Macau’s elusive fusion cuisine

Down a Macau side alley is an unassuming restaurant that’s far removed from the showy neon and glittering facades of the Las Vegas-style casinos that have come to define this semi-autonomous city on China’s southern coast. Yet it’s here, in what feels a world away from the neighbouring casino strip, that a different kind of richness can be found – one of history and culture; a place where flavours of the past and the spirit of old Macau live on.

“I would dare say Macanese cuisine was the first fusion food in the world,” said Sonia Palmer sitting across from her mother, 103-year-old Aida de Jesus, inside Riquexó, the small restaurant they’ve run together for the past 35 years. Macanese cuisine – a unique mix of Portuguese and Chinese ingredients – has a culinary legacy dating back more than 450 years. Originating in the 16th Century when Macau was first leased to Portugal as a trading post, it’s recognised by Unesco as the world’s first fusion food.

macanese cuisine1

Palmer explains that Macanese cuisine, like the Macanese community, originated because of the intermarriage between the Chinese and Portuguese. “The Chinese wives tried to cook as close as possible to the dishes that their Portuguese husbands grew up eating back in Portugal. But of course they didn’t have all the ingredients in Macau in those days, so the wives used some Chinese and South-East Asian ingredients as substitutes. That’s how this fusion food came to be.”

 

Speaking of firsts, Palmer says her mother, often dubbed ‘the godmother of Macanese cuisine’ was a pioneer herself. “When my mother opened Riquexó it was the first Macanese restaurant in town; before then it was mostly a family food cooked at home.”

 

Palmer says her mother, despite her age, still visits the restaurant daily. “She doesn’t want to just sit at home and stare at four walls. By coming here, she can sit and talk to the customers; she comes and eats here. She also gives the chefs feedback on all the dishes and tells them what needs to be improved.”

macanese cuisine godmother

With its walls adorned with photographs of old Macau, the small and cosy family-run restaurant harks back to a bygone era and attracts a mix of customers who praise the authentic Macanese dishes and reasonable prices. Regulars include locals from the Portuguese, Macanese and Chinese communities, some of whom eat here every day without fail. Tourists from out of town visit as well, although not as often, Palmer explains, because it’s not in a touristy area. “Some tourists do make the effort to come here and are always pleased that they did because they get to experience something that is truly Macanese. I think they go to the internet and find our restaurant.”

Besides its legacy as a pioneer of fusion food, today the cuisine has taken on the role of helping to preserve a fading Macanese culture. A large number of Macanese emigrated during the 1999 handover of Macau back to China from Portuguese colonial rule, and Macau’s current population of around 663,400 is now around 90% Chinese. Amid dwindling numbers, there is concern that the Macanese community risks extinction.

“Unfortunately, the Macanese community here in Macau is not very big these days. I would say only around 1,000 people,” Palmer said. “Since the handover, there isn’t a big population of Portuguese to intermarry here in Macau anymore and so the Macanese community is not growing.”

macanese skyline

The Macanese community have their own language, Patuá. This Portuguese creole language originated in the 16th Century when the city came under Portuguese control. However, Unesco estimated in 2000 that Patuá was spoken by no more than 50 speakers and listed the language as critically endangered. With Patuá all but extinct, the remaining Macanese community in Macau are hoping that their beloved cuisine will not suffer the same fate. Passionate about preserving their native food, Palmer and her mother have been sharing their family recipes in the hope that up-and-coming chefs will continue its legacy.

“There is an educational restaurant in Macau where they train the next generation of chefs,” Palmer said. “We have shared many recipes with them as we want Macanese food to continue. We don’t feel the need to keep our recipes a secret. Whoever asks us for them, we share it.”

One of their favourite recipes is porco bafassa, a hearty Macanese dish of tender braised pork and stewed potatoes with a turmeric gravy. Another is tacho, a Macanese spin on a traditional Portuguese slow-cooked stew that combines cabbage with cuts of ham, pork and uses Chinese sausages instead of the Portuguese chouriço.

macanese cuisine2

Buoyed by the enthusiasm of the student chefs, Palmer remains optimistic that the cuisine will prevail. “It is very challenging to keep the Macanese culture alive in Macau these days. But fortunately, I have a few friends that have opened restaurants and they will keep the cuisine alive, even if we give up.”

One of those friends is local Macanese cook Florita Alves. Keen to continue building upon the pioneering work that Palmer and her mother have done to make Macanese food more accessible, Alves introduced a Macanese menu at her family’s restaurant, La Famiglia, earlier this year. Located in the heart of Macau’s Taipa Village, a tourist hotspot, and offering classic Macanese dishes like Macau chicken (a braised coconut chicken stew with coconut milk, shredded coconut and turmeric), Alves is on a mission to preserve her culture through food, which she believes is the most direct and easiest way.

“I’m starting by introducing signature Macanese dishes like minchi (sautéed minced beef and/or pork),” Alves said. “This comfort dish is great for introducing someone to Macanese food as it’s easy eating and most people love it. Later on, I will add more seasonal dishes and, step by step, generate more interest in the food.”

macanese cuisine godmother2

In a globalised world where most cuisines are now widely available, Macanese cuisine remains rare in that it’s virtually exclusive to Macau. It’s only in recent years that it’s moved from being a home-cooked family cuisine to becoming available in local restaurants. “It hasn’t travelled too far outside of Macau yet,” Alves said. “It’s still a cuisine that’s waiting to be discovered; for food lovers that are looking for something new, I highly recommend it.”

Alves speaks of the cuisine’s distinct flavours as well. She says a lot of people still confuse Macanese food for Portuguese food, but it’s different. “I am in a position now where I can show and educate people that our Macanese food is a little bit different to Portuguese food. While we do use some staple Portuguese ingredients like garlic, onion, salt and pepper, we also use a lot of Chinese and South-East Asian ingredients such as soy sauce and spices like turmeric and tamarind.”

