BEIRUT (Reuters) – One of the Arab world’s oldest universities faces its worst crisis since its foundation, with huge losses, staff cuts and an uphill battle to stay afloat as Lebanon’s economic meltdown and the coronavirus pandemic hit revenues.
The American University of Beirut has graduated leading figures in medicine, law, science and art as well as political leaders and scholars over the decades including prime ministers.
It has weathered many crises, including Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, when a number of staff including two presidents were killed or abducted and a bomb destroyed one of its main halls.
But Lebanon’s problems now may be the biggest threat yet to the institution founded in 1866 by Protestant missionaries. It ranks among the world’s top 200 universities and its collapse would deprive future generations in Lebanon and the wider region of internationally recognized higher education.
“This is one of the biggest challenges in AUB’s history. The country is crashing catastrophically,” AUB President Fadlo Khuri told Reuters in an interview.
With inflation, unemployment and poverty high, many families have little means to cover food and rent, let alone tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees.
The heavily indebted state, which defaulted on its foreign currency debt in March, owes AUB’s medical centre – which attracts patients from across the Middle East and Central Asia – more than $150 million in arrears, Khuri said.
Government officials have ruled out a haircut on the bank deposits of non-profit universities such as AUB, but Khuri still fears his institution may take a hit if a state rescue plan puts part of the burden on large depositors and includes colleges.
Along with other universities, his school has lobbied the state and, he said, received assurances from the president and finance minister that any such measures would not impact them.
But he remains worried, with government plans for plugging vast holes in the national finances not yet finalised.
Government officials could not be reached for comment.
“We have all this money they (the state) still owe us for the hospital so it’s very hard to rely on well-intentioned people who may or may not have the ability (to deliver),” he said.
The university and hospital expect real losses of $30 million this year after bleeding revenues. For 2020-2021 alone, it projects a 60% revenue reduction from this year, down to $249 million.
FIGHTING TO SURVIVE
The stark revenue forecasts rely on an “optimistic assumption” that the Lebanese pound will stabilize at 3,000 to the dollar, but Khuri has said they do not take into account a possible haircut imposed on AUB’s bank deposits in Lebanon.
Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni has said there will be a shift to a flexible exchange rate in the “coming period”.Slideshow (3 Images)
Khuri said AUB will have to set its own rate in the meantime, taking into account people who have said they can pay in dollars to help cushion the impact of the pound’s collapse on poorer students.
AUB has already lost donations and scholarships it was expecting before the pandemic. On top of benefit and wage cuts, it is studying options such as closing whole departments and halting spending.
In an email to students and families, Khuri promised to work to protect their livelihoods and to raise money via an emergency fund.
“But there is no question that sacrifices must and will take place at every level,” Khuri wrote. “We must fundamentally change in order to survive … Saving AUB must be our only priority. And save it we will.”
University World News in its GLOBAL Edition of 11 April 2020 by Bernard Hugonnier produced Internationalising higher education for a better world. It is always good to remind that the University offers an education that stimulates, fundamentally through training aspirants to careers with specific skills sets. It does, in fact, prepare these aspirants to make their impact, offering training that encourages, leading to careers with the skills to make profound contributions to society. When the background of this happening is widened to the world, some of the intrinsic benefits are enumerated here.
Internationalisation of higher education (IHE) consists mostly of helping students to study abroad. Only 5% are taking advantage of such mobility, which helps them towards a better professional career. Hence, IHE follows a tendency toward a rather elitist model of excellence.
However, excellence can also be of a social nature (allowing students of all social classes to have access to the best training) as well as of a societal nature (helping students become responsible citizens as they are more aware of their responsibilities in civic and environmental matters). It is difficult to dispute that such approaches are at the same time more equitable and more effective to the benefit of the common good in the world.
First, the historical development of IHE and its consequences must be fully comprehended. Originally, universities around the world had few relationships with each other. Higher education systems were thus independent, with only a few students engaged in study abroad.
As student mobility has increased, universities have naturally developed relationships with each other. Higher education systems have become interdependent, opening up a new era, that of the globalisation of higher education.
Finally, as relations between universities (in both education and research) have developed further, higher education systems have converged into a world model: the globalisation of higher education, which has tended to become transnational. It is essential to fully comprehend the consequences of these developments in order to take the appropriate regulatory measures.
A wider perspective
Going forward, instead of focusing solely on economic objectives, the institutional strategies of both countries and higher education must also take into account wider social and societal objectives. This clearly requires a change of priorities.
Both countries and institutions also need to integrate into their decision-making processes the geopolitical and geo-cultural implications of IHE. That means questioning the dominance of the Western model.
At the same time students who have benefited from international mobility tend to occupy the best positions in society. As a consequence, resentments may build towards both the most developed countries and the students constituting the elite of society in these countries. Steps should hence be taken both by countries and institutions.
If the objectives of social and societal excellence are better implemented, IHE could lead to the constitution of “citizens of the world and for the world”.
Internationalisation and global politics
Answers must also be found to the tensions resulting from the fact that IHE is not a phenomenon that is disconnected from the main problems facing economies and societies: the extension of neoliberal globalisation, the growth of economic and social inequalities, the rise of populism and the emergence of illiberal democracies.
As an avatar of globalisation, IHE offers opportunities and risks at an international level as well as for countries and institutions. For example, at the international level, opportunities for IHE include the improvement of the quality of higher education in the world, the development of a global knowledge society and the global development of international standards in the field of quality assurance and that of intellectual property protection.
The main risks are the globalisation of curricula, an asymmetry in the benefits of IHE in favour of developed countries and a standardisation of ways of thinking.
Countries and institutions should hence take steps to seize opportunities and limit risks.
Finally, measures must be taken to make internationalisation accessible to a much larger number of students in the world.
