Welcome to the weekend. This week Obama announced his plan on climate change, the Greece stock market reopened (and it’s not going well), wild fires raged in California, Republicans held their first debate, Hilary Clinton took a selfie with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, and in even more bizarre news, North Korea announced a new time zone, setting its clocks back by 30 minutes to mark its freedom from Japanese imperialism.
Textile manufacturing is leaving China and coming to the US… really! Today, for every $1 required to manufacture in the United States, it costs 96 cents to manufacture in China. Textile production in China is becoming increasingly unprofitable after years of rising wages, higher energy bills and mounting logistical costs, in addition to new government quotas on the import of cotton. At the same time, manufacturing costs in the United States are becoming more competitive. In Lancaster County, SC there are residents desperate for work (even at depressed wages) access to cheap and abundant land and energy and heavily subsidized cotton. At Keer, a Chinese manufacturer that has just opened a factory in Lancaster County, the work is highly automated. Even with 2 factories churning out about 85 tons of yarn a day, they will hire just 500 workers – a fraction of the thousands of workers who toiled at cotton mills across the South for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Learn more in the New York Times.
Nairobi, the global capital of impact investing. A report produced by the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and Open Capital Advisors reveals that a whopping $10 billion in impact-investment funds have flowed into East Africa. Nairobi is the nexus of this funding and the base for many of the managers handling it, with about half of the $9.3 billion of inflows being invested in Kenya. Neighboring Uganda and Tanzania receive 13% and 12% of the pie respectively. Ethiopia is trailing at 7% of the total. The sector attracting most interest is financial services, which accounts for almost 30% of capital disbursed. Other sectors getting attention include agriculture, energy, tourism and fast-moving consumer goods—essentially those that stand to benefit from the ballooning middle class in Kenya and beyond. Learn more in the Wall Street Journal.
3D-printed medicine. The US Food and Drug Administration approved an epilepsy medicine called Spritam that is made by 3D printers, making it the first 3D-printed product that the FDA has approved for use inside the human body. The drug’s unique structure allows it to dissolve considerably faster than the average pill, which is a boon to seizure sufferers who often are prescribed large, hard-to-swallow pills. 3D printing will also allow doctors to know that the medicine they’re prescribing delivers the exact dose intended, as each pill will be completely uniform. Now scientists are working on 3D-printed tracheas, bones, kidneys and skin—which could one day help cover the massive shortage in donor organs. Learn more in Quartz.
Help the global poor create technology they’ll pay for. NGOs and philanthropic organizations often give away their digital products and services, an approach that consigns many to failure. Supplying something that customers will pay for has virtue: it provides honest feedback which charity does not. By charging even a small amount, ICT initiatives get a clear signal about how to adapt their offerings in response to changing conditions. Without this feedback, they operate in a vacuum of good intentions, insulated from the market and ultimately cut off from the very communities they are trying to serve. Nothing provides clearer evidence of a project’s viability than a base of paying customers, and this proof of success makes scaling up vastly easier. The widespread failure of ICT4D pilot projects demonstrates that making digital services free is not enough—the goal should be to make them valuable. Learn more in Harvard Business Review.
Drones and prisons. On July 29, at 2:33 p.m., a fight broke out in north recreation yard of Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio. The melee was over a package containing 144.5 grams of tobacco, 65.4 grams of marijuana, and 6.6 grams of heroin dropped out of the sky by a drone. Security footage reviewed after the incident revealed a drone flew over the yard and dropped its contraband and the brawl began. It’s still not clear who was operating the aircraft. Drones are best known for their military uses, but, increasingly, they’re finding their way into mainstream American life — and, it seems, into the skies above American prisons. Learn more at Foreign Policy.
PODCAST OF THE WEEK
Seed to Shirt. This week’s story on Chinese textiles reminded me of a series that Planet Money did a while back examining the fabrication of a simple t-shirt (spoiler alert: it’s surprisingly global and complex). Check out this amazing multimedia site to see the story unravel (get it?) in 5 chapters.
THINGS I LIKE
Ryan Adams is covering Taylor Swift’s 1989 album. When Taylor heard the news she noted that she’s about to pass out and that she’s so excited she can’t sleep. Thanks to my sister Karoline Westaway, a huge Ryan Adams and T Swift fan, for sharing this with me!
National Geographic Traveler just announced the winners of their annual photo contest and the photos are stunning.
ABOUT THE WEEKEND BRIEFING
I consider it a privilege to be a part of your weekend routine. I love hearing your reactions, insights and story ideas, so feel free to shoot me an email. Thanks.