Alves says that it’s not uncommon for Macanese food to contain several flavours, like one of her favourite dishes, O Diablo, a festive Macanese casserole. “O Diablo is a dish cooked after the festive season with different meats and some pickles inside,” she said. “The dish is sweet, sour, hot and salty – all the flavours are in one pot, it’s really interesting.”

A retired civil servant, Alves grew up helping her grandmother in the kitchen. Rather than slow down and opt for a quiet retirement, she saw a growing need to preserve and sustain the legacy of Macanese cuisine. “Since I still have my health and I can work, I will continue to do something to help preserve our culture,” Alves said. “When you are in a minority, you will find that you need to find a way to stand out to let the people know that you still exist. We need to have something to identify us and I hope it’s our food. Otherwise we will just disappear.”

macanese cuisine godmother3

Alves believes that food is central to the Macanese community and eating is their strongest custom. “Whenever we come together in our families or as a community there is always this sharing of food.” That’s why, Alves explains, the community is pinning its hopes on Macanese cuisine to preserve the culture. “Eating is a primary need. Everybody needs to eat every day. Therefore, I believe through our cuisine we can reach more people and keep our culture alive.”

Critical to that goal of keeping the culture alive through food, believes Alves, is visibility and sharing her knowledge and recipes. “Let’s spread it out – it’s a win-win situation. Otherwise, if nobody knows about Macanese food then nobody will come looking for it.”

 

2018 in Art Auctions: Quality Wins

art auctions 2018
Kerry James Marshall, ‘Past Times,’ 1997, acrylic and collage on canvas, sold for US$21.1 million.

Looking back at 2018, the big takeaway across the art market is this: Quality is still what counts most, while female and African American artists continue to make huge breakthroughs, experts say.

“When you have works of historic relevance, strong provenance, and A-plus quality, those pieces performed really well at auction,” says Mary-Kate O’Hare, art advisor at Citi Private Bank. “Certain pieces are more speculative, prices are not appropriately assessed.”

The success of the sale of the Peggy and David Rockefeller’s vast collection in May set the tone for the rest of year, says Nigel Glenday, managing director at Athena Art Finance, a U.S.-based independent finance company specializing in fine art-backed lending.

The sale of the Rockefellers collection, via six live auctions and several online sales at Christie’s in Manhattan, realized US$832.6 million, exceeding the presale estimate of US$500 million.

Top pieces included Pablo Picasso’s Fillette á la corbeille fleurie, selling for a total of US$115 million with fee; Claude Monet’s Nymphéas en fleur, selling for US$84.7 million and setting a world auction record for Monet; as well as Henri Matisse’s Odalisque couchée aux magnolias, which sold for US$80.8 million, also a world auction record for the artist.

“As a result of the huge success of the Rockefeller sale, consignor expectation racked up markedly,” Glenday says. High prices achieved at the auction drew a lot of reluctant sellers to the market.

“Coming into the fall, supply and price estimates got elevated,” he says. “While the market is healthy enough to absorb the price increases, there is definitely greater buyer selectivity.”

In November, David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) fetched $90.3 million at Christie’s evening auction of post-war and contemporary art, while Edward Hopper’s Chop Suey sold for nearly US$92 million with fees, setting a record for the artist and a world auction record for the category of American Art.

“These are clear examples of top prices for truly historical and aesthetic work,” says Todd Levin of New York-based Levin Art Group. Meanwhile, “Collectors are continuing the push for value, being conscious of the quality of the artwork they are buying relative to the price they are willing to pay,” he adds.

Another significant theme in the art market in 2018 is that female and African American artists, who have been long overlooked by institutions and collectors alike, continued to make breakthroughs, experts say.

Although the trend is incremental, the interest in African American artists, and female artists of any color, hit the critical mass in the past three to five years, Levin says.

“Collectors first started assiduously looking for works by new, young African-American artists since the Rubell Family Collection exhibition at Art Basel Miami in 2008. Now they are also going back to the godmothers of African-American artists,” he says.

In May, African-American artist Kerry James Marshall’s 1997 painting Past Times achieved a record-breaking US$21.1 million at Sotheby’s evening sale of contemporary art. The record far surpassed the artist’s previous mark of US$5.04 million, with the sale of his 2015 Still Life with Wedding Portrait at a Christie’s auction in November 2017.

Female artists’ works also continue to gain popularity. In October, a self-portrait by British artist Jenny Saville, Propped, fetched £9.5 million (US$12.4 million) during a Sotheby’s auction in London, a  record price for the artist, as well as a record for any living female artist.

“Collectors saw the credibility of African-American and female artists,” says Naomi Baigell, managing director at Athena Art Finance.”They want to have them in their collection, since they can buy for a little bit less while the market can grow bigger.”

Designing the metropolises of the future virtually

Simulation software that can create accurate “digital twins” of entire cities is enabling planners, designers and engineers to improve their designs and measure the effect changes will have on the lives of citizens.

Cities are hugely complex and dynamic creations. They live and breathe.

Think about all the parts: millions of people, schools, offices, shops, parks, utilities, hospitals, homes and transport systems.

Changing one aspect affects many others. Which is why planning is such a hard job.

So imagine having a tool at your disposal that could answer questions such as “What will happen to pedestrian and traffic flow if we put the new metro station here?” or “How can we persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they go to work?”

This is where 3D simulation software is coming into its own.

Architects, engineers, construction companies and city planners have long used computer-aided design and building information modelling software to help them create, plan and construct their projects.

But with the addition of internet of things (IoT) sensors, big data and cloud computing, they can now create “digital twins” of entire cities and simulate how things will look and behave in a wide range of scenarios.

“A digital twin is a virtual representation of physical buildings and assets but connected to all the data and information around those assets, so that machine learning and AI algorithms can be applied to them to help them operate more efficiently,” explains Michael Jansen, chief executive of Cityzenith, the firm behind the Smart World Pro simulation platform.

