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The Fiat Split: Sergio Marchionne’s Global Vision

The markets react well to the Fiat CEO's decision to separate the core auto business from farm and truck sectors, a vote of confidence for Marchionne's vision that could have reverberations for all of Italian industry

Sergio Marchionne (flickr)

By Giuseppe Berta

IL SOLE 24 ORE/Worldcrunch

The split of Fiat's core auto business from its farm machinery and truck units marks a fundamental transformation destined to have an impact across the entire landscape of Italian industry.

By splitting the two operations, Fiat has abandoned for good its 20th century structure, a model that was marked by aggregating non-homogenous businesses. This model had characterized Fiat's development and expansion, turning it into the formidable force that merged economic capability, political power and social influence that generations of Italians have come to know well.

That model was also linked to a family-based ownership, that of the Agnellis. For all of the past century, to say Fiat meant to evoke not just a car company, but a more complex entity with a strong presence across Italian society, one that was capable of exercising a persuasive and adaptable public role.

This extraordinary story, which marked the history of 20th century Italy, has come to an end with the separate listings on the Milan stock exchange that began with Monday's trading, as noted by the architect of the split, Sergio Marchionne, Fiat's CEO.

(Fiat auto and Fiat Industrial, which includes Iveco trucks and CNH Global farm equipment, each performed well as they began trading separately Monday in Milan, an initial approval of the strategy of Marchionne, the Italian-Canadian CEO who has been revamping Fiat. The Turin-based company already owns 20 percent of Chrysler and the split is seen as clearing the way for Fiat to increase its stake in the U.S. automaker. Marchionne attended Monday's session at the Milan Stock Exchange, underscoring the event's significance. He said it was "possible" that Fiat increase its stake in Chrysler to more than 50 percent if the American automaker is listed this year.)

The new chapter has yet to be written

By no coincidence, the man behind the split is also the one who, since taking over the company at a time of deep crisis in 2004, has taken advantage of a governance no longer overshadowed by the charismatic presence of Giovanni Agnelli. The late patriarch's strong personality had blurred the lines between ownership and management. But Marchionne acted in a period when these lines were more clear, and the separation between ownership and the management entrusted by it was again established.

Since then, Marchionne has followed a clear path and acted with autonomy. It's the same level of freedom also enjoyed by Alan Mulally, the manager who has revamped Ford's fortunes, making it the only Detroit-based car company to regain significant market share without state aid.

The spin-off was part of Marchionne's strategy. If the goal is to maximize performance of each specific unit amid global competition, then it makes sense to provide each unit with the freedom of movement necessary to develop individually. Fiat Auto has paved the way with its alliance with Chrysler. Now the other sectors must follow suit and show they can move with the same degree of autonomy in order to grow on a global scale.

This strategy inevitably projects Fiat onto the whole world. It is worth noting that the last thing Marchionne did in 2010 was to open a new car-production plant in Brazil.

From now on, the scene where both Fiat units need to act is a global one. It is a grave error to keep separating what happens within Italian borders from what happens outside of them, as many still do in this country. It is now necessary to see things from another perspective, for example assessing the European and American car markets together, because they are bound to interact with and affect one another.

Marchionne is also doing away with an anomaly that had always made Fiat exceptional: the fact that it was not just an economic subject but very much a political one, too. His bet will be won or lost in the global marketplace, no longer dependant on negotiations with domestic political powers and labor confederations.

Those who today are lamenting the difficulties that this country will be forced to face as a result of this strategy forget that, in the long term, Italy can only benefit from a clear distinction between politics and business.

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Why Is Homophobia In Africa So Widespread?

Uganda's new law that calls for life imprisonment for gay sex is part of a wider crackdown against LGBTQ+ rights that is particularly harsh on the African continent.

Photo of LGBTQ Ugandan group

LGBTQ group in Uganda

Pierre Haski

Welcome to Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on the latest on everything LGBTQ+ — from all corners of the planet. This week we also unpack Uganda's new anti-LGBTQ+ law and what it tells us about the African continent. But first the latest news...

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

TW: This content may address topics and include references to violence that some may find distressing.

🌐 5 things to know right now

• Uganda’s new anti-homosexuality law bans identification as LGBTQ+: Uganda’s government has passed an anti-gay piece of legislation that criminalizes individuals identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community and imposes heavy penalties against same-sex relationships. Supporters of the law said it is aimed at punishing LGBTQ+ activities that threaten the country’s traditional values and religious character.

