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Opinion & Analysis (1011)

The slowdown of the African economy – due to declining Chinese demand for raw materials, unsustainable, uneven growth and the potential Brexit fallout – calls into question the hopeful ‘Africa Rising’ narrative. What is holding back Africa’s development, and what’s being done about it? To what extent is corruption to blame, and is the continent’s 50-year development plan, Agenda 2063, up to the task of tackling it? The latest ‘Panama Papers’ revelations, released late July 2016, have implicated more African countries – 44 out of 54 countries on the continent use offshore financial structures.
When the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) was launched in 1993 by Japan in co-operation with the World Bank, the UN, and the UN Development Programme, it was the first such initiative of one country seeking to deepen its partnership with Africa. From 27-28 August, TICAD will be held for the first time in an African country. This milestone reflects the evolving nature of relations between Japan and the continent, and the more assertive and confident agency of African countries in their interactions with external powers.
On 25 October 2015, Tanzanians elected John Pombe Magufuli as their president – nicknamed "The Bulldozer" for his self-assertive, brash leadership style, and his ability to push through his agenda. His policies have a strong internal focus, including minimising his foreign travel to save costs and asking government officials to do the same. His skipping of summits, has however raised questions about Tanzania possibly missing out on important international opportunities. Ahead of a visit to Rwanda, President Magufuli said, “I don’t like travelling abroad because I am fond of saving and you can't keep pace with other nations in equal…
Three countries in southern Africa have banded together to press for the ban on international trade in ivory to be lifted. South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe have submitted a joint proposal to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). They are asking for permission to trade in ivory without which, they argue, there are no positive incentives to conserve elephants or their habitats.
The already-anxious, West-aligned states bordering Russia are receiving alarmingly mixed messages from their NATO allies. At its summit in Warsaw in July, NATO agreed to deploy a battalion of troops to each of the three Baltic states and Poland to protect them against possible Russian attack.
A telling feature of South African municipal elections is the near seamless manner in which they blend into the country’s national political narratives. Whether this involves appeals to socio-economic transformation, combatting corruption, redistributing land, party brand-loyalty or invoking the images of party leaders – whose names will not appear on ballots on 3 August – an important subtext is that these elections are speaking to something altogether ‘bigger’ than local governance and the management of service provision. Cynics might even consider these polls mere warm-ups as we approach the main tournament of national elections in 2019.
A meeting on the SADC Regional Investment Framework is taking place in Johannesburg this week, to look at, amongst other priorities, investment in regional and global value chains. These discussions will take place against the background of slowing global economic growth and a decline in commodity earnings for African countries.
The Zimbabwean state has provided some of the biggest lessons in humility for political analysts in this century. Its government, headed by the indomitable Robert Mugabe, has failed to ‘definitively fail’ despite every warning since ZANU-PF war veterans began the land invasions that prompted the first wave of crisis in that country in 2001.
The Beitbridge border between Zimbabwe and South Africa, the busiest border post in Southern Africa, has been rocked by unprecedented violent protests since June. The protests largely concern the restrictive trade measures unexpectedly introduced by the Zimbabwean government, which included banning the importation of basic commodities like body creams, baked beans and bottled water.
Africa’s infrastructure financing deficit, estimated to be $100 billion a year, remains persistently large. The resulting lack of investment in energy, transport and water infrastructure on the continent presents a significant barrier to economic growth and development.
The mineral resources minister recently gazetted an amended Mining Charter, which generated a good deal of controversy. Although the revised charter retains the principal target of achieving 26% ownership of mining companies by historically disadvantaged South Africans, it adds the requirement of retaining this level continuously. A further amendment stipulates that workers, through the establishment of employee share ownership plans (Esops), are to be allocated a minimum stake of 5% that counts towards the 26% total black economic empowerment (BEE) equity.
Nearly nine months ago the third India-Africa Forum Summit, and the first that included all African states, was held with much fanfare in Delhi. There, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a range of measures, including extending lines of credit to African nations of up to $10 billion over the next five years, additional grant assistance of $600 million, and a commitment to help train more African peacekeepers in Africa and India.
The drought that has hammered Southern Africa over the past years is a potent reminder (if ever it was needed) of the foundational importance of agriculture to the continent’s fortunes. Agriculture remains a mainstay of Africa’s economy, accounting for around a third of GDP and two thirds of employment.
What many political and financial analysts viewed until a day before the British referendum on a European exit as scaremongering has come to be. The 72% voter turnout resulted in a 51.9% vote to leave the EU and a 48.1% vote in favour of remaining. While it essentially signals a split down the middle of UK voters, a closer look at the results reveals that the majority of voters in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the city of London supported the ‘remain’ vote, while the rest of England and Wales with a few small exceptions voted in favour of ‘leave’.