Take Singapore as an example.

virtual future cities2

virtual future cities3

This island state, sitting at the foot of the Malaysian peninsula with a population of six million people, has developed a virtual digital twin of the entire city using software developed by French firm Dassault Systemes.

“Virtual Singapore is a 3D digital twin of Singapore built on topographical as well as real-time, dynamic data,” explains George Loh, progammes director for the city’s National Research Foundation (NRF), a department within the prime minister’s office.

“It will be the country’s authoritative platform that can be used by urban planners to simulate the testing of innovative solutions in a virtual environment.”

In addition to the usual map and terrain data, the platform incorporates real-time traffic, demographic and climate information, says Mr Loh, giving planners the ability to engage in “virtual experimentation”.

“For example, we can plan barrier-free routes for disabled and elderly people,” he says.

Bernard Charles, Dassault Systemes’ chief executive, says the addition of real-time data from multiple sources facilitates joined-up, holistic thinking.

virtual future cities4

 

“The problem is that when we decide about the evolution of a city we are in some way blind. You have the urban view of it – a map – you decide to put a building here, but another agency has to think about transport, another agency has to think about commercial use and flats for people.

“The creation of one thing changes so many other things – the flow and life of citizens.”

The firm’s 3DExperience platform gives planners and designers “a global overview” they’ve never had before, explains Mr Charles.

Dassault’s software, which incorporates calculations that simulate the flow of a fluid, is used to design most F1 cars and aeroplanes, says Mr Charles, and this capability is useful for understanding wind flow around buildings, through streets and green spaces.

virtual future cities5

 

“If some parts of a city are too windy and cold, no-one will like to go there,” he says.

Tracking people’s movements through a city using anonymised mobile phone and transport GPS data can help authorities spot bottlenecks and heat maps as the day progresses, hopefully leading to smarter, more integrated transport and traffic management systems.

“You can look at all ‘what if’ scenarios, so if we ask the right question we can change the city, the world,” concludes Mr Charles.

In the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, a brand new $6.5bn “smart city” called Amaravati has been planned since 2015, but has been mired in controversy amid disagreements over the designs and criticism of its environmental impact.

But last year Foster + Partners, the global architecture and engineering firm, and Surbana Jurong, the Asian urban and infrastructure consultancy, were chosen to take on the huge task.

And Chicago-based Cityzenith is providing the single “command and control” digital platform for the entire project.

virtual future cities6

IoT sensors will monitor construction progress in real time, says Mr Jansen, and the software will integrate all the designs from the 30 or so design consultants already involved in the first phase of the project.

“The portal will simulate the impact of these proposed buildings before anyone even breaks ground,” he says, “and these simulations will adjust to real-time changes.”

The platform can incorporate more than a thousand datasets, says Mr Jansen, and integrate all the various design and planning tools the designers and contractors use.

The city, which will eventually be home to 3.5 million people, will be hot and humid, experiencing temperatures approaching 50C at times, so simulating how buildings will cope with the climate will be crucial, says Mr Jansen.

One large Norwegian engineering consultancy, Norconsult, is even combining simulation software with gaming to help improve its designs.

When working on a large rail tunnel project in Norway, the firm developed a virtual reality game to involve train drivers in the design of the signalling system. The drivers operated a virtual train and “drove” it through the tunnel, flagging up any issues with the proposed position of the signals.

 

virtual future cities7

“They could change weather conditions, the speed and so on,” says Thomas Angeltveit, who worked on the project. “It feels real, so it is much easier for them to interact.”

“We had a lot of comments, so we were able to change the design and make a lot of adjustments.”

Changing the design before construction begins obviously saves money in the long-term.

Digital twin simulation software is a fast-growing business, with firms such as Siemens, Microsoft and GE joining Dassault Systemes and Cityzenith as lead practitioners.

Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2021 half of large industrial companies will use digital twins and estimates that those that do could save up to 25% in operational running costs as a result.

The future of design is virtual and driven by data it seems.

How smart city investment can unlock economic growth

Smart city investments can trigger “a robust cycle” of economic growth by unlocking savings and attracting businesses, residents, and talent, according to a major new benchmarking report of 136 cities report from ESI ThoughtLab.

The “catalytic impacts” associated with becoming a smarter city have the potential to increase GDP per capita by as much as 21 per cent and population growth by 13 per cent over the next five years for cities beginning their smart city journey.

ESI, the thought leadership arm of Econsult Solutions, an economic consultancy, teamed up with a coalition of leading organisations to explore the business case for urban transformation in a research programme entitled Smarter Cities 2025: Building a sustainable business and financing plan. The research found that to drive optimal results, cities need a well-thought-out roadmap and business case for smart city transformation.

“Smart cities provide major economic, social, and productivity benefits to all stakeholders. said Lou Celi, CEO of ESI ThoughtLab and the project’s director. “But without the right vision, plans, talent, and funding in place, smart city programmes will not reach their full potential.”

In addition to the city survey of government leaders, the research programme included diagnostic surveys of 750 businesses and 2,000 citizens in 11 representative cities, along with economic impact models for cities in different stages of smart city maturity. The 136 cities, covering 55 countries, ranged in size from 35,000 to over 37 million residents and represented approximately 10 per cent of the world’s population.

ESI ThoughtLab categorised cities into beginner, transitioning, and leader stages of smart city maturity by scoring their progress across 10 pillars of smart city development. These included five “foundational” pillars — smart governance, economy, infrastructure, talent, and funding — as well as the five “tech-enabled” pillars of smart mobility, environment, public safety, public health, and payment systems. The study found that many beginner cities often jump into digital solutions before they lay down the foundational pillars, which are vital to long-term smart city success.

 

Other key findings

Data is the “rocket fuel” for smart city transformation. By 2021, almost all cities will draw on IoT and real-time data, and the use of AI-generated data will grow fourfold. Predictive data, which is already employed by about 40 per cent of cities, will rise in usage by 63 per cent. Similarly, the use of both geospatial and behavioural data will rise by 54 per cent.

