Africa needs to reform its systems for buying and selling land and invest aggressively in urban infrastructure to create jobs, end poverty and reduce cities’ high living costs, the World Bank said Thursday.

Africa’s urban population will double over the next 25 years, reaching 1 billion people by 2040, it said.

But complicated procedures for land transactions, a lack of urban planning and under-investment in infrastructure connecting homes, jobs and shops are hampering development, the bank said.

“How can we best prepare for the unprecedented wave of people moving to towns and cities to pursue their hopes and dreams?” asked the World Bank’s vice president for Africa, Makhtar Diop, via videoconference. “African cities, in order to be drivers for economic growth, in order to be the platforms for poverty elimination, they really need to be connected and open to the world.”

Network of trains, buses needed

The bank called on governments to make transport connections in rapidly growing cities a priority, saying the lack of a reliable network of buses and trains had a negative impact on the economy.

In the Kenyan capital Nairobi, seven out of 10 people either spend an hour walking to work or on a minibus, which means they can only reach about 20 percent of the city’s potential jobs, the bank said in a report.

“Nairobi — a metropolis of 3 million people — in reality functions as a set of villages with very local markets because people cannot move efficiently across the city,” said Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, the bank’s director for Social, Urban, Rural, Resilience Global Practice.

Vicious cycle

African cities are almost 30 percent more expensive than other countries at similar income levels, the bank said.

Housing is 55 percent more costly, and food prices are 35 percent higher than in other low- and middle-income countries.

This creates a vicious cycle, driving up wages, reducing business profits and deterring investment.

“It’s by reducing the cost of living in African cities that we will be able to create the type of jobs that are needed for Africans to escape poverty,” Diop said.

Land prices in some African cities are as high as in the United States because there is a shortage of land that can be easily and safely traded, the report said.

“There is enough physical land; there is not enough tradable land with clear property rights,” said Ijjasz-Vasquez. “Therefore the prices have gone absolutely crazy.”

Corruption, inefficiency major problems

Corruption and inefficiency are major problems in many African land ministries. Investors risk being given fake title deeds, or finding their plot has multiple titles, experts say, with swathes of land being traded informally because they have not been demarcated.

Urban plans, that lay out zones for houses, streets and public spaces, must be respected, Ijjasz-Vasquez said.

“The efficiency of Manhattan today was due to a very simple urban plan, on one sheet of paper, that was agreed and enforced by everybody,” he said. “They were able to grow a city in an organized way that allowed it to be efficient for the next two centuries.”

Lack of decent housing an issue

Money also needs to be poured into decent housing, with up to two-thirds of residents in cities like Lagos living in slums where more than three people share a room, the bank said.

Ijjasz-Vasquez praised Senegal for introducing a law enabling people with temporary occupancy permits in urban areas to convert them into permanent title deeds at no cost.

“They can start investing in housing because their properties are more secure,” he said.

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More than 700 people took to the streets in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Thursday to protest against the government’s economic policy in a sign of mounting public anger in the oil producer grappling with recession.

Africa’s largest economy is mired in its first recession for 25 years as low oil prices have hammered public finances and foreign reserves while driving up annual inflation to almost 20 percent.

President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 on pledges to diversify the economy and fight corruption. But critics say he has made little progress, with Nigeria still heavily dependent on crude exports whose price has halved since 2014.

The 74-year-old former military ruler is currently on medical leave in Britain.

“The Buhari administration came to power on the promise of change,” said Ismail Bello, a labour union and protest leader.

“We are yet to feel the impact of change. We are rather feeling the pain of lack of good governance, we are feeling the pain of corruption, we are feeling the pain of joblessness,” he said.

The protesters marched to the presidential villa to see Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who asked for patience.

“Every time you fight corruption the way we are trying to fight corruption, there is a major fight back, because corruption in this country is wealthy, powerful, influential and it is in every aspect of our lives,” Osinbajo said.

“Things might be difficult today, but I am completely sure if we stay the course this country will not only get out of recession but always go to the path of sustainable development,” he said.

There was also a smaller demonstration in the commercial capital Lagos.

Buhari has been in Britain since mid-January for treatment for an unspecified medical condition and, with no indication of when he might return, many Nigerians suspect his health is worse

than officials admit.

Hundreds of people had already staged a similar protest on Monday in Abuja and other cities.

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A small U.S. manufacturing company is growing and hiring more people, in part because of lessons it learned from discovering revolutionary processes for making lobster traps and applying those skills to other projects, such as security fencing for the U.S. border with Mexico.