International higher education has important consequences for students: those who have benefited from mobility acquire an intercultural competence and professional skills which increase their employability and their potential for success. They also benefit from the development of their own personal skills thanks in particular to greater adaptability and autonomy.
Similar results can be achieved without mobility, by making students interact more with students from different countries than their own and by internationalising programmes, curricula and pedagogies.
Obviously less expensive, this so-called ‘internationalisation at home’ is of a more social nature and allows more students to benefit from the effects of internationalisation. Here, more research should be carried out to better understand the effects of this alternative internationalisation and to identify the measures to be taken to make it more effective.
An irreversible phenomenon
International higher education is an irreversible phenomenon. Everything must therefore be done to help it achieve greater social and societal excellence. Measures must be taken by countries and institutions.
In addition, more research is required to achieve a better understanding of the phenomenon, its modes of operation and expansion and all of its consequences. To discern the future of international higher education, several methods can be used, whether they relate to prediction, forecasting or prognosis.
If international higher education as currently carried out could benefit more students, it would only do so to a limited extent and it will not have a big societal impact. Internationalisation should therefore be actively developed at home, which is a less expensive and more effective means of achieving social and societal excellence to the benefit of higher education in the world.
Bernard Hugonnier is maître de conférences at Sciences Po, former joint director of education at the OECD and co-director of the École et République du Collège des Bernardins in France. This paper benefited from comments from Stamenka Uvalic-Trumbic.
EF Education First (EF): MENA Countries Ranked for English Proficiency by Global Index of 100 Countries shows clearly that the ranking of each country has if only culturally, little to do with, as it were, its specific historical track record. The top ten middle eastern countries are as follow.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 12, 2019 / PRNewswire/ — EF Education First released the ninth annual edition of its EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), analyzing data from 2.3 million non-native English speakers in 100 countries and regions, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and other Arab countries. The Netherlands topped this year’s index, placing Sweden, last year’s top-scorer, in the second position.
In the MENA region, Bahrain scored the highest. However, the region has continued to lag behind the other regions of the world. The index has also found that in the MENA region, young adults have a somewhat similar English proficiency level as adults over 40 years of age. This suggests that English instruction in the region’s schools has not been evolving over the years. The results have also shown a great convergence in the levels of proficiency among adults in the region, with only 9 scores separating Bahrain, MENA’s best achiever, from the weakest performing country, Libya.
The EF EPI has shown a direct relationship between the average per capita income and standard of living in a country, and the average proficiency in the English language among its adults. Moreover, with exports accounting for nearly 20 per cent of world trade output, adopting English as a language of communication will further reduce costs for businesses and governments. These findings indicate the potential returns of investing in English instruction to qualify the young human capital in MENA for the major economic transformations that the region is witnessing.
In speaking about Saudi Arabia, EF Education First‘s country manager in the Kingdom, John Bernström, said: “This year’s ranking arrives as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and its National Transformation Program are in full swing to transform the Kingdom’s economy. As the country invests tremendously in the education and training of its youthful human capital, our report aims to assess how local English language proficiency fits within this frame and what are the best methods to optimize it in the future”.
The EF EPI is based on test scores from the EF Standard English Test (EF SET), the world’s first free standardized English test. The EF SET has been used worldwide by thousands of schools, companies, and governments for large-scale testing.
The EF English Proficiency Index for Schools (EF EPI-s), a companion report to the EF EPI, was also released with the index. The EF EPI-s examines the acquisition of English skills by secondary and tertiary students from 43 countries.
EF Education First is an international education company that focuses on language, academics, and cultural experience. Founded in 1965, EF’s mission is “opening the world through education.” With more than 600 schools and offices in over 50 countries, EF is the Official Language Training Partner for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
This article is part of a series on academic freedom where leading academics from around the world write on the state of free speech and inquiry in their region.
Last year I was imprisoned for nearly seven months in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I was held predominantly in solitary confinement, endured heavy interrogations, with my human rights violated on a daily basis.
During my imprisonment, I was force fed drugs, battled depression and thoughts of self-harm. Later, having endured nearly half a year of isolation and mistreatment, I wrestled with thoughts of suicide.
Eventually, in a trial lacking all due process and disregard for international legal standards, I was handed a life sentence. My crime? Undertaking academic research for my doctoral thesis.
My research examines the evolving national security strategy of the UAE, and my knowledge has evolved from years of professional work and research in the UAE and the wider Middle East and North Africa.
I had no reservations about conducting research in the UAE. And I underwent a rigorous ethical and fieldwork assessment and was sure to follow established protocols before and during my trip.
I complied with the university’s requirement to remove all Emirati research subjects as it was assessed that these nationals would not be safe nor trusted when engaging in security-related academic research. And I was happy to go along with the university and the third-party risk firm employed to assess any other risks for researchers travelling overseas. But unfortunately, as my experience proved, this was simply not enough to protect me or my integrity as an academic.
A vulnerable position
It became clear there was a lack of understanding by the Emirati authorities about what a legitimate academic is, and about how research is carried out. Standard actions needed to complete field research – such as interviewing sources, researching books, articles and maps along with taking notes – were very quickly taken out of context and distorted by the UAE security authorities. I routinely battled to explain how information cited in my thesis was referenced from publicly available academic books and not from “secret intelligence sources” as the interrogators would often claim.
Following my release, I have had the opportunity to reflect upon my experience. I have also been lucky to travel to academic institutions in the UK and US to discuss the ramifications of my experience upon academic research.
When discussing how academic fieldwork actually works, my main observation has been that beyond the academic community, there is a very limited understanding of what academic research actually consists of. As such, there is little understanding of the risks it entails.
This leaves academics engaging in fieldwork research in a particularly vulnerable position. It can even lead to a situation, like in my case, where their integrity and legitimacy as an academic is under question.