Keeping up with digital innovation is essential for smart city success. Cloud-based technology, mobile apps, citywide data platforms, IoT/sensors, biometrics recognition, and geospatial technology are now used by more than half of the surveyed cities. By 2021, these technologies will be table stakes for urban centres. While just one out of 10 cities now use more advanced technologies, these will skyrocket over the next three years: blockchain usage will grow by 752 per cent; AI by 526 per cent drones/robots by 298 per cent; vehicles-to-Everything (V2X) by 257 per cent, and VR/AR by 254 per cent.

Spending on smart programmes rises with smart city maturity. As cities move up the smart city maturity curve, so does their spending on smart city projects as a proportion of their operating and capital budgets. For example, beginner cities allocate 15 per cent of their capital budget to smart programmes, while leaders apportion about 20 per cent. For some pillars (mobility, environment, governance, economy, payments), the level of investment increases as cities become more mature, while for others the level of investment decreases (infrastructure, public safety, talent).

The future of mobility will be multi-modal systems connected through smart technology. The study revealed that cities around the world are developing multiple modes of transportation to provide greater efficiencies for residents and businesses. For example, in beginner cities, mobile apps can save riders 10.3 hours annually per capita in waiting time and increase transit ridership, while smart traffic signals can offer per capita annual personal time savings of 9.7 hours and fuel savings of 3.3 gallons per capita.

City leaders see the environment as the top challenge to address through smart city programmes, and improved public safety and health as the main benefits. For example, environment investments in smart grid technology generate annual per capita savings of $229.86 and reduce C02 emissions 223 pounds per person annually in beginner cities. Pollution reduction has positive effects on health, particularly for sufferers of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), for whom treatment with smart public health technologies such as telemedicine can reduce annual healthcare costs per capita by $24.83. In public safety, technologies such as predictive policing reduce violent crimes by about 5 per cent and property crimes by about 10 per cent, leading to a potential savings of $420.33 per capita for beginner cities.

Funding smart city solutions remains a key challenge for most cities. Urban leaders need to be creative and resourceful in finding ways to fund their future. In three years, public-private partnerships (65 per cent) will be the dominant financing technique, followed by concession financing (60 per cent), revenue share financing (60 per cent), and department budgets (59 per cent), which will all grow in use over current levels. Federal and state support will grow the most in use over the next three years, by 71 per cent and 58 per cent, respectively.

 

China’s Waymo rival quietly launched an Uber-style app for driverless cars

pony.ai app in operation

Pony.ai, one of China’s most valuable driverless car start-ups, has launched an app that allows users to hail an autonomous taxi, making it one of the first companies to do so.

The app, which was quietly launched in late December, allows a user to hail a self-driving taxi from a pre-set location in Nansha, which is part of Guangzhou in southern China. The car can travel to specific areas that have been set by the company such as its offices or residential areas.

Currently, only employees and a few VIP users are using the app, which is a mini-program built within WeChat, China’s most popular messaging service. Rides are free for now.

Pony.ai, a $1 billion firm co-located in China and the U.S., makes software to power driverless cars. It does not make the vehicle itself. Instead it has partnered with automakers including China’s BYD and GAC.

The company’s technology relies on continuous testing and data gathering to improve the software, something that will be boosted by an autonomous taxi service carrying real passengers.

“It is the data, it is improving the capability of our driverless cars, we will inevitably encounter a lot more scenarios and we can use that to improve the system,” James Peng, CEO of Pony.ai, told CNBC on Monday when asked about what he will get from the driverless taxi service.

窗体顶端

 

窗体底端

Peng said the company will look to grow its fleet of cars from 20 to 100 this year.

Driverless vehicle development is a key part of Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” plan. The space is extremely competitive in China with technology giants form Baidu and DiDi Chuxing, to start-ups like Pony.ai and WeRide.ai developing the technology.

Several major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, have designated areas for the testing of autonomous vehicles. Pony.ai’s autonomous ride-hailing service is not the first in China. Guangzhou-based WeRide.ai conducted some driverless car tests with the city’s taxi company. And in the U.S., Alphabet spin-off Waymo began a robo-taxi service for a few hundred users.

Peng, meanwhile, said Pony.ai is unlikely to expand its autonomous taxi service to large numbers of people this year. Eventually, though, the company wants to scale the program, which could win a new revenue stream and put it in competition with the likes of DiDi.

“That type of service is the ultimate goal we want to reach. How that competitive landscape will look like (in the future) is too hard to tell,” Peng told CNBC.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide rides, safe and convenient rides to the end user. It might take a long time, but that’s the ultimate revenue stream,” the CEO added.

Bitcoin con artists charged for an investment scam amounting to $51 million

In Taipei, a group of Bitcoin $BTC▲1.67% con artists has been charged with running an elaborate cryptocurrency scam that defrauded local and foreign investors out of millions of dollars.

Authorities formally charged a 47-year-old man surnamed Lin, along with six accomplices, with violating Taiwan‘s Banking and Multi-Level Marketing Supervision acts with a fake Bitcoin investment scam, reports FocusTaiwan.

Since October 2016, police say Lin and co. attracted $51 million from over 1,000 Taiwanese investors. The scammers are also charged with defrauding citizens of neighbouring China.

Their Ponzi scheme promised returns of up to 355 percent after just one year of Bitcoin investment. Prosecutors noted most investors did not see any returns in that time frame, and eventually returns of any kind stopped altogether.

It’s hard to say whether these scams are becoming more prevalent or cops are just getting better at catching those behind the fraud.

In November, Tokyo police arrested eight in connection to a similar Bitcoin-fuelled Ponzi scheme. They’re accused of tricking more than 6,000 investors out of $68 million with phony guarantees of high returns on cryptocurrency investments.