Riverdale Mills has expanded from 60 people to 185 employees during the past few years, and Chief Executive Officer Jim Knott says he is trying to hire another 35 workers. The expansion comes at a time when about one-third of U.S. manufacturing jobs nationwide have disappeared because of trade problems and a rising tide of automation.

The Northbridge, Massachusetts, firm says its wire mesh products are used in most of the lobster traps in the United States and Europe, replacing traditional wooden devices. Riverdale uses proprietary processes to improve its rustproofing and preserve the rust protection in harsh environments. A government report says commercial landings of American lobsters totaled 67 million kilograms and were valued at $567 million in 2014.


Lessons from lobstering inform other designs, including security fences that protect nuclear facilities, U.S. embassies and borders. Knott would like to sell more security fence as part of President Donald Trump’s plan to put a wall along the Mexican border, but says the government’s plans and specifications are not yet clear.  

Riverdale’s products are also used in the aquaculture industry to help grow oysters and fish in environments that pose a challenge for many materials. That could also lead to more sales and jobs, because a report from Grand View Research, a business consulting firm in San Francisco, says aquaculture is expanding as demand for healthy protein grows and stocks of some wild caught fish falter.


Riverdale can make thousands of different kinds of mesh out of steel and other materials. It draws steel rods through ever smaller openings until it gets wire of just the right thickness. The wires are then arranged in a crisscross pattern on huge, highly automated, noisy machines that can apply hundreds of welds at a time.  

The completed mesh is then run through a vat that holds many tons of molten, glowing zinc, a process that yields a rust-resistant product that can survive in saltwater. For lobster traps and other marine applications, the mesh may also be coated with a plant-based plastic powder that offers further protection.

Riverdale has expanded the proportion of its products that are exported, recently rising to 45 percent. Knott says exports are one key reason the firm has been able to grow.

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Caribbean tourism officials say the region received a record number of visitors last year as arrivals topped 29 million. But they say they expect a slight drop this year because of the uncertainty surrounding actions that U.S. President Donald Trump might take.

The majority of last year’s visitors came from the U.S., although the region also saw an 11 percent growth in visitors from Europe and the United Kingdom.

The secretary general for the Caribbean Tourism Organization said Thursday that the growth was uneven. Hugh Riley said some islands saw no increase while others recorded a 19 percent jump.


Officials said the Caribbean also received a record 26.3 million cruise ship arrivals.


In 2015, some 26.3 million people visited the Caribbean.



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The expected demise of transparency regulations for minerals and oil companies listed in the United States will not cloud the global drive for financial clarity in extractive industries, company executives told Reuters at an Africa mining conference.

Efforts to shine a light on payments such companies make to foreign governments are considered key to eliminating graft, conflict and the so-called resource curse — the distressingly common failure of less developed countries to translate mineral wealth into wide prosperity.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, however, has begun dismantling such transparency requirements.

Republican-controlled Congress last week repealed one such rule and Trump also plans to issue a directive ordering suspension of another that requires companies to disclose whether their products contain “conflict minerals” from a war-torn part of Africa.

But companies with European Union and Canadian listings — or which work in countries that have signed up to the voluntary Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) — still have to abide by strict disclosure rules, executives say.

“Over half of our members would fall into this category,” the chief executive of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), which represents 23 leading mining companies, told Reuters.

Companies in this category include goliaths such as Rio Tinto and Anglo American, ICMM chief Tom Butler added.

‘Social license’

Butler was critical of the Trump administration’s actions, but said they would not derail the broader global push for increased transparency.

“It’s disappointing because overall the global trend is in the other direction. The train has left the station,” said Butler.

“It is driven by investors and other stakeholders and the desire of the industry to maintain its social license to operate. One way to maintain that is for everyone to see that the taxes and other payments the mining industry makes are applied sensibly to the development of the country.”

Nick Holland, chief executive of South African bullion producer Gold Fields, which has a secondary U.S. listing, said that companies are not about to start altering their behavior.

“We’re going the other way irrespective of the legislation. We’re not going to suddenly start doing deals with illegal miners to buy their gold,” he said.

That view is also supported by Vedanta Chief Executive Tom Albanese, who said that transparency builds trust.

“It allows for Vedanta to have a richer conversation with host governments around the world and makes the job of the chief executive easier in terms of engaging with host governments and stakeholders, which is one of the biggest challenges a mining CEO faces right now,” he said.

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Construction of the Dakota Access pipeline under a North Dakota reservoir has begun and the full pipeline should be operational within three months, the developer of the long-delayed project said Thursday, even as an American Indian tribe filed a legal challenge to block the work and protect its water supply.