Indeed, I believe that this lack of information on academic practice exacerbated my situation. Trying to speak reason to the authorities holding me captive, and to those with the power to intervene diplomatically and politically on my behalf, went nowhere. And baseless accusations cast a shadow of doubt upon the legitimacy of my work.
Safety and security
For researchers and academics at all levels, the problem of misinformation has consequences extending to the very institutions to which they are affiliated. My experience demonstrates how bureaucracy-led universities are not equipping their students and staff with the appropriate skills and competencies needed to undertake their job in today’s world. Ultimately, effective instructions for fieldwork safety and security are lacking. Furthermore, as the technical capabilities of many states improve, there is an increased risk of deployed researchers falling victim to surveillance and unjust prosecution.
Another issue widely under-reported is that while researchers may be somewhat supported by their university, their human subjects are not. This leaves many academics, including myself, questioning whether it’s even possible or ethical to engage in fieldwork in the current age.
Having heard testimony from academics with diverse research backgrounds, it is abundantly clear that my experience was not isolated. Hundreds of scholars around the world are targeted and prosecuted for their research. Yet, while their cases are of great concern within the academic community, they continue to rest dormant in the public eye, the political arena and higher education boards.
If academics and universities are to continue to contribute to the generation of knowledge, then research practice and its risks must be acknowledged and respected. The freedom to research is paramount for knowledge creation. And if it is not protected, we risk being accomplices to those who wish to silence us.
As Yalies continue to push for greater Middle Eastern and North African representation on Yale campus, the student organization advocating for the creation of a MENA Cultural Center held a launch event Thursday.
While there are only four institutionalized cultural centers at Yale, the Middle Eastern and North African Students Association has advocated for MENA to become the fifth cultural center for the past two years. Spearheaded by members of the Arab Students Association and other cultural groups, the association is still in the midst of advocating for full-fledged cultural center status from the University. With support from the Yale College Council, the club plans to proceed in the meantime with programming similar to that of existing cultural centers.
Thursday’s MENA “Welcome Mixer” was intended to connect students and faculty who identify as Middle Eastern, as North African or who are interested in the region. The event was the club’s second official event since becoming a formally registered student organization last semester.
“[Last year], I started thinking about why a MENA house did not exist on campus to act as a [homey] umbrella for various students on campus who did not identify with the existing four institutionalized cultural centers,” MENA Co-Presidents Shady Qubaty ’20 and Yasmin Alamdeen ’21 said in a joint email to the News on Monday. “After all, breaking up the MENA region into an ‘Asian’ identifying region in the [Asian-American Cultural Center] and an ‘African’ identifying region in the [Afro-American] House disregards the social and cultural realities of Middle Eastern and North African identifying persons.”
Approximately 40 people attended the welcome mixer, including undergraduate Yale students, a student from Gateway Community College in New Haven and Jackson Institute World Fellows. They served a wide array of food, including treats from the MENA region such as baklava and grape leaves. The desserts came from Havenly, a startup bakery created by Yale students that employs refugee women in New Haven.
Qubaty and Alamdeen explained that the cultural house project first started to gain attention at the YCC Elections Debate in 2018, where Qubaty introduced the idea of a fifth cultural center to each of the candidates. They added that each candidate then incorporated the initiative into their platform, starting the YCC’s involvement in advocating for the MENA club.
According Qubaty and Alamdeen’s email, three questions related to the MENA club received a “nearly [unanimously]” positive reaction on the 2018-2019 YCC survey, motivating Qutaby and Alamdeen’s team to move forward with the project. Since then, they explained, the club has secured a base room at 305 Crown St., which is also next to the AACC and La Casa Cultural.
Qubaty and Alamdeen also emphasized that the momentum gained since receiving the official endorsement of the YCC signals that a MENA cultural center is “no longer just the demand of [their] association, but one concerning Yale’s official undergraduate student government.”
They added that this “huge step forward” has provided a YCC-based task force that has helped facilitate contact and advocacy on the prospective cultural center’s behalf.
“In addition, we have managed to garner the support of countless faculty members and are now in the process of forming an advisory board for the club consisting of Yale Alumni who are very passionate about this proposal,” the email said. “In that respect, we will have students, faculty and alumni all heading in the same direction.”
YCC President Kahlil Greene ’21 said that while MENA is “still in the process of advocacy that started last year,” the first step in establishing an official cultural center has already been achieved.
According to the email, Qubaty and Alamdeen characterized the process of achieving formal recognition as “very sticky” and one that “involves a lot of bureaucracy that is not just related to funding.”
They noted that the establishment of the other cultural houses took decades and that Yale administration has to be convinced that demand for a new cultural center is “real.” The email also explained that from there, the Administration will have to form a committee devoted to discussing its need and its feasibility “which takes time.”
Still, Qubaty and Alamdeen emphasized that formal recognition is “definitely possible” and that they “will not stop pushing” for a MENA house to be established.
Zakaria Gedi ’22, communications chair for the MENA Students Association, told the News that there is a large group of students who could be served by a MENA house and that this need applies “especially for a first-year who is trying to find their identity and make friends of similar heritage.”
Onur Burcak Belli, a Turkey-based journalist and Jackson Institute World Fellow at Yale, attended Thursday’s event and told the News that she was “really disappointed when [she] learned you don’t have a particular place to represent an area that has a lot to do with U.S. politics.”
She is proud of the students who have pushed for the establishment of the MENA Cultural Center and hopes to send a message that people living in the MENA region “are much more than victims.”
As the MENA Students Association does not currently have their own space, the Welcome Mixer took place on the first floor of the Asian-American Cultural Center.
The Middle East’s top engineering schools have been revealed.
The significance of young engineers in the oft-traditional construction industry is well known around the world, as well as in the Middle East. But which colleges and universities will produce the engineers needed to build the tourist attractions, solar parks, and transport infrastructure projects – among various others schemes – that are needed support the economic diversification plans under way in the GCC and the wider Middle East?