Those who bought in later filed an additional lawsuit against the fraudsters for over $3 million in damages.

Around the same time, the Philippines moved to deport two of the six criminals behind a fake cryptocurrency pyramid scheme responsible for swindling locals out of $33 million.

Investors were similarly promised high returns on any Bitcoin purchased – but in fact, these fraudsters never had any Bitcoin to sell in the first place, so they were just stealing the money. Go figure.

 

€2 billion invested into Wind Power by Egypt

Siemens Gamesa is implementing wind farm projects in the coming seven years with investments amounting to €2bn.

wind energy egypt 2

Ayman Saad, executive director of Siemens Gamesa, told Daily News Egypt that the company received land from the New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) to establish a 180 MW wind farm in Ras Ghareb, and a 650 MW wind farm in the Gulf of Suez, while negotiations are still ongoing to obtain more land to continue projects of 2,000 MW in total.

He explained that Siemens Gamesa has achieved great strides in negotiating with the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEHC) and the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) to establish the first phase of 180 MW of the wind farms.

He said that the negotiations on the sale price are still ongoing and contracts are expected to be signed before the end of this year.

Saad said that the company is waiting to sign the first phase contract to begin negotiations with NREA to obtain lands in the Gulf of Suez, to establish later phases of the project.

Siemens Gamesa will establish a transformer substation to move the energy produced from the first wind farm in Ras Ghareb, with a capacity of 220 kV to transfer 180 MW, and another station of 500 kV to transfer 650 MW, he added.

The company also contracted with the Orascom alliance to supply 125 wind farm turbine blades to produce 262 MW, expecting the supply to be completed before the end of next year, Saad noted.

Furthermore, Saad said that Siemens Gamesa is competing on the establishment of a 250 MW wind farm, awaiting the project’s prospectus from the NREA to provide the technical and financial offers.

Siemens Gamesa, if it wins the tender, will handle implementation of all electric, civil, and supply of turbines work, along with the establishment of a transformer substation.

Saad elaborated further that the new and renewable energy sector in Egypt is attractive for investment, and has promising opportunities, which helps Arab and foreign companies to pump capital and to invest in projects, in the presence of a good legislative environment and investment climate.

He stressed that the new investment and electricity laws have provided great incentives which have contributed to advancing the development of the new and renewable energy sector.

Siemens and Gamesa signed an agreement in 2016 to merge the company’s wind farm business, including services, which aimed at creating a global entity to lead the wind farm sector.

The total capacity produced by wind stations carried out by Siemens and Gamesa in Egypt reached 1,000 MW.

Saad explained that the two companies complete one another, in terms of global presence, products portfolio, and technological applications. While the Siemens wind sector has a strong presence in North America and Northern Europe, Gamesa has a strong position in the rapidly growing emerging markets, such as India, Latin America, and Southern Europe.

Saad said that the preferred contractual system for the company is competitive bidding.

He explained that the prices of components and equipment did not decrease, but the technology used increased, where the turbines can now output 7 MW instead of only 1 or 2 MW.

Saad said that Siemens Gamesa bought a piece of land in the Suez Canal Economic Zone to establish a turbine blade factory.

He noted that implementation will begin after activating the 2,000 MW wind farm projects agreement.

He explained that the turbine blades factory will provide 1,000 jobs and will take 12-18 months to be completed. Moreover, it will serve as an export centre to countries in the Middle East, and Africa.

The Egyptian market is promising, and has many opportunities, and it is possible to establish a plant for the production of turbines in Egypt in the future if the number of projects and stations increases, especially as the investment in plant turbine production is large and relatively complex, concluded Saad.

Does Elon Musk’s ‘The Boring Company’ offer the most innovative way to fix traffic problems in Southern California and elsewhere?

boring company teslaBillionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s plan to help drivers escape traffic by sending cars hurtling through dozens of skinny tunnels has caught the imagination of some Californians who are sick of gridlock but unwilling to give up their vehicles.

But even if that could happen, does that mean it should? That’s the question lingering after Musk’s much-hyped presentation this week, where he unveiled his first tunnel, beneath the streets of Hawthorne.

Before a crowd of investors, celebrities and Tesla owners on Tuesday night, Musk pitched his tunnel vision: building layers upon layers of one-way routes, each 12 feet in diameter, that would be reserved for autonomous electric vehicles to carry riders to their destinations.

Diverting traffic underground could eventually free up space for more peaceful, pedestrian-oriented city streets, he said, with “less concrete, more trees.”

Musk’s proposal is, in some ways, a throwback to an earlier age, when officials believed that building more freeways — and later, toll highways — was the answer to California’s traffic problems. More recently, transportation officials have focused on mass transit, adding to Los Angeles County’s light-rail network, planning an expansion of the Bay Area’s heavy-rail system and getting the state’s high-speed rail line off the ground.

“Los Angeles famously fell in love with the car, and the environmental, economic and social costs are staggering,” said Rick Cole, Santa Monica’s city manager. “We’re still paying the bill. It’s been a disaster.”

Transportation experts say adding hundreds of miles of space for cars — whether underground or above ground — would be a step backward for California, which already is struggling to reduce its dependence on driving as both the population and economy continue to grow.

But if anyone can solve one of the Southland’s most intractable problems, his supporters say, it’s Musk — a famously demanding and exacting chief executive whose companies created a reusable rocket and the coolest electric car.

Urban planners are less optimistic, skewering Boring Co.’s first tunnel as a “tour-de-farce,” a “transportation hybrid from hell,” and a “sexy distraction” from investment in high-capacity transit, which could move more people more efficiently.

 

To turn Musk’s dream into reality, Boring Co. would need to win approval for a subterranean transportation network, survive the inevitable legal challenges that come with major construction in California, and of course prove that the system would actually work.

“That’s a big ‘if,’” said Lisa Schweitzer, a USC urban planning professor, adding that the idea isn’t far removed from personal rapid transit systems.