• Arkansas restricts transgender students' bathroom use: The state of Arkansas in the U.S. has enacted a law that targets the transgender community by prohibiting trans people from using school bathrooms that match their gender identity. The bill was signed by Republican governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders and “applies to multi-person restrooms and locker rooms at public schools and charter schools serving prekindergarten through grade 12.” Sanders plans on enacting several laws in the future designed to “protect and educate kids” instead of “indoctrinating them with the left’s woke agenda,” according to Alexa Henning, one of Sanders’ spokespersons.

• Italy orders cities to stop recognizing children of same-sex couples: Hundreds of protesters took over the streets of Milan over the weekend for the “Hands Off Our Sons and Daughters'' demonstration organized by LGBTQ+ rights groups, after the country’s right wing government led by Giorgia Meloni recently severely restricted same-sex parents’ rights. The city of Milan received direct orders to stop registering the children of same-sex couples from Italy’s Interior Ministry. The city had been one of the few in Italy to recognize same-sex parents.

→ To dig deeper into this story, read this piece from Italian daily La Stampa, published exclusively in English on Worldcrunch.

• UFC fighter publicly comes out as bi after being outed: UFC fighter Jeff Molina publicly came out as bisexual on Friday after an alleged sex video online outed him. The MMA world has praised his announcement and showed support to the martial artist, who began his statement by acknowledging the harrowing circumstances under which he was forced to come out: “Not the way I wanted to do this but the chance to do it when I was ready was taken from me,” he wrote.

• Grindr joins a major public health push to distribute free at-home HIV tests: Grindr, the most famous gay dating app in the world, will contribute to distributing 1 million free HIV test kits nationally in a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The effort was initiated in response to a decline in the number of HIV tests administered nationwide, and will enable the platform’s 12 million monthly active users to test themselves “on their own terms”. Users will benefit from this service through a “Free HIV Home Test” button in the app’s main menu.

Why Is Homophobia In Africa So Widespread?

Uganda's new law that calls for life imprisonment for gay sex is part of a wider crackdown against LGBTQ+ rights that is particularly harsh on the African continent.-Analysis-

Uganda has just passed a law that allows for life imprisonment for same-sex sexual relations, punishing even the "promotion" of homosexuality. Under the authoritarian regime of Yoweri Museveni for the past 37 years, Uganda has certainly gone above and beyond existing anti-gay legislation inherited from British colonization.

But the country of 46 million is not alone, as a wider crackdown against LGBTQ+ rights continues to spread as part of a wider homophobic climate across Africa.

There is exactly one country on the continent, South Africa, legalized same-sex marriage in 2006, and another southern African state, Botswana, lifted the ban on homosexuality in 2019. But in total, more than half of the 54 African states have more or less repressive laws providing for prison sentences.

Even in countries where it is not prohibited by law, homosexuality remains a taboo, and LGBTQ+ people are in permanent danger.

Non-Western roots

There is a misunderstanding on the African continent: many consider homosexuality to be an imported phenomenon from the West. This is historically absurd and even contradictory — colonial legislation, especially British and Portuguese, was very severe for homosexuals.

But this idea of importation has spread with the fight against AIDS and the preventive and educational action of many Western NGOs or those benefiting from Western funding. Paradoxically, it is often in the name of conservative Christianity, a religion that came from Europe, that condemnation of homosexuality is made. The Anglican Church in Uganda voted to break away from the Church of England when it showed tolerance towards LGBTQ+ people.

The homosexual question has taken on a political dimension by being part of a rejection of Westernization, perceived as a liberalization of morals as much as an economic and ideological domination.

Neo-colonial overtones?

This is therefore a much broader issue, especially considering that Putin's Russia, in its rejection of the West, never fails to include same-sex marriage and what it calls moral depravity. And it uses this argument in its propaganda campaigns, whether open or indirect, in Africa. It makes homophobia a societal, and even civilizational, marker to discredit a West presented as decadent.

The international debate on LGBTQ rights is complex.

This makes the international debate on LGBTQ rights complex. It is not enough to point an accusing finger at African countries that repress homosexuality to advance their rights. It can, in fact, do more harm than good.

Remember the controversy last year around Senegalese footballer Idrissa Gana Gueye of Paris Saint-Germain, who refused to wear a rainbow-colored jersey? It is easy to condemn him from the comfort of liberal Europe.

How do we defend LGBT+ rights without falling into the trap of a counterproductive North-South divide or a moral judgment with neo-colonial overtones? It is difficult, however, to turn a blind eye when laws as repressive as Uganda's trample undeniable human rights.

This is one of the most difficult questions in the Europe-Africa relationship.

— Pierre Haski / France Inter

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