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Opinion & Analysis (1033)

  Sunday 23 April saw French citizens vote in the first stage of their presidential elections, with a second run-off stage for the two lead candidates Emmanuel Macron (of En Marche!) and Marine Le Pen (of the National Front) on 7 May. While Macron won a majority of the vote (65.8%) in the second round, the pertinent conversation to be had is not one of victories and losses, but one of opinions rather than outcomes – opinions that veer strongly towards the favourite new buzzword in politics: populism.
When it comes to the economic reputation of a country are credit rating agencies (CRAs) part of the problem or part of the solution? This question has received increasing focus since the 2008 financial crisis, particularly in light of the impact these agencies’ ratings can have on already vulnerable countries by affecting their ability to access capital markets and, importantly, foreign direct investment.
'Our transformation will be built through economic participation, partnerships and mobilisation of all our capacities.' said ex-Minister Pravin Gordhan, during his 2017/18 budget speech. At the heart of Gordhan’s proposed strategies to further inclusive economic development, with the help of the private sector, lies the potential of South Africa’s cities to stop dividing people and instead act as the agents of transformative economic growth. It is here, in cities, that South Africa has the opportunity to break the patterns that have led to its current inequalities, by, for example, rethinking urban planning to address unemployment, economic exclusion and marginalisation. But…
With the passing of struggle stalwart Ahmed “Uncle Kathy” Kathrada this week, we are freshly reminded of his legacy in the anti-apartheid movement as well as that of other struggle heroes who fought for freedom. Among them are ANC President Oliver Reginald Tambo and Steve Bantu Biko, the liberation activist murdered by security police 40 years ago, both of whom were commemorated on human rights day last month.
On 3 April the sword that had been dangling over our heads for the last two years finally came down – South Africa was downgraded by S&P Global to sub-investment grade with a negative outlook. But we may be in ‘good’ company. We have joined both Brazil and Russia in the junk status club. However, our rand-denominated debt is still two notches above sub-investment level, albeit with a negative outlook. As most of our debt is rand-rather than dollar-denominated this is a silver lining.
In a midnight press-release, President Zuma announced the results of his latest cabinet reshuffle, that predictably included the sacking of the country’s revered Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan.
Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, argues that the single most important challenge facing humanity today is how to understand and shape the new technology revolution. What exactly is this revolution, and why does it matter, especially for Africa?
A prominent thread in the conversation about Africa’s development since the end of the Cold War has been the need for good governance. The continent’s resource and economic constraints have posed serious problems but a consensus has emerged that Africa’s success would hinge on getting its policies, institutions and public administration in order. This need for good governance was underscored by the tide of democratisation in the 1990s.
Today’s global political landscape is characterised by a number of disruptions to the status quo. A challenge to democracy revealed itself in the form of populism, as the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s win attested. The threat of climate change, violent extremism and mass migration continues to shake Africa. In the midst of these developments, the 28th African Union (AU) Summit, held in Addis Ababa last month, on 30-31 January 2017, was markedly different to previous meetings.
If the first two months are anything to go by, 2017 will be an unusual year for Africa as two of its largest trading partners – China and America – are undergoing major political and economic transitions.
This year's African Union (AU) January summit, appropriately themed around the potential of the continent’s youth, sought to position the continental body to meet the challenges of the coming decades – an era during which the continent, having fallen behind its global peers, is pursuing a decisive developmental breakthrough.
‘Grandpa, it’s enough.’ Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters party in South Africa, has called for President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe to step down and not ‘overstay his welcome’. At 92, Mugabe is the oldest president in the world, bearing ironic comparisons to the gods of Ancient Greece. Like Zeus, who refused to share power with his siblings, Mugabe is unlikely to step down anytime soon.
So much has been said about Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s term as Chairperson of the African Union Commission already, that regardless where one sits in estimation of her, good or bad, she certainly shook things up! Not only was she the first female AUC chair, but in a complete break with tradition, she was also the first South African. The furore surrounding her election continued throughout her tenure as her brash style proved difficult for many African diplomats to swallow.
How drastically the world has changed since this time last year. The cumulative odds on a Trump electoral win and a ‘yes’ to the Brexit referendum were 20 to 1. This shows how poor we are at predicting events, Black Swan events especially. Nonetheless, fund managers are tasked with interpreting data and predicting future trends to allocate clients’ capital efficiently. With the 2017 ‘Investing in African Mining Indaba’ how should they be thinking?