The UAE Ministry of Education’s Majors in Demand Study 2018, published in January 2019, revealed those who studied civil engineering were the most likely to be snapped up when entering the job market in the UAE. Read the study on the education ministry’s website here.
For young professionals seeking exciting and rewarding careers, the good news is that there is plenty of choice when it comes to studying engineering in the region. From Saudi Arabia and the UAE to Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt, every Middle Eastern country has engineering institutions to be proud of. The UAE is also the home of various international universities from Australia and the UK, which have established regional centres in the Emirates.
In the following list, Construction Week takes a look at 25 of the best universities in the Middle East offering engineering qualifications.
The Middle East’s 25 best universities to study engineering are:
The University of South Wales
American University of Science and Technology
Kafr El Sheikh University
Holy Spirit University of Kaslik
German Jordanian University
La Sagesse University
Tafila Technical University
Westford University College
Heriot Watt University Dubai Campus
Al Ain University of Science and Technology
American University in Dubai
University of Wollongong Dubai
Jordan University of Science and Technology
Misr University of Science and Technology
Lebanese International University
King Abdulaziz University Saudi Arabia
Higher College of Technology Oman
Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University
Sharjah Women’s College
Abu Dhabi Vocational Education and Training Institute
American University of Sharjah
Please note that this article is not a ranking and has been published in random order.
The University of South Wales in Dubai
The University of South Wales (USW) is the first international campus to be launched by USW. Based in Dubai South’s business district alongside Al Maktoum International Airport, the campus is ideally placed to prepare students for entry into employment.
Home to its aircraft maintenance engineering degrees, students can look forward to a learning experience that combines academic study with practical training using impressive facilities.
To help meet the skills demand in the aerospace sector, the university works in partnership with organisations to offer staff development opportunities through prior experiential learning. Employees can top-up to a recognised qualification by having some of their prior learning accredited; some of the training and development that staff have already undertaken can normally be taken into account by the university and, in many cases, count towards completion of a degree – a cost-efficient way to gain a higher education qualification.
WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America, March 27, 2019 / APO Group/ —
The Centers of Excellence will align with the current needs of Egypt’s commercial, academic, and public sectors by solving local problems
Today, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green announced a $90 million investment in three leading universities in Egypt, which will form partnerships with American universities to create Centers of Excellence in energy, water, and agriculture.
The three Centers of Excellence will establish linkages between Egyptian universities and leading counterparts in the United States, help forge relationships between Egyptian and American researchers and experts, and drive research and innovation in sectors that are key to Egypt’s future economic growth. The three partnerships will be the following:
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will partner with Ain Shams University to establish a Center of Excellence in Energy;
Cornell University in New York will partner with Cairo University to create a Center of Excellence in Agriculture; and
The American University in Cairo will partner with Alexandria University to develop a Center of Excellence in Water.
Through the establishment of the Centers of Excellence, USAID and the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, will increase the capacity of Egypt’s higher-education institutions and create linkages between research and the public and private sectors in the areas of agriculture, water, and energy. Each Center of Excellence will use applied research to drive innovation and competitiveness in the public and private sectors, strengthen Egyptian Government policy to stimulate economic growth, and contribute solutions to Egypt’s development challenges. The three Centers of Excellence are a part of the investment by the American people in Egypt’s human and economic development.
The Centers of Excellence will align with the current needs of Egypt’s commercial, academic, and public sectors by solving local problems, driving innovation, and leading to lower unemployment and improved performance in the private and public sector.
The main activities of the partnership will include the following:
Creating lasting partnerships between Egyptian public universities and U.S. universities;
Updating university curricula and teaching methods to align Egyptian university education with the needs of local industry; and
Establishing undergraduate-and graduate-level scholarships for students with high financial need; and
Implement exchange programs to foster cross-border learning.
Since 1978, the American people have invested $30 billion to further Egypt’s human and economic development based on our shared ideals and interests.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Africa Regional Media Hub.
March 12, 2019, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the
“World Wide Web”, Tim Berners-Lee’s ground-breaking invention.
In just thirty years, this flagship
application of the Internet has forever changed our lives, our habits, our way
of thinking and seeing the world. Yet, this anniversary leaves a bittersweet
taste in our mouth: the initial decentralized and open version of the Web,
which was meant to allow users to connect with each other, has gradually
evolved to a very different version, centralized in the hands of giants who
capture our data and impose their standards.
We have poured our work, our hearts and a lot
of our lives out on the internet. For better or for worse. Beyond business uses
for Big Tech, our data has become an incredible resource for malicious actors,
who use this windfall to hack, steal and threaten. Citizens, small and large
companies, governments: online predators spare no one. This initial mine of
information and knowledge has provided fertile ground for dangerous abuse: hate
speech, cyber-bullying, manipulation of information or apology for terrorism –
all of them amplified, relayed and disseminated across borders.
control: between Scylla and Charybdis
Faced with these excesses, some countries
have decided to regain control over the Web and the Internet in general: by
filtering information and communications, controlling the flow of data, using
digital instruments for the sake of sovereignty and security. The outcome of
this approach is widespread censorship and surveillance. A major threat to our
values and our vision of society, this project of “cyber-sovereignty” is also
the antithesis of the initial purpose of the Web, which was built in a spirit
of openness and emancipation. Imposing cyber-borders and permanent supervision
would be fatal to the Web.
To avoid such an outcome, many democracies have
favored laissez-faire and minimal intervention, preserving the virtuous
circle of profit and innovation. Negative externalities remain, with
self-regulation as the only barrier. But laissez-faire is no longer the
best option to foster innovation: data is monopolized by giants that have
become systemic, users’ freedom of choice is limited by vertical integration
and lack of interoperability. Ineffective competition threatens our economies’
ability to innovate.
In addition, laissez-faire means being
vulnerable to those who have chosen a more interventionist or hostile stance.