The Army granted Energy Transfer Partners formal permission Wednesday to lay pipe under Lake Oahe, clearing the way for completion of the 1,200-mile, $3.8 billion pipeline. ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado confirmed early Thursday that construction resumed “immediately after receiving the easement.”

Workers had already drilled entry and exit holes for the crossing, and oil had been put in the pipeline leading up to the lake in anticipation of finishing the project.

“The estimate is 60 days to complete the drill and another 23 days to fill the line to Patoka,” Granado said, referring to the shipping point in Illinois that is the pipeline’s destination.

Work was stalled for months due to opposition by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux, as well as a prolonged court battle between the developer and the Army Corps of Engineers that oversees the federal land where the last segment of the pipeline is now being laid. President Donald Trump last month instructed the Corps to advance pipeline construction.

The Cheyenne River Sioux on Thursday asked a federal judge to stop the Lake Oahe work while a lawsuit filed earlier by the two tribes against the pipeline proceeds. Attorney Nicole Ducheneaux said in court documents that the pipeline “will desecrate the waters upon which Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members rely.”

ETP didn’t immediately respond in court to the filing. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg didn’t immediately rule. Standing Rock Sioux attorney Jan Hasselman has said that tribe will also try to block the lake crossing in court.

An encampment near the construction site has drawn thousands of protesters since April in support of the Standing Rock Sioux, leading on occasions to clashes with law enforcement and hundreds of arrests.

Granado said she was not aware of any incidents involving pipeline opponents in the area. The Morton County Sheriff’s Office also said it had not responded to any incidents.

Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said in a statement late Wednesday that the tribe is prepared to keep up the battle “in the courts.”

“We will continue to fight against an administration that seeks to dismiss not only our treaty rights and status as sovereign nations, but the safe drinking water of millions of Americans,” the chairman said.

The tribe fears a leak in the pipeline could contaminate drinking water at its reservation that is just downstream from the proposed Missouri River crossing. ETP says the pipeline will be safe.

In a statement Wednesday, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum urged “cooperation and restraint” from all parties and requested federal law enforcement assistance to keep the peace during construction that would transport North Dakota oil across four states to a shipping point in Illinois.

Protesters rallied in several cities across the country Wednesday. Demonstrators in Chicago targeted a bank. Others went to an Army Corps of Engineers office in New York City but were asked to leave when they started filming without a permit. Several people were arrested for blocking public access to a federal building in San Francisco.

Joye Braun and Payu Harris, two pipeline opponents who have been at the North Dakota encampment that’s been the focus of the pipeline battle since April, said in an interview at a nearby casino that there’s frustration but also resolve in the wake of the Army’s decision.

“The goal is still prayerful, nonviolent direct action,” Braun said.

The tribe maintains the decision violates its treaty rights, and its attorneys have vowed to keep fighting in court.

The Corps has notified protesters still at the encampment that the government-owned land will be closed February 22. But according to Harris, a new camp is being established on private land.

“This is not over. We are here to stay. And there’s more of us coming,” he said.

An assessment conducted last year determined the river crossing would not have a significant effect on the environment. However, the Army in December decided further study was warranted to address tribal concerns.

The Corps launched an environmental impact study on January 18, but Trump signed an executive action six days later telling the Corps to allow the company to proceed with construction.

 Blake Nicholson reported from Bismarck, North Dakota.

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Some of America’s most popular cars and trucks are made in Mexico – for now.


Many Americans have benefited from Mexico’s emergence as a production hub. Low-cost production helps keep sticker prices lower on vehicles such as the Ford Fusion and Nissan Sentra.


But Mexico’s growing share of the auto market is a sore spot for President Donald Trump, who has threatened to impose border taxes on Mexican imports to force companies to make cars in the U.S.


Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico’s share of North America’s vehicle production has risen to 20 percent from 3 percent three decades ago. It’s expected to hit 26 percent by 2020, according to LMC Automotive, a forecasting firm.


Most cars sold in the U.S. are still made here. Of the 17.5 million new vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, 9.8 million were made in the U.S. and just under 2 million were made in Mexico, according to WardsAuto. Canada and Japan followed closely behind.


Here are the most popular Mexican-made vehicles in the U.S. and the total number sold in 2016 that were built in Mexico. In cases where vehicles were built in both the U.S. and Mexico, WardsAuto estimated the amount of Mexican-built production.


Ford Fusion: 257,865


Ford Motor Co. has built the midsize Fusion sedan at its plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, since its introduction in 2005. In 2013, Ford added Fusion production to a plant in Flat Rock, Michigan. But car sales have been slipping as consumers gravitate toward SUVs, so Ford stopped making the Fusion in Michigan last year. The Fusion starts at $22,120.