Sometimes called “pod cars,” the systems are designed to send riders in small vehicles to a destination with no stops. There are only a few in the world, including one in Morgantown, W.Va., and they “can end up with tons of operational challenges,” she said.

Boring Co. had previously said its tunnel network would be powered by platforms called “skates,” which could carry cars or higher-capacity vehicles that would seat 16 people.

But on Tuesday, Musk said the company had ditched the skate model, focusing instead on a simpler option: a set of guide wheels that run along the walls of each tunnel, steering self-driving vehicles. The wheels would cost $200 to $300 a set and would convert any electric car into a “rail-guided train,” Musk said.

 

That raised eyebrows among experts, who said a car in a tunnel is still a car, with or without an extra set of wheels.

The public’s first rides through the Hawthorne tunnel were bumpy. The 1.14-mile trip took about two minutes along a concrete track that was so uneven in places that it felt like riding on a dirt road. Musk said the early imperfections would be addressed.

Musk has vacillated on how nondrivers could use the tunnels, saying Tuesday that pedestrians and cyclists could get into shared cars, and on Wednesday that the tunnel could include “a densely seated bus.”

His next goal, he said, is “high throughput at high speed,” sending 4,000 vehicles an hour hurtling through the tunnel at up to 155 mph, more than the average freeway lane, but far less than the capacity of a subway.

“Not all tunnels are created equal,” said Juan Matute, deputy director of UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies.

Still, he said, if Boring Co. can successfully lower tunneling costs, that could make high-capacity subway projects cheaper, making them easier to build.

Musk said he wants to create a tunneling process that is 15 times faster than the “next best” option. Boring Co.’s experiments have included pouring the rounded concrete pieces that line tunnels on site to reduce shipping costs, and automating their installation.

Digging the route through Hawthorne cost about $10 million, the company said. That figure includes lighting, ventilation, safety systems and the concrete vehicle track, but not research, development or equipment costs. Property acquisition and labor are often the biggest costs for public works projects.

Boring Co. receives requests about tunneling from five to 20 entities a week, and the company is now advertising its services for building municipal tunnels to carry water or utility lines, Director Steve Davis said.

The tunnels also show promise for another type of transportation: freight. The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle more than one-third of the nation’s cargo annually, and trucks carrying those goods toward Inland Empire distribution centers cause significant freeway congestion.

“Boxes don’t care how bumpy the ride is,” Schweitzer said, “and they don’t care about the view.”

So far, Boring Co. has used the Hawthorne tunnel exclusively for research. But Musk said he hopes the route will “ultimately be part of a much larger network in Greater Los Angeles,” which he said he plans to finish in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

The system could have “10 or 20 times” as many entrances as a subway, he said, with spiral ramps or elevators that would sink into the tunnels. In Santa Monica, he said, there could be ramps below parking garages near the Third Street Promenade, allowing people to “pop up, park and walk.”

There’s one problem, though: Cole said the city of Santa Monica “wouldn’t let him come within 100 yards of us.”

The traffic impacts of any such proposal would be among the many questions analyzed in the lengthy environmental reports required for major California construction projects. The process requires public disclosure of negative impacts and allows residents to go to court to stop or delay projects.

The last time California built an entirely new transportation system — the freeways — those laws weren’t on the books, Matute said. Today, he said, building out a similar network could take two decades, a process the public will be watching with interest.

“I don’t mind building a few tunnels here and there, and if he doesn’t get very far, it will be a tourist attraction in 20 years,” Schweitzer said. “And if it does work, then he proved everybody wrong.”

 

How to invest in Emerging Markets by Supporting Small and Growing Businesses

uganda textile seller

There is strong evidence that small and growing businesses are important engines of prosperity, accounting for a disproportionate amount of employment growth. Programs designed to help start and scale these businesses—which we define as commercially viable, with 5 to 250 employees, and potential and ambition for growth—have become popular among donors. Many major institutions, including the International Labor Organization, World Bank, and USAID, are supporting initiatives to help entrepreneurs expand their businesses through skills development, financing, mentorship, and market linkages.

Yet even large-scale, business-support programs frequently fail to undergo rigorous impact assessments and struggle to incorporate best practices from existing research into program design. Programs often decide between different models—for example, a light-touch classroom model that reaches a large group of entrepreneurs versus a higher-touch, consulting model that reaches only a few—based on hunches rather than evidence.

But what does the evidence—academic evidence, based on experimental studies—actually tell us about whether these programs help businesses grow? And what can the organizations that run these programs learn from it to design more effective interventions? The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), a global network of organizations that support entrepreneurship in emerging markets, and the International Growth Centre at the London School of Economics, which promotes sustainable growth in developing countries by providing policy advice based on research, recently reviewed the literature on this topic and gathered the following six takeaways:

  1. Among small firms, grants, equity, and other risk-tolerant capital structures drive more innovation than traditional loans. 

    Capital is often a major constraint to business growth in emerging markets, which lack robust banking and credit systems. The explosive growth of the microcredit industry in the last several decades has partially filled this gap with loan products for micro and small businesses. But recent evidence suggests that the strict payment structures of these loans prevent businesses from using them for the higher-risk and longer-term investments that are essential for growth. A large body of research shows limited long-term effectsof traditional microcredit loans on business performance, while one study found that simply introducinga two-month grace period into the loan repayment schedule led to businesses using the loans for riskier-but-higher-return investments. In contrast, businesses are more likely to use grants and equity, or quasi-equity products, for investments that correspond to greater overall growth. Randomized experiments on grants to microenterprises have shown sustained average monthly returns of 5-30 percent. In addition, a more recent assessment of $50,000 grants to start-ups found that the grants led to a 37 percentage point increase in the likelihood of business survival three years later, and a 23 percentage point increase in the likelihood of a business employing 10 or more workers.

  2. Peer engagement among entrepreneurs is effective, both for program selection and for program support, but should follow the “tennis rule.” 