This question is particularly acute today for infrastructures: should we
continue to remain agnostic, open and to choose a solution only based on its
economic competitiveness? Or should we affirm the need to preserve our
technological sovereignty and our security?
a third way
To avoid these pitfalls, France, Europe and
all democratic countries must take control of their digital future. This age of
digital maturity involves both smart digital regulation and enhanced
Holding large actors accountable is a
legitimate and necessary first step: “with great power comes great
Platforms that relay and amplify the audience
of dangerous content must assume a stronger role in information and prevention.
The same goes for e-commerce, when consumers’ health and safety is undermined
by dangerous or counterfeit products, made available to them with one click. We
should apply the same focus on systemic players in the field of competition:
vertical integration should not hinder users’ choice of goods, services or
But for our action to be effective and leave
room for innovation, we must design a “smart regulation”. Of course, our goal
is not to impose on all digital actors an indiscriminate and disproportionate
Rather, “smart regulation” relies on
transparency, auditability and accountability of the largest players, in the
framework of a close dialogue with public authorities. With this is mind,
France has launched a six-month experiment with Facebook on
the subject of hate content, the results of which will contribute to current
and upcoming legislative work on this topic.
In the meantime, in order to maintain our
influence and promote this vision, we will need to strengthen our technological
sovereignty. In Europe, this sovereignty is already undermined by the prevalence
of American and Asian actors. As our economies and societies become
increasingly connected, the question becomes more urgent.
Investments in the most strategic disruptive
technologies, construction of an innovative normative framework for the sharing
of data of general interest: we have leverage to encourage the emergence of
reliable and effective solutions. But we will not be able to avoid protective
measures when the security of our infrastructure is likely to be endangered.
To build this sustainable digital future
together, I invite my G7 counterparts to join me in Paris on May 16th.
On the agenda, three priorities: the fight against online hate, a human-centric
artificial intelligence, and ensuring trust in our digital economy, with the
specific topics of 5G and data sharing.
Our goal? To take responsibility. Gone are
the days when we could afford to wait and see.
Our leverage? If we join our wills and
forces, our values can prevail.
have the responsibility to design a World Wide Web of Trust. It is still within
our reach, but the time has come to act.
East Africa is famously the birthplace of humankind and the location where our ancient hominin ancestors first invented sophisticated stone tools. This technology, dating back to 2.6m years ago, is then thought to have spread around Africa and the rest of the Old World later on.
But new research, published in Science, has uncovered an archaeological site in Algeria containing similar tools that may be as old as 2.44m years. The team, led by the archaeologist Mohamed Sahnouni, excavated stone tools at the site Ain Boucherit that they estimate are between 1.92m and 2.44m years old. This suggests that human ancestors spread to the region much earlier than previously thought or that the stone tool technology was simultaneously invented by earlier hominin species living outside east Africa.
The artefacts belong to the “Oldowan” – the oldest known stone tool industry. Rounded river cobbles, used as hammer stones, were used to flake other cobbles, turning them into simple cores. The flakes were then transformed into scrapers and various knives by resharpening their edges. Essentially this was a tool kit for processing animal tissue, such as marrow, bone and brain tissue, but also plant material. However, it is not known for sure which hominin species first created Oldowan tools – potentially Australopithecus or Homo habilis.
The stone tools are very similar to those of early Oldowan sites in East Africa. Bones at the site even have cut marks, where a stone tool has gouged into the bone during butchery. The cut marks may mean these hominins were actively hunting.
But we have only ever found early Oldowan tools in the east African rift valley before, more than 4,000km away. We have always assumed that it started there some 2.6m years ago, so we shouldn’t find it so far from its original home at that age unless we have missed something.
Many archaeologists do indeed suspect there is an unseen ghost somewhere in the machine. There have been discoveries of early hominin sites to the south, in Chad, that suggest that some of our earliest ancestors lived well beyond East Africa. Oldowan-like sites have also been found outside of Africa, in Georgia, beginning at 1.8m years ago – which seems surprisingly early.
The new discovery is telling us that our focus on East Africa as the birthplace of early humans is too narrow – we should be doing what Sahnouni and others have done all along and looking elsewhere. The same team recently published findings about another Oldowan site in Algeria that is about 1.75m years old, but to find early Oldowan tools well over half a million years earlier is a bit of a game changer.
It all hinges on how reliable that 2.44m-year-old date really is. Dating specialists will be scrutinising the details very carefully. According to the paper, four different techniques were used. Palaeomagnetic dating measures the direction and intensity of the Earth’s magnetic field in sediments – this is locked into rocks when they form, helping to tell us how old they are.
The team found that the upper level mapped onto a short period of normal polarity taking place between 1.77m and 1.94m years ago. The lower level’s sediments fitted into a long period of reversed direction at between 1.94m and 2.58m years ago.
To get more precise dates, the team turned to a dating technique called electron spin resonance dating, which measures radioactive decay in quartz sand grains. However, they used a less common version of the technique that was operating close to its upper limit of reliability at this age range. The measurement delivered an age of 1.92m years old, younger than suggested by paleomagnetism.
There are some concerns about how suitable this last method is but the team has been honest about that. They also compared the dates with extinction times of animals present at the site, which suggested the date wasn’t impossible.
To get a better idea of the maximum age of the tools, they used a technique for estimating the rates of sedimentation – basically how long the different layers at the site took to build up. You have to throw in some fancy statistical work though, and map it onto the palaeomagnetic results. Extrapolating backwards in time, the team calculated that the actual age of the lower level is 2.44m years old. I suspect dating specialists will be looking at this carefully.
Now to our ghost. The oldest tools ever found outside of Africa are the ones from Georgia dated to 1.8m years ago. There is a small Oldowan-like site in Pakistan from around the same time and more core-and-flake sites in east China at 1.66m years ago. If the Georgian site represents the first move out of Africa, then these early African migrants got to Pakistan and China extremely quickly.