After his inauguration on Friday, Donald Trump is now the 45th president of the United States. His decidedly short inauguration speech evoked his central narrative of populism and domestic focus, with very little foray into policy detail.
Before fleeing over the weekend, President Yahya Jammeh plunged his country into a political crisis whose outcome will resonate far beyond Gambia’s borders. Having conceded victory to opposition candidate Adama Barrow after the 1 December election, Jammeh reversed himself a week later.
South Africa has variously styled itself as a ‘bridge’ between the North, the global South and Africa as well as a ‘gateway’ into the continent. It also sees itself as a spokesperson for Africa, given its membership of the alliance of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa BRICS and the G20.
Just at the time that the world signed a landmark development compact – the 2030 Agenda – and climate change agreement, the slogan ‘Take our country back’ or ‘Make America great again’ became the clarion anti-establishment call in parts of Europe and the US. The liberal international order, especially of the last 25 years, is considered by many analysts to be under threat and Germany is regarded by some as a bastion against its decline.
Just ten days into his tenure as United Nations’ Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres chose his first formal address to the UN to be about the importance of conflict prevention and sustaining peace. At a UN debate sponsored by the government of Sweden on 10 January, the new SG said, ‘Prevention is not just a priority, but the priority.’
There is an increasing global demand for food, water and energy. All three are inter-linked, a fact that has increasingly become the focus of attention for policy makers and governments.
China has published a notice that the processing and sale of ivory and ivory products 'will be stopped by December 31, 2017.' Following a decision taken at the latest Convention on International Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference to end all domestic trade in ivory, China has duly made a credible commitment to this end.
On December 15 2015, President Jacob Zuma assented to the controversial Protection of Investment Act when much of the South African public was on a festive holiday break. This piece of legislation is meant to replace the bilateral investment treaties that SA terminated in 2012, resulting in consternation and outcry from the international investment community based in the country.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development estimates that between USD$ 1.6 trillion and USD$ 2.5 trillion is required annually for the period 2015–2030 to bridge the infrastructure-financing gap in developing countries. Some estimates indicate that sub-Saharan Africa alone requires up to USD$ 93 billion annually until 2020 to finance its infrastructure deficit. Multilateral development banks (MDBs) such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank go a long way towards addressing these challenges.
Last year the world embarked on a new set of Sustainable Development Goals that should guide international development efforts until 2030. In tandem, the OECD club of donors have been developing a new statistic to measure their contribution towards these goals.
It is expected that temperatures in Southern Africa will rise to between 1.5°C and 3°C due to climate change by the year 2050. This is likely to cause heavy fluctuations of weather patterns and more frequent severe weather events like droughts and floods. Agriculture will be severely affected.
Lesotho is facing challenges in financing its Queen Mamohato Hospital which costs USD$67 million a year and represents half of the country’s meagre health budget.
Ratings agencies will again this week consider South Africa’s sovereign credit rating. Ratings agencies have indicated that South Africa’s economic growth needs to be at least 1%, up from the current rate of between 0.5 – 0.9%, in order to off a downgrade to ‘junk’ status. Last month, Minister Pravin Gordhan made some bold claims about infrastructure spending in his mid-term budget speech.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is expected to go to the polls to elect a new leader to succeed President Joseph Kabila, whose mandate expires on 19 December. This should have happened towards the end of November but the DRC’s constitutional court recently approved a request by the electoral commission for a postponement. It is now widely expected that polling will take place in 2018.
The 2016 elections of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were scheduled for mid-September this year, and then postponed to 27 November. But the country is still nowhere near being ready to conduct a legitimate vote, and tensions there are reaching critical levels. What should South Africa be doing to help? 'Help'. That was the one-word message I received from my contact in the DRC. It was enough to tell me everything I needed to know.
Tanzania’s current legal framework has failed to address women’s rights and gender equality due to the prolonged and continued existence of forced child marriages, killings of elderly women, female genital mutilation and limited access to reproductive health services. Is the proposed new constitution likely to do a better job at protecting and promoting women’s rights in Tanzania?