    The common assumption that experts always know best, which underlies most business-support program structures, is not always true. Studies suggest that it is extremely hard for donors to select high-potential firms, and even experts reading full business plans struggle to predict business performanceany better than predictions that use basic data on firm demographics and performance. In contrast, at least one experiment of microenterprises in India found that peer entrepreneurs are significantly better at predicting future firm success than predictions based on survey data alone. Beyond selecting businesses, business networks and other platforms that involve regularly exchanging information among entrepreneurs—such as monthly meetings among managers from diverse industries—are also effective at disseminating best practices and ultimately driving growth; one rigorous study found sales increases of 8-10 percentfrom participating in a peer knowledge-sharing network. But the structure of this engagement matters a lot: In the same way that it is best to practice tennis with someone who is a little bit better than you if you want to improve your game, studies show that entrepreneurs get the most value out of peers whose businesses have similar characteristics but higher overall performance than their own (while not being direct competitors).

  3. Standard classroom training might cost less than individualized support but is generally less effective. 

    The need for low-cost, scalable solutions has made standardized classroom training models a particularly popular way to provide business training. However, a wide body of research shows that many of the most widespread programsusing this model do not actually lead to businesses changing their practices to spur growth. In contrast, individualized consulting services, while expensive, have shown much more robust effects. One study in India found that larger firms increased productivityby 11 percent following management consulting, recouping the relatively high cost of consulting services in less than a year. When thinking about cost-effectiveness, it is tempting to focus on the cost side, but it is worth keeping in mind that cheap interventions that don’t produce results are ultimately less cost-effective than more expensive ones that show real impact.

  4. Mentorship can be helpful, but different mentorship structures achieve different outcomes. 

    Available evidence suggests that mentorship can help entrepreneurs change their practices and accelerate business growth. But not all mentorship programs are alike, and different types of mentors can affect entrepreneurs differently. A study in Uganda found that a program with international mentors made entrepreneurs more likely to significantly “pivot” their overall business strategy, while a study in Kenya showed that local mentors helped drivea 20 percent increase in firm profits during the mentorship period (although businesses did not sustain this growth beyond the mentorship period).

  5. It’s important not to ignore the demand side. 

    Most business support programs naturally focus on the supply side of the market, since business capacity is directly under the firms’ control and can be influenced by one-time interventions. However, a wide range of studies show that easing constraints on the demand side can be a powerful pathway to growth. This can include direct market linkage facilitation with international buyers, government contracts, or connections to multinational corporate supply chains, which have all shown particular promise as avenues for accelerating the growth of small businesses. For example, one program connecting Egyptian carpet makers to European buyers led to an increase in product quality and revenueper hour, even without any significant capital investment or additional formal training.

  6. We need more evidence, in particular around different business segments. 

    While the existing academic evidence on supporting small and growing businesses gives us a strong starting point for designing more effective programs, important research gaps remain. Most of the current evidence is based on programs that focus on microenterprises or large firms, and does not allow for more-nuanced targeting of different support structures for different business segments, in particular around the so-called “missing middle”—those too large for microenterprise-focused programming but not yet large enough to access a range of market support services on their own. A recent report from the Collaborative for Frontier Finance provides a more-thorough segmentation approach, and future research can be much more applicable to practitioners by explicitly incorporating this sort of segmentation.

Programs designed to support small and growing businesses undoubtedly have good intentions, but rigorous experiments show that not all programs actually lead to business growth. While there are still gaps in our knowledge of what works, current research gives us an excellent starting point for designing evidence-based programs to help entrepreneurs fulfill their potential, create jobs, and ultimately spur economic growth.

2019’s Best Emerging-Market Stocks to Invest In

If you think 2018 was a rough year for American stocks, take a look overseas. Emerging markets were absolutely hammered last year.

The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM), the most widely followed proxy for emerging-markets stocks, finished 2018 down 17%. Many individual developing countries fared even worse. The Xtrackers Harvest SCI 300 China A-Shares ETF (ASHR) – which tracks the performance of China’s largest domestically traded shares – lost 29% last year. The iShares MSCI Turkey ETF (TUR) shed 43%.

But as we jump into 2019, there are several reasons you might want to give EMs another look.

To start, emerging-markets stocks actually were less volatile than American stocks during the wretched final quarter of 2018. Three months isn’t a long enough period to draw any firm conclusions, but it’s starting to look like investors have already largely abandoned emerging markets and there’s “no one left to sell.” That could mean a relatively low-risk entry point for an investor looking to allocate new money to emerging markets.

Secondly – and perhaps most importantly – emerging markets also are wildly cheap relative to American stocks. Perhaps not surprisingly, the U.S. market is now one of the most expensive in the world, according to estimates by Star Capital, trading at a cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio (“CAPE”) of 26.8. To put that in perspective, developed markets as a whole trade at a CAPE of 22.2, while emerging markets as a group trade at a CAPE of just 14.5.

Emerging markets can be a roller-coaster ride. The booms can make you wealthy, but the busts can be devastating. So don’t overload your portfolio in EM stocks. But at today’s prices, it makes sense to have a little skin in the game. With that said, here are five solid emerging-markets stocks to buy in 2019.

VALE SA

VALE-SA BRAZIL

COUNTRY: Brazil

MARKET VALUE: $72.3 billion

If you have a history of heart problems, you probably shouldn’t trade Brazilian mining giant Vale SA (VALE, $14.11) because it’s the kind of stock that can quite literally give you a heart attack if you have a large chunk of your net worth in it.

As a case in point, Vale is up nearly 500% since its early 2016 lows. That’s a fantastic run, of course. But this also followed a 94% drop from the 2011 highs to the 2016 bottom.

Still, if you can handle the volatility, adding a small allocation to Vale could make a lot of sense. After years of political instability and corruption scandals, the incoming administration of Jair Bolsonaro would seem to offer a market-pleasing mixture of pro-business and pro-law-and-order policies.