Who would have thought that the Brexit debate’s rising emotions would have reached their apogee in a horrific killing in the streets of a West Yorkshire town a week before the referendum that will determine the economic and global trajectory of Britain? The stakes are high, but it is equally clear that for all the expert opinions on the foolishness of an exit, many people may well vote with their hearts this Thursday, driven by a rhetoric that plays to bygone days of unmitigated national sovereignty and an imperial Britain that ‘ruled the waves’ and was at the centre of…
With eight countries already going to the polls and seven more planning to do so before December, 2016 has been a busy year for elections in Africa. At the halfway point of the year, what can be concluded about democratic processes across the continent? And what can be expected from the coming months?
African countries seem to be forever undergoing assessments and evaluations. Many stem from the governments of international development partners who have poured money into a plethora of projects, programmes and plans, and want to know what has worked and why. Others are commissioned by international organisations such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund that have likewise invested in development or infrastructure initiatives. Credit rating agencies also put African state’s political economies under their microscopes to pronounce on the investment climate.
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Turkey is the state with the most refugees worldwide, hosting three million refugees from Syria alone. It was therefore apt that Istanbul hosted the first ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) from 23 to 24 May 2016, building on Turkey’s humanitarian policy.
The 2016 US presidential elections are just around the corner, and the world has been watching closely as this year’s particularly colourful and controversial campaigns have unfolded. Last week, when South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Nkoana Maite-Mashabane, was asked about her position on the US elections, she responded that she does not really care who wins. This begs the question: can Africa’s most sophisticated economy afford to ignore the US elections?
In early May, the governments of Zimbabwe and Namibia took the unusual step of petitioning the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) to remove their elephants from CITES protection, which currently prohibits them from selling elephant ivory. Arguing that the international ban – imposed in 1989 - of selling ivory has been a costly and unsuccessful 26-year ‘experiment’, officials from the two Southern African countries are trying to make a case for releasing their ivory stockpiles onto the global market and thereby turn a profit.
The ‘Land Question’. From legislation under consideration – such as the new Expropriation Bill – to a reopened land claims process, to violent evictions in Hammanskraal, to emotive rhetoric around current landholding patterns, the politics of land is shaking South Africa. In this, South Africa is not unique.
Nearly 26 years after he was forced out of power, former Chadian president Hissène Habré has been found guilty of crimes against humanity, torture (including sexual violence) and crimes of war committed under his rule from 1982 to 1990. He has been condemned to life imprisonment by the judges of the Extraordinary African Chambers (EACs), a court specially created by Senegal upon the request of the African Union (AU). This was the first trial of its kind on the continent and years of lobbying were necessary to convince the AU and Senegal to proceed with it. In pushing Africa to…
If Dickens were observing South Africa’s mining sector, in the context of an economy that is growing at less than one percent a year, and a political landscape fractured by state capture and ratings downgrade threats, he may have started his famous novel with the line, ‘It was the worst of times’, and left it at that. Mining production has declined 18% year-on-year to May and job losses are growing.
‘I dream of the realisation of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their effort to solve the problems of this continent.’ - Nelson Mandela
The 2016 International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) will be commemorated on the 22nd of May with the theme of ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity: Sustaining People and their Livelihoods’. In December this year, this same theme will form the basis of discussion of the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP13) in Cancun, Mexico. These events provide a unique opportunity for African governments to explore strategies of halting the degradation of ecosystems while at the same time promoting inclusive socioeconomic development. 
Looking back at the events of Europe’s migrant and refugee crisis in 2015, it is tempting to quote Dickens: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’. Last summer, as large numbers of refugees, the majority fleeing Syria’s civil war, began to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek islands nestling near its shores, the European Union (EU) woke up to a refugee crisis on its own soil. The EU’s response, collectively and – more frequently – individually, was panicked, improvised and uncoordinated, driven by a mix of compassion and hostility.
Kenya destroyed its entire stockpile of elephant ivory; over 100 tonnes of ‘white gold’ went up in smoke on Saturday, 30 April 2016. This stock consists of both illegally harvested ivory (confiscated from poachers or traders) and naturally accruing ivory (from natural mortality). In China - where the majority of the world’s ivory is currently either consumed or stockpiled - the recently reported price of ivory is USD$1,100/kg, and the average weight of a pair of elephant tusks is around 7kg. This means that the final value - at point of consumption - of one pair of elephant tusks is worth roughly…
Unless good governance is demanded by citizens, it will not be consistently supplied by authorities. For Africa, the nature of the relationship between governments and ordinary people, known as the social contract, has proven to be an enduring challenge in the post-independence period. Revolutionary technological advances over the past decade provide new opportunities for establishing deeper links between citizens and state institutions. Can they help Africans on their quest for better governance?
The UN 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seek to provide a holistic and integrated approach to ending global poverty and hunger by the end of 2030. In order to realistically achieve these goals the global community needs to interrogate and address some deeply structural issues such as common but differentiated responsibilities; non-inclusive growth and poverty; poor governance; unsustainable patterns of consumption and production; unmaintainable population growth; and the management of the natural resource base for future social development. This also requires the acceptance that global goals, of whatever type, are only likely to gain support if they address existing political-economic…
On 22 April, the Paris climate agreement will be officially opened for signature at a special ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York. This represents a key opportunity for Africa to do a first reality-check on climate actions.