearby animal shelter, reports Australian webzine That certainly beats pasting posters on telephone poles and grocery store community boards.

The technology behind Finding Rover was developed at the University of Utah. It uses eight facial recognition markers — far fewer than would be used for humans. But unlike humans, dogs’ snouts and eyes are in different places, making it more difficult to develop markers.

How effective is the database? Researcher Steve Callaghan says it’s difficult to measure accuracy. "But if there are 100 dogs in a database, a top-three match would be hit 98% of the time."


Jitters rising over China’s banking sector

The amount the Chinese government would need to inject into the country’s banking system in the event of a financial crisis has tripled over the past year, according to Euromoney. Market capitalization of Chinese banks has declined and fears over the shadow-banking system are growing.

A systemic risk (SRisk) index calculated by the Volatility Institute at NYU Stern School of Business in partnership with the Centre for Risk Management in Lausanne, Switzerland, shows that China has the highest level of SRisk: 460 billion euros ($674 billion). This is far more than the US, at 296 billion euros ($435 billion).

Michael Rockinger, professor at the Swiss Finance Institute of the University of Lausanne, told Euromoney he is worried about the increase in the SRisk. "Other countries such as the US ... have brought their SRisk down steadily over the past few years," he says.



A (very) small bite of Apple

Apple claims to be at the forefront of a vast new industry of mobile app development in Europe, but that network is mostly made up of microscopic players, says French business paper Les Échos.

On May 6, Apple issued a press release claiming the mobile app industry it spawned with the launch of its online app store in 2008 has created and maintained 629,000 direct and indirect jobs in Europe. But a report by US firm Developers Economics reveals that one in two applications generates "less than $100 a month," the French paper says.