Ram: 246,000


The Ram pickup is Fiat Chrysler’s best-selling vehicle. Fiat Chrysler makes some Rams at its 79-year-old truck plant in Warren, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. But it has also made them in Saltillo, Mexico, since 1995, the year after NAFTA went into effect. The Ram 1500 pickup starts at $26,395.


Chevrolet Silverado: 222,000


The Silverado pickup is General Motors Co.’s best-selling vehicle. Most Silverados are made at plants in Flint, Michigan, and Fort Wayne, Indiana. But four-door crew cab versions are made at GM’s assembly plant in Silao, Mexico, which opened in 1995. A Silverado crew cab starts at $36,840.


Nissan Sentra: 214,709


The Sentra small car was made in Smyrna, Tennessee, from 1985 to 2000, when it was moved to Aguascalientes, Mexico, so the Smyrna plant could make SUVs. Since then, Nissan Motor Co. has built a second plant in Aguascalientes to make Sentras for global export. Nissan is Mexico’s market leader and the biggest automotive manufacturer in the country, with total production of 848,086 vehicles in 2016. The Sentra starts at $16,990.


Nissan Versa: 132,214


The subcompact Nissan Versa went on sale in the U.S. in 2006. It’s made at one of Nissan’s two plants in Aguascalientes, Mexico. The Versa starts at $11,990.


Volkswagen Jetta: 121,107


The Jetta small car is Volkswagen AG’s biggest seller in the U.S. It was made here briefly in the late 1980s before Volkswagen closed its plant in Pennsylvania. When Volkswagen built a new plant in Tennessee in 2011, it was intended for larger vehicles like the Passat sedan. Volkswagen has been making the Jetta in Puebla, Mexico, since 1993. In 2016, Volkswagen had the highest percentage of Mexican-made U.S. sales among major automakers, at 32 percent. The Jetta starts at $17,895.


Dodge Journey: 106,759


Since its introduction in 2009, the Dodge Journey midsize SUV has been made at a Fiat Chrysler plant in Toluca, Mexico. The Toluca plant, which opened in 1968, has made numerous other vehicles over the years, including the Chrysler PT Cruiser. The Journey starts at $21, 145.


GMC Sierra: 99,000


Like its corporate twin, the Chevrolet Silverado, the GMC Sierra is also built in Flint, Michigan and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Four-door crew cab versions are built in Silao, Mexico. The Sierra crew cab starts at $38,015.


Toyota Tacoma: 86,000


When Toyota Motor Corp. introduced the midsize Tacoma pickup in 1995, it was made at a joint General Motors and Toyota plant in Fremont, California. In 2003, Toyota built a new plant in Baja California, Mexico, to expand Tacoma production. Toyota still makes some Tacomas in the U.S., but it moved production to San Antonio, Texas, in 2010 after selling the California plant to Tesla. The Tacoma starts at $24,320.


Ford Fiesta: 48,807


Ford reintroduced the subcompact Fiesta to the U.S. market in 2010. It’s built at a Ford plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico, that opened in 1964 and used to build pickup trucks for the Mexican market. The Fiesta starts at $13,660.

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When McDonald’s opened its first Russian restaurant in 1990 in Moscow, it was not unusual to see wedding receptions held there, so strong was the appeal of the quintessential American brand at the end of the Cold War.

In recent years, with U.S.-Russia ties increasingly frosty, the fast-food chain has pursued a different strategy: Go native.

“We say it every time: We are a Russian company,” Khamzat Khasbulatov, the head of McDonald’s Russia, told Reuters. “I don’t think there’s a single company that can call itself more Russian than us.”

Nearly all the restaurant’s suppliers are Russian and its executives are all Russian, Khasbulatov said in an interview.

The familiar McDonald’s logo outside the restaurants is all in Russia’s Cyrillic script.

As for the golden arches, he said: “They are Russian arches. They shine wherever they are.”

Sanctions brought closures

The company has reason to play down its U.S. associations.

After Washington imposed sanctions on Russia over its role in Ukraine in 2014, Russia’s public health watchdog briefly closed down dozens of McDonald’s outlets, including its original Moscow flagship in Pushkin Square, citing hygiene concerns.

Some Russian politicians called for the chain to be shut down completely.

Khasbulatov acknowledged the link with the United States was sensitive. “We don’t want to be drawn in when something’s going on,” he said.

A wholly owned unit of the firm headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, McDonald’s Russia has 609 restaurants around the country and plans to add at least 50 in 2017 after expanding last year to the far-flung Urals and Siberia.

A high-growth market

McDonald’s does not disclose its Russian unit’s profit numbers but counted it among high-growth markets in its 2015 annual report, with high expansion and franchising potential.

