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Opinion & Analysis (1033)

Eight years ago the American people voted for “Yes, we can”, Barack Obama’s politics of hope. Eight years ago many across the world were celebrating the election of the first African-American president and the new politics that it might bring. But over the last eight years we have seen a rise in political extremes both in the US and across Europe.
It is common knowledge that SMEs make a significant contribution to their countries’ economies, but they often operate in a kind of twilight zone — seen and acknowledged, but not properly understood or catered for at the policy level.The 2016 WTO Public Forum staged at the end of September in Geneva with the theme of ‘Inclusive trade’ lifted the lid on the hurdles that SMEs face in trying to turn entrepreneurial ideas into viable businesses. However, the services sector offers new hope to small businesses in LDCs (least-developed countries) where weak manufacturing potential is a constraint to further development.
At long last, the most bruising and sometimes farcical election in recent US history has come to a close. What seemed unthinkable to many just a year ago has happened and Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. While markets have slumped in response, one thing is certain: nearly half of the US population is now faced with a president that they resolutely view as unfit to lead.
Nearly 200 countries will convene in Marrakesh, Morocco today to advance progress made on the Paris Agreement on climate change. Signed by 197 countries last December, the Paris Agreement sets out the global expectations for dramatically reducing carbon emissions. The Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016, signalling a true global effort to tackle the climate challenge.
As Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan presents the mid-term budget this week, one notable absence from his usual team will be second-in-command at the South African Revenue Service, Mr Jonas Makwakwa. His recent suspension has highlighted the importance of amending the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) of 2001. Mr Makwakwa was suspended after an extensive investigation by the Centre revealed a series of transactions which are inconsistent with a permanently-employed person.
A farmer is weeding his fields by hand deep in rural Tanzania – it seems a timeless scene, far removed from the high-tech, interconnected world of today. Yet the weather forecasts that the farmer used to time his planting, the inexpensive mobile phone that he uses to check market prices before harvesting, and possibly even the potential to receive government assistance should his region be struck by drought all depend, in some or other way, on space technology.
South Africans woke up on the morning of 21 October 2016 to the shocking announcement that the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana Mashabane, had submitted an instrument of withdrawal from the Rome Statute to the UN Secretary General in New York, two days before. This notification signals South Africa’s intention to withdraw from the Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a year’s time.
In the run-up to this year’s presidential elections in the US, SAIIA’s experts will be providing weekly updates on the key developments, with a view to how the issues at stake might affect South Africa and Africa.
The commanding position that the BRICS economies once held in the post-global financial crises era legitimised their claims for more equitable global governance institutions. Equally, they believed that the development challenges they shared could be addressed through a collective voice in international forums on the back of their strong economic performances.
With 27,000 African savannah elephants a year illegally killed for their ivory, the species is in peril. Now international action at CITES and the closure of domestic ivory markets are attacking the ivory trade at both ends. But we must also give our full support to 'elephant neighbour' communities.
Declining safety and deterioration in the rule of law are holding back progress in governance in Africa. This is according to the latest Ibrahim Index of African Governance.
South Africa has contributed billions of Rands in developmental assistance to the DRC. Yet according to traditional definitions of aid, these contributions do not count. In a new article published by the Mail and Guardian, SAIIA's Carmel Rawhani investigates the controversies around defining aid and why South Africa's contributions may actually surpass those of more wealthy ‘Western’ donors.
The upcoming 2016 World Food Prize will honour contributions in the field of biofortification. With almost one person in four being undernourished in Africa, what do recent experiences tell us about the role that biofortified foods can play in ensuring nutritious and safe food for the continent?
A crucial international wildlife meeting is currently taking place in South Africa. But can these kinds of high-level conferences translate into local actions to protect endangered wildlife such the African elephant? In an article for The Mercury, SAIIA Senior Researcher Yu-Shan Wu discusses the findings of her latest research into the matter.
Partnerships between government and civil society organisations (CSOs) can be volatile if not adequately nurtured, leading to mutual suspicion and questioning each other’s agendas. CSOs in South Africa have recently expressed dissatisfaction about the lack of consultation and implementation of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). This is a voluntary international initiative where government and CSOs work together to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. The OGP will reflect on its first five years in New York on 21-22 September 2016 and the stakes are high for South Africa to lead by example and…
This week the United States (US) hosted African nations for the annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum under the theme: ‘Maximising AGOA now while preparing for the future beyond AGOA'. AGOA, a unilateral development programme offering African countries duty free access for select exports to the US, is set to expire in 2025.
Dozens of wildlife species are endangered, pushed ever closer to extinction by habitat loss and illegal trade. This is an important and disquieting element of the so-called Anthropocene, the proposed geological epoch to describe the current period, in which the earth and its complex systems have been fundamentally shaped by human activity. The illegal wildlife trade, which has been estimated at $7 billion to $23 billion a year, is the world’s fourth-largest form of transnational organized crime.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international regulatory treaty between 182 member states. It was formed in 1973 and regulates the international trade in over 35,000 wild species of plants and animals.
The 11th G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, China closed earlier this week, focusing on the 'New' Industrial Revolution and technological changes, such as big data, robotics, and cloud computing. Innovation has been China’s key area of interest throughout their G-20 Presidency, dedicating many discussions to how new industries could invigorate the global economy.
The international investment landscape has been shifting over the past two decades. Governments are increasingly realising the potential for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to achieve not only economic growth, but developmental objectives as well.
The African Peer Review Mechanism – the continent’s home-grown governance assessment and promotion tool – seems to be slowly turning its fortunes around. On 6-7 September, it will hold a workshop in Sandton discussing how to implement its first ever five year strategy for 2016-2020.
As the full extent of the potential for the world to enter into a Great Depression became clearer in 2008, the G20 Finance meeting was elevated to a Leaders 20, a point that had for some years been advocated by former Canadian prime minister, Paul Martin, among others. Its convening confirmed what many had known for some time – that the G7 was no longer able to manage global crises on its own. The G20 represented most of the systemically important economies whose cooperation and coordination were essential to avert a Great Depression.
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.