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Opinion & Analysis (1028)

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.
The Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) process – to prevent non-state actors, particularly terrorists, from acquiring nuclear material – was launched with fanfare in 2010 by US President Barack Obama with a single ambitious objective ’to secure all vulnerable nuclear material in four years‘. Six years and four summits later – the last of which concluded this month in Washington DC – this aim has not been achieved, despite substantial progress being made towards the target.
Speaking in February at the annual council meeting of the South African Institute of International Affairs, I expressed my fear that the constitutional compact of the last 20 years seemed dull and rudderless today, and that our constitutional democracy was increasingly being undermined by corruption and lack of political accountability.
Human Rights Day celebrates a precious proposition: each individual is a full member of society, with entitlements to opinion and behaviour that cannot be denied. It speaks directly to the ideal of human and civic freedom. For many people in South Africa and the continent at large, this is intimately linked to conceptions of democracy.
President Jacob Zuma, accompanied by seven members of his executive and a dozen business leaders, undertook a high profile and widely commented state visit to Nigeria earlier this month. The visit, the first for President Zuma since President Muhamadu Buhari took power in peaceful and democratic elections in 2015, had been highly anticipated.
Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Unhappy South Africans

The World Happiness Index 2016 was released in Rome this week, ahead of World Happiness Day, which took place on 20 March - a day before South Africans celebrated their hard-won Human Rights Day.  
The US Congress passed the African Growth and Opportunity (AGOA) Act into law in 2000 in order to promote US and African trade relations and contribute to economic development on the African continent through export-led growth. AGOA and the US – African trade relationship has been placed under the spotlight in recent months, particularly with regards to the extension of the Act towards September 2015 and around South Africa’s continued benefits under the programme (as the largest AGOA beneficiary). 
On 9 March, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) turns 13. ‘APRM Day’ commemorates the formal launch of Africa’s innovative governance monitoring and assessment tool in Abuja, Nigeria in 2003.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has just presented his first Budget Speech since being reappointed following the unceremonious firing of Minister Nene. The speech follows on the presentation of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Jacob Zuma on 11 February 2016. Both speeches marked watershed moments in South Africa’s history as the economy faces some of its worst challenges in post-apartheid history.
Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni has extended his 30-year rule of Uganda by at least another five years as a result of his definitive first round electoral victory over his closest rival, Kizza Besigye, who once served as his medical doctor during the bush war against Idi Amin. Besigye has lost the last three elections to Museveni and in 2011 petitioned the Supreme Court, alleging that the results of the elections were rigged. Museveni’s victory was widely anticipated by most political observers inside and outside the country. These are the undisputed facts of the 2016 elections.
The single most significant thing that President Zuma acknowledged in his ‘State of the Nation Address’ last week was the risk of a credit rating downgrade for South Africa:
South Africans will remember the second and last business weeks of December 2015 for a long time to come because that particular period was characterised by almost unprecedented drama within South Africa's governance structures, as Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was sacked.
The Mining Indaba, hosted annually in Cape Town, has arrived. However, the outlook for commodity prices is arguably the worst it has been since 2008, and China’s bumpy economic landing is not helping.
On 29 January 2016, a group of Africa’s Heads of State and Government met in Addis Ababa to determine the fate of one of the AU’s most daring initiatives. At stake was the future relevance of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).