In Georgia, the tools may have been made by early Homo erectus, which dates back to about 1.8m years ago. As there is a Homo erectus specimen from China dated to 1.6m years old, it is easy to assume that Homo erectus must have been the species that spread the tool technology around the world – and much quicker than we had thought.
But we cannot be sure of that. What if our ghost was an earlier hominin species from Africa predating Homo erectus – such as Homo habilis? Perhaps the Oldowan actually began earlier than 2.6m years ago, and was already widespread throughout Africa by 2.4m years ago.
Maybe our mysterious hominin began to migrate out from Africa before 1.8m years ago, and carried its core-and-flake industry eastwards. That would certainly give it more time to cover those huge distances. Perhaps Homo erectus only migrated eastwards out of Africa later, following in the footsteps of an earlier traveller that we know nothing about.
So that’s a lot of maybes, but then nobody expected there to be Oldowan tools in Georgia when they were first found. It caused a lot of controversy, but now most archaeologists are comfortable with the finding. The Georgian archaeologists went back, did more work and proved their case. I don’t doubt Sahnouni and his team will be doing the same.
The civilization of ancient Egypt has always been and still is indebted to the Nile River and its dependable water supply that allowed amongst all staple food crops, wheat and barley to be farmed. These are grown throughout the Delta region and all along the banks of the Nile, more recently in the newly reclaimed areas of the western desert. Egypt, the most populous country in the MENA region had for centuries, wheat as a central component of the typical diet of its inhabitants.
The country has lately not only been the largest importer of wheat but also the largest wheat consumer and bread eater per capita in the world. Hence, wheat represents almost 10% of the total value of agricultural production and about 20% of all agricultural imports. However, in 2015, domestic wheat was noticed to be declining as this was found to be less profitable by its producers due mainly to the intervention of Egypt’s government-subsidized bread program. There seem to be an increasing need to reform but at the same time for some Research and Development in all segment of wheat farming. Research on all Genetic Parameters for yield and its components in Bread Wheat would obviously be top of local academic institution’s agenda.
This article of the International Network of Natural Sciences dwells on a piece of research titled An Estimation of Genetic Parameters for yield and its components in bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) genotypes under pedigree selection as per a study of Abdel Aziz Nasr Sharaan, Kamal Hassan Ghallab, Mohamed Abdel Salam M. Eid of the Department of Agronomy, Fayoum University, Egypt and published by IJAAR on July 31, 2018.
Genetic Parameters for yield and its components in Bread Wheat
Grain yield is a complex trait and is greatly influenced by various environmental conditions. A 3-year field investigation was carried out to estimate genetic parameters for yield and its related traits of wheat under selection in reclaimed soils conditions. Three field experiments were executed at the Experimental Farm of the Faculty of Agriculture, Fayoum University at Demo (new reclaimed sandy loam soil), Fayoum Governorate, during 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015 growing seasons in randomized complete block design (RCBD) with three replications. Results revealed that mean square values were highly significant for all studied traits in all seasons of the experiments, indicating the presence of sufficient variability among the investigated genotypes and gave several opportunities for wheat improvement.
Great correspondence was observed between genotypic coefficients of variation and phenotypic coefficients of variation in every one of the traits. The coefficients of variation were high for no. fertile tillers plant-1 (NFT), grains spike-1 (GS), grains weight spike-1 (GWS), grain yield plant-1 (GYP), spikes m-2 (NSM), grain yield (GY), and harvest index (HI). In addition to, Moderate were recorded for heading date (HD) and spike length (SL) in the all seasons, and low were obtained for days to physiological maturity (DPM) in all seasons. Heritability was greater than 80% for all studied traits whereas genetic advance as a percentage of mean (GAM %) ranged from 12.22 (SS) to 77.00 (GY) in the 1st season and from 15.42 & 12.69 (DPM) to 112.07 & 68.35 (GYP) in 2nd and 3rdseasons.
English has achieved prime status by becoming the most widely spoken language in the world – if one disregards proficiency – ahead of Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. English is spoken in 101 countries, while Arabic is spoken in 60, French in 51, Chinese in 33, and Spanish in 31. From one small island, English has gone on to acquire lingua franca status in international business, worldwide diplomacy, and science.
But the success of English – or indeed any language – as a “universal” language comes with a hefty price, in terms of vulnerability. Problems arise when English is a second language to either speakers, listeners, or both. No matter how proficient they are, their own understanding of English, and their first (or “native”) language can change what they believe is being said.
When someone uses their second language, they seem to operate slightly differently than when they function in their native language. This phenomenon has been referred to as the “foreign language effect”. Research from our group has shown that native speakers of Chinese, for example, tended to take more risks in a gambling game when they received positive feedback in their native language (wins), when compared to negative feedback (losses). But this trend disappeared – that is, they became less impulsive – when the same positive feedback was given to them in English. It was as if they are more rational in their second language.
While reduced impulsiveness when dealing in a second language can be seen as a positive thing, the picture is potentially much darker when it comes to human interactions. In a second language, research has found that speakers are also likely to be less emotional and show less empathy and consideration for the emotional state of others.
For instance, we showed that Chinese-English bilinguals exposed to negative words in English unconsciously filtered out the mental impact of these words. And Polish-English bilinguals who are normally affected by sad statements in their native Polish appeared to be much less disturbed by the same statements in English.
In another recent study by our group, we found that second language use can even affect one’s inclination to believe the truth. Especially when conversations touch on culture and intimate beliefs.
Since second language speakers of English are a huge majority in the world today, native English speakers will frequently interact with non-native speakers in English, more so than any other language. And in an exchange between a native and a foreign speaker, the research suggests that the foreign speaker is more likely to be emotionally detached and can even show different moral judgements.