Its Pushkin Square branch is one of the busiest in the world.

Khasbulatov said he hopes to increase the share of franchised branches, which currently account for only 15 percent of outlets in Russia, compared with the global McDonald’s norm of 80 percent.

Khasbulatov declined to comment on what the future holds for McDonald’s Russia, now that Donald Trump is U.S. president. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken about Trump in warm terms, and Trump has said he wants the relationship to improve.

McDonald’s has to be pragmatic, said Bob Goldin, a partner at Pentallect, a food industry consulting firm in Chicago.

“My sense is they have to play a real balancing act,” he said in an email.

For customers, politics doesn’t seem to be that big a deal, however.

One customer told a reporter at one branch near the Kremlin in Moscow, “It’s food. Food isn’t to blame for political differences.”

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U.S. governors Wednesday sent the Trump administration a list of 428 “shovel-ready” projects they regard as high priorities for President Donald Trump’s plan to fix the nation’s infrastructure.

The list of projects covers 49 U.S. states and territories, the bipartisan National Governor’s Association said in an email. The NGA will not be making the final list publicly available.

Florida plans to lobby the president directly, its Republican Governor Rick Scott has said.

The NGA had said January 23 that it had, at the request of the White House, assembled a list of 300 projects costing billions of dollars from 43 states and territories, with more expected to come.

Trump’s presidential campaign throughout last year included a promise to pursue a $1 trillion infrastructure program, which would come at a time when major public works projects are crumbling.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ infrastructure report card has estimated the United States needs to invest $3.6 trillion by 2020.

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A group of conservative thinkers led by leaders from the Reagan and Bush administrations have proposed what they are calling a “Conservative Answer to Climate Change.”

The group, including two former U.S. secretaries of state – James Baker and George Shultz – held a press conference Wednesday in Washington to unveil its plan.

Confronting the threat

The plan, available online, opens with a simple admission: “the risks associated with future warmings are so severe that they should be hedged.”

Team members were also willing to openly call out their Republican colleagues for refusing to confront the issue.

“For too long,” the group says, “many  Republicans have looked the other way, forfeiting the policy initiative to those who favor growth-inhibiting command-and-control regulations, and fostering a needless climate divide between the GOP and the scientific, business, military, religious, civic and international mainstream.”

Looking to regain that initiative, the team unveiled its plan which centers around four pillars. The first pillar is an old idea made new again: a carbon tax.

It’s just what it says it is – a tax on planet warming emissions from oil, coal and natural gas.

In this case, the team is suggesting a tax on carbon starting at $40 for roughly every metric ton of emissions.

The second pillar demands that any money made off of that tax be sent directly to U.S. consumers. And they do mean directly, by way of “dividend checks, direct deposits or contributions to their individual retirement accounts.”

The third pillar sets out the way we deal with the world. It looks to punish polluters by that same carbon tax on countries that are big polluters. Any money made from that tariff would go directly to American citizens.

And once the plan is in place, the fourth pillar kicks in: An end to “the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority over carbon dioxide emissions … including an outright repeal of the Clean Power Plan.”

Devil in the details

It sounds simple. But it is also a tax. The Trump administration and the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate are looking to cut taxes, not raise them. So far, there has been little reaction from Capitol Hill or the White House.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the plan and would only say: “we have nothing to announce on that.”

And some environmental groups, while backing a carbon tax in general, are less excited about the prospect of abandoning the progress made during the last administration.

The Natural Resources Defense Council put out a statement that a carbon tax alone won’t solve the problem.

But whether it succeeds or not, one of the real goals is to give conservatives a chance to get beyond what many see as their history of climate change denial.  “…this is an opportunity to demonstrate the power of the conservative canon by offering a more effective, equitable and popular climate policy based on free markets, smaller government and dividends for all Americans.”

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Madam C.J. Walker embodies the quintessential American success story, as someone who fought seemingly insurmountable odds to become one of the 20th century’s most successful self-made woman entrepreneurs.

The daughter of former slaves, Walker built a cosmetics empire selling hair care and beauty products for African-American women. By the time she died at age 51, she was among the first African-American millionaires in the United States. It was just over 50 years after the end of slavery. 

“She was a woman who provided employment for thousands of women and she used her money and her influence as a philanthropist and a political activist,” said A’Lelia Bundles, who speaks glowingly of her famous great-great grandmother.

Bundles, a former television news executive and biographer, spent decades researching the life of her famous ancestor.

“She really embodies the dream, the American dream, with opportunity for everyone, with the ability to take your God-given talents and to educate yourself and then to do something for others,” said Bundles. 