Furthermore, after years of underperformance, commodities may be ready for another stretch of outperformance.

“We are generally pretty bullish on raw materials in 2019,” says Chase Robertson, Managing Partner of Houston-based RIA Robertson Wealth Management. “We would see a slowdown in China as a short-term risk, but we’d consider commodity producers to be a smart allocation for the next decade.”

As one of the world’s largest producers of iron ore and nickel, Vale is a sensible addition for anyone bullish on commodity producers and on emerging markets in general.

CEMEX

CEMEX MEXICO

COUNTRY: Mexico

MARKET VALUE: $8.0 billion

Mexico did the unthinkable in 2018. After decades of being ruled by the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party and the center-right National Action Party, the country elected a left-wing populist to the presidency in Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), who took office at the first of December.

At this stage of the game, it’s too early to say what kind of president he will be. His populist moves have thus far been mostly symbolic; he made Mexico’s extravagant presidential residence a public cultural center and lowered his own presidential salary, for example. But the worry is that AMLO will follow his worst instincts and push Mexico in the direction of Venezuela.

Only time will tell, but the uncertainty has led investors to dump Mexican stocks. The iShares MSCI Mexico ETF (EWW) is down about 22% since September.

If you want to make a bet that AMLO moderates and ends up being pragmatic, however, Mexican stocks might be worth a look. And one that might be interesting even if AMLO ends up being every bit as bad as feared is Cemex (CX, $5.24), the largest ready-mix cement maker in the world.

Populist politics often means additional infrastructure spending, which helps cement makers like Cemex. And the stock is currently trading near five-year lows and at a very reasonable forward price-to-earnings ratio of less than 10 times next year’s estimates.

 

GRUPO TELEVISA

GRUPO TELEVISA MEXICO

COUNTRY: Mexico

MARKET VALUE: $7.2 billion

For another play on the Mexico story being less bad than feared, consider leading Mexican broadcaster Grupo Televisa (TV, $12.30).

Televisa is one of the largest media companies in Latin America, and is the leading producer of Spanish language content in the world, dominating both broadcast and paid TV. It also has a large ownership interest in Univision, the U.S.-based Spanish-language broadcaster.

Apart from its media empire, Televisa is also a major player in the cable and satellite TV market and in high-speed internet.

One nice aspect of Televisa’s business is that, as a media company, it’s largely immune from trade-war concerns. An economic slowdown in Mexico could hurt ad revenues and subscriber growth, but that is nothing out of the ordinary. Importantly, unlike a manufacturer, Televisa doesn’t have to worry about an errant presidential tweet blowing up its stock price.

At just $12.30 per share at time of writing, Televisa is trading at prices not seen since 2009. As in, following the 2008 meltdown and Great Recession. Televisa’s stock price has dropped to those levels.

Televisa’s revenue growth, translated into dollars, has been somewhat flat over the past six years; revenues over the trailing four quarters are at roughly 2012 levels. Some of this is due to currency fluctuations, of course. In peso terms, however, Televisa’s revenues have grown at a compound annual rate of a little more than 6% per year.

Longer-term, Televisa faces the same competitive threats from cord cutting and streaming services such as Netflix (NFLX). But for now, TV would seem like a solid way to play the Mexican stock market without explicit trade-war risk.

 

TENCENT HOLDINGS

The famous social networks in the world and China respectively

COUNTRY: China

MARKET VALUE: $396.2 billion

Chinese stocks took their licks in 2018, as did most global tech stocks. So, perhaps it is no surprise that Chinese tech powerhouse Tencent Holdings (TCEHY, $42.11) has gotten beaten up particularly badly this year and is down by nearly 40%.

It’s hard to really define Tencent, as it doesn’t have a real equivalent in the U.S. market. It has elements of Facebook (FB) with its social media and messaging. But it also has streaming video like Netflix and is a world leader in mobile gaming.

But the jewel in Tencent’s crown is WeChat, a texting service that is China’s answer to Facebook’s WhatsApp. Except it does a lot more.

WhatsApp is a relatively simple messaging and voice app. WeChat, on the other hand, will pretty much run your life, as it handles everything from messaging your friends to booking a dinner reservation. It’s called China’s “app for everything,” and that’s not speaking in hyperbole. It’s quickly emerging as one of the dominant payment vehicles in the world, and Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s longtime partner at Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B), specifically identified WeChat as a legitimate competitive threat to Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA) at the 2018 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting.

If China has a true hard landing because of the trade war or to other factors, Tencent may fall a little further. But if you’re looking to pick up shares of a truly transformative company after a serious price correction, Tencent is a fine option.

 

CREDITCORP

CREDITCORP PERU

COUNTRY: Peru

MARKET VALUE: $18.3 billion

Peru is a real mess these days. Due to a corruption scandal that started in Brazil then spread across national borders, literally every living ex-president or significant political figure of the past 20 years is either in jail, under house arrest, under investigation or actually in hiding. That’s no exaggeration.

But moments like these can be major turning points in a country’s history, and this could be the moment that Peruvians take control of their country, purge the system of the petty corruption that has held it back for decades, and create the foundations for durable growth.

If you like the idea of making a long-term investment in the development of Peru, consider banking leader Credicorp (BAP), Peru’s largest home-grown banking group.

Creditcorp’s Banco de Credito del Peru is the largest retail bank in Peru, offering mortgages, personal and commercial loans, investments and other financial services. Creditcorp also is active in microfinance, lending to small entrepreneurs that have traditionally been excluded from the formal banking sector.

As an unfortunate byproduct of the corruption purge, many construction projects have ground to a halt, and the property sector is looking a little sluggish. This has helped to keep a lid on Creditcorp’s stock price over the past year. Creditcorp’s stock price has been trading in a relatively tight range for the past 15 months.

If you believe in the long-term growth potential of Peru, buying Creditcorp at today’s prices makes sense.