And there is more. While English provides a phenomenal opportunity for global communication, its prominence means that native speakers of English have low awareness of language diversity. This is a problem because there is good evidence that differences between languages go hand-in-hand with differences in conceptualisation of the world and even perception of it.
In 2009, we were able to show that native speakers of Greek, who have two words for dark blue and light blue in their language, see the contrast between light and dark blue as more salient than native speakers of English. This effect was not simply due to the different environment in which people are brought up in either, because the native speakers of English showed similar sensitivity to blue contrasts and green contrasts, the latter being very common in the UK.
On the one hand, operating in a second language is not the same as operating in a native language. But, on the other, language diversity has a big impact on perception and conceptions. This is bound to have implications on how information is accessed, how it is interpreted, and how it is used by second language speakers when they interact with others.
We can come to the conclusion that a balanced exchange of ideas, as well as consideration for others’ emotional states and beliefs, requires a proficient knowledge of each other’s native language. In other words, we need truly bilingual exchanges, in which all involved know the language of the other. So, it is just as important for English native speakers to be able to converse with others in their languages.
The US and the UK could do much more to engage in rectifying the world’s language balance, and foster mass learning of foreign languages. Unfortunately, the best way to achieve near-native foreign language proficiency is through immersion, by visiting other countries and interacting with local speakers of the language. Doing so might also have the effect of bridging some current political divides.
I note with satisfaction in this month of February 2017 that the respective Departments of Energy and Transport will be taking actions as recommended alas ten years earlier, by an audit carried out under my direction and assisted by the then leaders and managers of State Oil Company ‘SONATRACH’, independent experts and world-renowned Ernst Young consultants (1). As it is never too late for a realistic industrial policy, it is an encouraging message to all to see and appreciate.
Having been interviewed by the economic commission of the Algerian National Congress to which I presented the main conclusions, I drew the attention of the Government of the day on the urgency of a new fuel policy, and focus on the LPG, the “Bupro” for all heavy vehicles, (positive effect on the environment), the majority of cars and trucks running on diesel or gasoline including those of administration and public enterprises. History, with strong imports between 2009 / 2015 Bill gave us reason.
Here is yet again my view on the said subject.
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the National Automobile Parc (NAP) of Algeria totalled 5,683,156 vehicles as at end of 2015, an increase of 4.75% or 250,000 units if compared to year 2014.)
By category of vehicles, the NAP in 2014 is made of individual cars with 3,483,047 units (64.2% of the total), of pickups with 1,083,990 (near 20%), of trucks with 396,377 (5.4%), of farming tractors with 146,041 (2.7%), of trailers with 134,019 (2.47%), of coaches and buses with 82,376 (1.52%), motorcycles with 20,380 (0.38%) and special vehicles with 4,756 (0.1%).
The distribution of the NAP for year 2014, according to ages of vehicles showed that the number of under 5 years had reached 1,253,731 units (23.11%), from 5 to 9 years to 933,006 vehicles (17.2%), 346,788 (6.4%) of 10 to 14 years, 15-19 years with 214,287 units (3.95%), 20 and more with 2,677,746 (49,35%). This increase in the NAP was explained by the increase in registrations of new vehicles in 2015 compared to 2014 of more than 900,000 units, or 7.72%.
For 2015, the distribution by age showed that the number of under 5 years had reached 1,368,549 units, (24.08%), from 5 to 9 years 892,196 units (15.70%), 10 – 14 years of 508,815 units (8.95%), from 15 – 19 years 187,067 (3.29%) and more than 20 years 2,726,529 (47.98%).
By spatial distribution, Algiers was top with 1,496,561 units (26.33%), Blida with 311,024 (5.47%), Oran 293,156 (5.16%), Constantine with 204,843 (3.60%) and Tizi-Ouzou with 199,507 (3.51%).
As for the imported quantities, these fell 73.74% with 53,356 vehicles imported between early January and late July 2016, against 203,174 units during the same period in 2015, or 149,818 vehicles less, according to the National Center for Statistics (CNIS) of the Customs. As a reminder, vehicles import licences awarded, were in May 2016, granted to 40 dealers of 80 applicants. Initially set to 152,000 units for year 2016, the vehicles import quota was finally reduced to 83,000 units. According to the Ministry of Trade, import to 2016 Bill does not exceed a billion Dollars up from $3.14 billion in 2015 (265,523 units) and $5.7 billion in 2014 (417,913 units).
But important note regarding all parts and accessories of all motor vehicles; these are expected to increase during the coming years if the rate of integration does not exceed 40 / 50% and if all scheduled units were assembled, it would mean a return to the old import bill, since these accessories costs decreased between 2015/2016 by only 4% without these units being still operational.
For the type of fuel used, in 2014, gasoline represented 65% and the Diesel 34%, the use of LPG being marginal, less than 2% and for 2015, gasoline represented 65,67% and Diesel 34.33% so no significant change. From January to end of May 2016, certainly because of the rising prices, Normal gasoline sales declined by 2% between the same period of 2015 to 2016, that of the Super fell 11%, an increase of 2% for Diesel, consumption rose by 2% and the LPG quantities marketed during the period from January to May 2016 experienced an increase of 14%, all according to the National Society of Marketing and Distribution of petroleum products (NAFTAL); information covered by the APS.
Thus according to NAFTAL, the aggregate of sales of fuels in the first five months of the year 2016 (figures in brackets are those of the same period of 2015). These are:
So is a new model of energy consumption as I had recommended previously, see note (1) that Algeria had to change its model of energy consumption, to review its policy of subsidies which need to be targeted (as per lesson learned from a mission to Malaysia experience), to focus on the GPL and the GNW for all big carriers; the BUPRO to be reserved for all impoverished areas in the Highlands and the South because it does not require the separation of propane and butane, and thus save huge investments of refining complexes.