Unfortunate upbringing

Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana, in 1867, was orphaned at age 7 and married at 14, but her husband died a few years later, according to Bundles.

“So, there were all of these blows, all of these things were stacked against her, but somehow she had such a survival instinct, soaking up everything she saw around her” she said. 

Self-made millionaire

Following her experience as a sales agent for Annie Malone’s black hair care business, Poro, Walker decided to create her own line of hair care products.

She saw the opportunity as a means of providing for her family, primarily her daughter A’Lelia.

“Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower,” sold in homes and churches, helped catapult her business. Bundles says Walker traveled across the country, knowing that a black woman somewhere would be in need of her hair care line.

“Walker’s experiences enabled the self-made businesswoman to develop key marketing skills that would drive her future success,” she said.

As part of her marketing strategy, Walker utilized her own image as the before and after for her advertisements, while also being on the seal of the products. One would also find her advertisements in black-owned newspapers.

Additionally, she printed business cards, fliers, and created various packaging to get her name out in black communities across America. Walker was known for giving her customers more than hair products, but offering them a lifestyle, according to Bundles. 

Her hard work paid off. In May 1918, Walker moved into her brand new estate outside New York City. This caused surprise and dismay among her white neighbors but did not deter Walker. 

Empowering African American women

Walker used her fortune to hire women at all levels of her company. Bundles says Walker wanted them to know that their roles would be as leaders in their community. 

She held the first national convention of her sales agents in 1917.

According to Bundles, in Walker’s keynote speech, the businesswoman said, “I want you as Walker Agents to show the world that you care not just about yourself but about others.”

At the end of the convention, the women sent a telegram to President Woodrow Wilson urging him to support legislation to make lynching a federal crime.

“She wanted them to speak up; she wanted them to use their power and their influence and their money to make a difference,” Bundles said. 

Working for Walker provided the women a means to provide for their family and to be economically independent.

Bundles notes a former worker once said, “‘C.J. Walker made it possible for a black woman to make more money in a day than she could in a month working in somebody’s kitchen.’ So, this was really showing women, who would have been sharecroppers and maids and laundresses, how they could support their families and be their own bosses.”

Maintaining Walker’s legacy

When Madam C.J. Walker died in 1919, she left tens of thousands of dollars to charitable organizations and schools, leaving behind a legacy of political activism while establishing a pattern of corporate giving.

Bundles is committed to maintaining Walker’s legacy.

“For all my life, I’ve been trying to tell Madam’s story and really it’s a labor of love just to make sure people know about her and the empowerment she gave to other women,” Bundles said. “Madam Walker’s legacy lives in her philanthropy as well as in an amazing line of hair care products.”

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Multilateral banks based in China have defied critics over the past year with strong performances that include financing projects across a dozen countries. 

The new banks, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and New Development Bank (NDB), have given added political legitimacy to China, and helped to push forward Beijing’s geopolitical interests by extending $3 billion for projects under its One Belt, One Road (OBOR) program, analysts said.

But questions are being asked about whether these banks can help China in its battle against adverse actions threatened by U.S. President Donald Trump.  

AIIB’s head Jin Liqun recently reminded Washington that that door remains open for it to join the bank. The Obama administration had decided against joining the AIIB even after 56 countries, including U.S. allies like Canada, Britain and Australia, became members.  

“AIIB is an institution that will help China get support from other countries in any direct confrontation with Trump,” Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics told VOA. “Setting up AIIB and showing that Beijing intends to play by the established rules has helped China, when Trump increasingly seems to be going rogue on not just America’s traditional role, but also many of the international rules it help set up.” 

But the advantage will mostly be in diplomatic and political terms, he said, adding the AIIB will not provide China any particular economic advantage in a bilateral confrontation with Trump.  

“China has gained in terms of soft power because it could bring several European powers on the table through AIIB.  At present, alot of European countries are concerned about what they see in the U.S. This might increase potential cooperation between China and the European countries,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist for Capital Economics.  

AIIB’s latest decision to lend $600 million for the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP), which will connect Azerbaijan to Europe fits snuggly into China’s plans to connect with Europe through Central Asia. Most of the other projects funded by the Beijing based bank support OBOR projects. They include the Dushanbe-Uzbekistan Border Road in Tajikistan, $100 million for National Motorway M-4 in Pakistan, $300 million for a hydropower project in Pakistan, and $301 million for Duqm Port in Oman. 

US membership

In a recent interview, AIIB chief Jin predicted that the U.S. under Trump would reject the decision of the Obama administration and choose to join the bank. 