Because of the extrapolation of internal demand on growth, before a declining supply, the report predicted massive import of diesel and unleaded gasoline by 2010 / 2014. The report stressed the importance of an active policy of storage for a balanced and supportive space to avoid supply disruptions. Unfortunately, the recommendations have not been implemented. According to the report of the World Bank to 2014, fuel subsidies in 2014 have exceeded $20 billion, one third of the State’s annual budget, while the wealthy 10% of the population consumes more fuel than the remaining 90%.
Moreover, Algeria remains one of the few African countries that still uses leaded gasoline and by the way does partly import it. According to a report by the UN program for the environment (UNEP) published in April 2014 where the sulphur content in Algerian gas was found to be between 500 and 2000 ppm must conform to international standards by generalizing unleaded gasoline. Algeria should therefore put an end to the production of leaded gasoline and produce the two well-known types of the 90 and 95 unleaded gasoline.
For this and because it is appropriate to avoid any supply disruption that poses a threat to national security, I recall that the Minister of Energy at the time announced on April 16, 2015 before MPs that storage capacity are reduced by 7 to 10 days and that an amount of $200 million would be unlocked to make that to 30 days by 2020. This is strategic management which should take into account the specificity of each region, to deal with the consequences of a shortage that can paralyze strategic sectors.
Thus, strategic inventories, distinguishing three main complementary systems, private stocks, State stocks prevailing in the USA, Japan, Germany, France and agency (public or private) stocks, are the result of Government policies established to meet a serious break in supply, related to an international oil crisis, a strike of navigation, a political boycott, a natural disaster, or even to a lack of foresight on behalf of the management of exports of some countries.
For example, for France, it is required that oil stocks for 90 days of average daily net imports or 61 days of daily domestic consumption are available. In the majority of countries, the safety stock exceeds two months.
But the most important is to have a strategic vision. Following the official statement of the Council of Ministers of 2014; reserves of natural gas were 2700 billion m³ for traditional gas and 12 billion barrels for oil, that both with the strong domestic consumption would lead towards exhaustion by 2030. Furthermore, that the Algerian economy feeds on the hydrocarbons revenues has to be taken into account.
The evolution of prices would basically determine the purchasing power of the Algerians for inflation which is back led to the deterioration of their purchasing power. The total income must be corrected to take account of the distribution of income and consumption model, for an overall aggregate would have little meaning. Several questions need to be answered for any coherent economic policy.
-First, what will happen with the inevitable exhaustion of oil in economic terms and not in profitability of physical discoveries, on the purchasing power of the average citizen? In this case compared to the real purchasing power (housing, food, clothing including health, etc.) and with the dumbing down of the middle strata, would any purchasing power suffice to say buy a car?
-Secondly, the absence of any specialised industrial units, referring to the knowledge-based economy in order to promote integrated subcontracts, what will be the currency balance of the projected units? Especially when the majority of inputs (costlier with the slippage of the Dinar) will almost be imported and must include labour, transport, training adapted to new technologies costs.
-Thirdly, by international standards, the threshold of capacity are between 300,000 and 500,000 units per year for individual cars, about 100,000 for trucks / buses and scalable with large concentrations since 2009. Accounting costs are fixed and variable; what is the break-even point for a competitive costing if compared to international standards and the new mutations of this sector? Would producing between 1000 and 10.000 cars projects be competitive?
At what before-tax costs would Algeria produce this car and which trend will be applied when the tariff relief going to zero according to the agreement with the European Union and in this case what is the internal added value created with respect to the international price vector (balance currency taking into account depreciation and imported inputs both in hard currencies)? The hardware representing less than 20 / 30% of the total cost which like a computer, the cost is not the carcass (mechanical vision of the past), it is the software that represent 70 / 80%. And not being able to ban importation, these mini projects will they competitive in terms of cost/quality as part of the logic of international values?
-Fourthly, do we actually build a factory to make cars for a local market while the objective of the strategic management of any enterprise, would it not be either regional or global in order to ensure the financial profitability in the face of international competition and this sector is it not internationalized with sub-segments nesting at the global level?
-Fifth, the automotive industry becoming capital orientated, (digital programming eliminating all intermediate jobs) what is the number of direct and indirect jobs to be created, referring to the necessary qualification, taking into account new technologies applied to the automobile?
-Sixthly, what will be the cost and strategy of distribution networks so as to adapt to these technological changes?
-Seventh, will these cars use gasoline, Diesel, LPG, Bupro, will they be hybrid or solar. Whilst attending to the emergence of cars using new technologies, including ‘smart’ cars at horizon 2020 putting old conventional cars off the international market; in this case what will be the future of going for all these units of low capacity and using old technological methods, impossible to export in the face of fierce international competition?
In conclusion, I will never repeat enough that the engine of any development process lies in research and development, that capital money is only a means and that without a knowledge economy no project has a future.
In this twenty-first century, before a turbulent and unstable world where technological innovations are in perpetual evolution, Algeria should rethink its model of development in general and its model of energy consumption in particular; energy being at the heart of its national security, the move towards a new energy MIX would be a must.
Algeria to take only the example of transport, being similar to the majority of other economic sectors and households as a whole, will it go for solar and encourage renewable energies however delayed, and for fuels such as gasoline, Diesel, LPG, on the GNW (for all heavy vehicles), or for hybrid or solar with the technological revolution that looms upon us?
Which mode of transportation as based on the stratification of the household incomes and including all road accidents? What will be the price of these fuels and which strategy of distribution networks to adapt to these technological changes?
In fact all these objectives cannot be achieved without a strategic vision, adding that all technical models would be inefficient, were it not carried by “reformist” responsible for its social and political forces.
(1) – Reference to a study “For a new policy of fuel” – Department of Energy Algiers (8 volumes) 2006/2007 – Audit performed under the direction of Dr A. Mebtoul, Professor and International Expert
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