“I was told that many in his (Trump’s) team have an opinion that Obama was not right not to join the AIIB, especially after Canada joined, which was a very loud endorsement of the bank. So we can’t rule out the new government in the U.S. endorsing the AIIB or indicating interest to join as member,” he told the Chinese media. 

He also complained that AIIB faced initiatial resistance from the U.S. “At the formation of the AIIB, the U.S., the base of the Bretton Wood Institutes that manage the world economy including the World Bank and the IMF, saw the new body as a threat to its dominance and importance in the world economic order,” he said.  

The Trump administration has not yet commented on the AIIB and analysts are skeptical that Trump will let the U.S. join and give the Beijing-based institution some added credibility.  

“Under no circumstances will Trump agree to join AIIB. Jin obviously knows that and cleverly created a headline again highlighting how it is now the U.S. that is isolating itself from the rest of the world,” Kirkegaard said. 

Lourdes S. Casanova, academic director of the Emerging Markets Institute at Cornell University, also thinks the U.S. will stay out of it.  

“I don’t believe the new administration one will join because, so far, they want to retreat back home and focus on investments in infrastructure at home.You also need the political will and on that front, President Trump has been more confrontational with Mexico and also with China, as well as critical of multilateral organizations, which makes us believe that he has no intention to join AIIB,” she said.   

What next? 

AIIB may seem to have turned up a stellar performance lending $1.7 billion to nine different projects in just more than one year. But it has been taking advantage of projects that had been carefully studied and vetted by entrenched players like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The real challenge comes now,  when many of the bankable projects have been covered, and the AIIB will have to start doing its own due diligence, analysts said.  

“The AIIB will find it very difficult to scale up its operations. There are significant political risks in many of the infrastructure projects,” Evans-Pritchard said. “A lot of projects don’t make commercial sense. There is the risk of running protests in several countries where projects have been planned. There is a protest against an industrial zone in Sri Lanka, which is part of OBOR program,” he said. 

Several members in AIIB, particularly those from Europe, do not share China’s geopolitical ambitions, which may come in the way of approving projects along the OBOR route, he said. Besides, there is the risk of the next round of elections installing protectionist governments in Europe, which may be less enthusiastic about funding projects in Asia and elsewhere, Evans-Pritchard said.

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Efforts to pay employees staying home to care for family in the United States got a boost on Tuesday with a legislative proposal that would benefit workers, especially women tending to children and aging parents.

The United States stands alone among developed nations with its lack of paid family leave, and the proposed Family Act would bring policy in line with other countries, supporters say.

The proposal would establish a national insurance program to provide workers with up to 12 weeks paid leave per year for the birth of a child, adoption or care for a seriously ill family member.

The United States is the only country among 41 nations that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Other nations have paid leave ranging from about two months to more than a year, OECD data shows.

The lack of paid leave in the United States hits women particularly hard.

Nearly a quarter of new U.S. mothers go back to work within two weeks of giving birth, according to Debra Ness, head of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Women who take time off to care for children or elderly relatives lose an average of $300,000 from their lifetime earnings and retirement savings, Ness said.

The proposal introduced in the U.S. Congress has scores of co-sponsors among Democrats but none yet among the more conservative Republican party that controls both legislative houses, said lawmakers introducing the bill.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, has voiced support for six weeks paid maternity leave for biological mothers.

His proposal did not apply to men nor did it include paid leave to care for a seriously ill family member.

The Family Act would be gender-neutral and apply to adoptive parents and same-sex couples.

Funding would come from employer and employee contributions, and the average worker would pay $1.50 per week, supporters say.

“Too many American workers are not paid enough to make ends meet, and losing weeks worth of wages in order to care for and deal with the challenge of this magnitude when a loved one is ill would push families over the edge and some passed the point of no return,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, one of the lawmakers who introduced the bill.

Tuesday marked the third time the Family Act has been proposed in Congress since 2013, according to DeLauro’s office.

Previous versions failed to gain support among Republicans, the office said.

Opponents say the proposal would hurt businesses, especially small ones.

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A manufacturing company says skills and technology it developed making lobster traps could help save money on U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.  

Riverdale Mills’ super-tough steel fence already guards 43 kilometers of the border, and the company says its technology has proven to be a cost-effective way to secure airports, prisons and nuclear facilities.

The small firm is based in Northbridge, Massachusetts, and CEO Jim Knott says his company came up with a much better way to make lobster traps. The metal mesh is assembled on huge automated machines that weld many joints at once. The mesh can be made of different sizes of steel, with different size openings for different applications.  

The mesh is run through a huge vat of molten zinc to protect the product from rust. For lobster traps and other marine applications, the product gets an additional coating of special plant-based plastics that protect the zinc. The plastic formula is a trade secret. Lobster traps have to be sturdy, effective and affordable, and Knott says lessons from making them improved the design and production of mesh for other applications.

For security fences, the mesh openings can be made too small to allow people to get a grip with their fingers or to allow a cutter to work effectively. Knott says, “It’s difficult to climb, it’s difficult to cut — I think it just makes more sense than a concrete wall, or a bollard wall, or an expanded metal wall.”

Knott says this industry is very “capital intensive” and a big new order for a border fence could require a bigger investment in expensive equipment. It would also increase the need to recruit and train more skilled workers. According to Knott, “Adding people might be a challenge, but our plant pays a good wage and people, I think, are fairly happy here.”

Riverdale already supplies some fencing on the Arizona border with Mexico.

Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern U.S. border is controversial, so a large order to supply material for the project might bring criticism to the company. Knott, however, expects job gains will generate goodwill and may temper critiques of his company.  

“For every one person who works here directly, we’re probably influencing 10 other people somewhere else in the community,” he said.

In the meantime, this small manufacturing company has already grown from 60 employees to 185 over the past several years and still needs 35 more workers. These employment gains come after a period when the United States has lost millions of factory jobs that generally pay fairly well.  

Knott says manufacturing is an important source of good jobs and a crucial source of innovation for the nation’s economic health. 

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A group of Republican senior statesmen are pushing for a carbon tax to combat the effects of climate change and hoping to sell their plan to the White House.

Former Secretary of State Jim Baker is leading the effort, which also includes former Secretary of State George Shultz. In an opinion piece published Tuesday night in The Wall Street Journal, they argued “there is mounting evidence of problems with the atmosphere that are growing too compelling to ignore.”

The group will meet Wednesday with White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, senior adviser Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council. Ivanka Trump is also expected to attend, according to a person familiar with the plans. The person was not authorized to discuss the meeting publicly and insisted on anonymity.

Carbon taxes are designed to raise the cost of fossil fuels to bring down consumption. Baker and Shultz detailed in the opinion piece their plan for a gradually increasing carbon tax, with dividends being returned to people, as well as border adjustments for the carbon content of exports and imports and the rollback of regulations.

Steadily increasing tax

According to an outline of the plan, the group will call for a gradually increasing carbon tax that “might begin at $40 a ton and increase steadily over time.” It would raise $200 billion to $300 billion annually. They would then redistribute tax proceeds back to consumers on a quarterly basis in what they call “carbon dividends” that could be approximately $2,000 annually for a family of four.

Their plan would also set “border adjustments” based on carbon, which would result in fees for products from countries without similar carbon pricing systems. And they would seek to roll back regulations enacted under President Barack Obama, including the Clean Power Plan.

So far, Trump has sent mixed signals on whether or how he will try to slow Earth’s warming temperatures and rising sea levels.

During the transition, Trump met with prominent climate activists Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio. Ivanka Trump, a close adviser to her father, has indicated interest in working on the issue. But the president has also hired oil industry champions who want to reverse Obama’s efforts to rein in emissions.

The White House press office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Also supporting Baker’s effort are Hank Paulson, treasury secretary for former President George W. Bush; Greg Mankiw, who chaired Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers; and Marty Feldstein, chairman of President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, according to the person familiar with the plans.

Also on the list are former Wal-Mart Chairman Rob Walton; Thomas Stephenson, a partner at the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital; and Ted Halstead, founder of New America and the Climate Leadership Council.

The vast majority of peer-reviewed studies and climate scientists agree the planet is warming, mostly because of man-made sources. Under Obama, the U.S. has dramatically ramped up production of renewable energy from sources like solar, in part through Energy Department grants.

Sanders backed tax

Some environmental activists support a tax on emissions to help transition off fossil fuels. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders advocated for a carbon tax as part of his bid for the Democratic nomination last year. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, never supported a tax, though she offered a slew of proposals to deal with climate change.

Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was the longtime chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil. Exxon was long considered a leading opponent of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. But under Tillerson’s leadership, Exxon has started planning for climate change and even voiced support for a carbon tax.

Trump’s choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency is Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who denies climate change science. And Trump’s nominee to run the Energy Department, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, also has questioned climate science while working to promote coal-fired power in Texas. He did, however, oversee the growth of renewable power in Texas, which became a leading wind-energy producer while he was governor.

Carbon tax legislation is unlikely to receive a warm welcome in the GOP-controlled Congress, where Republicans were staunchly opposed to Obama’s climate agenda. Last year, Republicans in the House approved symbolic measures opposing a fee on crude oil and a carbon tax on emissions.

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