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Opinion & Analysis (1033)

South Africa is a country of contradictions. Depending on one's circles and political or moral convictions one always gets something fascinating. If it's not Nkandla, its Ramaphosa flying on a Gupta plane.
South Africa has seldom approached Heritage Day with a more fractured sense of what constitutes our heritage and what should be celebrated. Angry exchanges over the character of our universities, language policy, public memorials and so on have exposed the divides that run through our society and have even called into question whether we are one nation.
The next chapter of the global development agenda - the Sustainable Development Goals - will shift the global focus and debate around health systems.
That the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been in the grip of a systemic crisis since 2008 is well known. Notwithstanding relatively minor successes at the Bali Ministerial in December 2013, the WTO’s negotiating function remains effectively stalled. The Nairobi Ministerial, set to take place in December 2015, is not likely to yield systemic solutions, notably to break the Doha Round impasse.
Today, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) will convene for the 70th time since its inception in 1945, at the UN headquarters in New York. UNGA takes place every year and is one of the few times during which heads of state from all over the world attend to discuss matters of global import.
The sudden cancellation of an Extraordinary Summit on the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) raises serious concerns about the future of this important home-grown African governance and accountability tool. Nairobi was scheduled to host the APRM Forum of Heads of State and Government on 10-11 September 2015.
In the midst of a global commodity price bust and a rapid Chinese economic slowdown, South African mining companies are struggling to keep shafts operational. Exacerbating this difficulty is a generally strained relationship between mining firms and the government over mineral rights.
For the outside visitor, whether first-timer or a more regular one, urban China repeatedly produces the same effect: surprise, then fascination, often followed by disbelief. From sizeable motorways packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic, to cranes populating the skyline with innumerable iterations of high-rise buildings, its cities are a direct reflection of China’s rapid (and on-going) development path. Large metropolises such as Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou are not only engines of growth but also seen as showpieces of modernity where processes of destruction and construction are simultaneously underway.
If tabloid headlines are anything to go by, the United Kingdom is fighting off the greatest invasion force threatening the island since the Blitz. The invaders this time are migrants and asylum seekers sneaking a ride on lorries, trains and ferries to get across – or underneath – the English Channel.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) between the member states of three African regional economic communities – SADC, EAC, and COMESA – has been heralded as one of the most important developments in African regional integration.
Heads of State and Governments of the member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will be meeting this week in Gaborone, Botswana to further discuss the region’s industrial and infrastructure development.
Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states have been called to produce strategic plans to transition their electricity supply industries towards cost-reflective tariffs by 2019. This was concluded at the 34th meeting of SADC Energy Ministers Conference, recently held in Johannesburg.
Patents and restrictions on intellectual property have become more problematic for developing nations in the last decade. At the centre of the storm is the development and influx of inexpensive generic medicines that developing countries need to treat HIV, TB and other communicable diseases.
While the BRICS’ initial focus when it was established in 2009 was on improving global economic governance in response to the 2008 financial crisis, over the last seven years BRICS co-operation and dialogue has moved into politico-security areas.  
In June 2015, the Department of Mineral Resources gazetted regulations related to hydraulic fracturing or fracking in South Africa offering a framework for the exploitation and exploration of shale gas. It could easily lead one to think that another step has been taken in the direction of the highly controversial question of industrial fracking in the Karoo basin.
During state visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia in later 2013, President Xi Jinping outlined China’s vision of a ‘One Belt One Road’ – running overland from China to Eastern Europe – and a complementary Maritime Silk Road that stretches from Southeast China across the Indian Ocean to Dar es Salaam and onward around the Horn of Africa to the Mediterranean. While this vision remains under development, the engagement is intended as a multi-pronged diplomatic, economic and strategic initiative - as well as one that encourages closer cross-cultural contact – that will intensify China’s relations with Africa. Indeed this raises questions…
The International Conference on Financing for Development held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 13-15 July 2015 brought together world leaders to assess progress on the implementation of the 2002 Monterrey Consensus and the 2008 Doha Declaration on Financing for Development. The goal of the Monterrey Consensus, endorsed at Doha, was ‘to eradicate poverty, achieve sustained economic growth and promote sustainable development as the World advances to a fully inclusive and equitable global economic system’.
South Africa has been facing an ongoing crisis of running out of essential drugs, such as anti-retrovirals for HIV patients. This highlights the need for a regional response to the provision and procurement of pharmaceutical drugs.
Since its institution in 1989, World Population Day on 11 July has drawn attention to the Earth’s rising population, and the demographic and social trends accompanying it. These serious and complex matters address the opportunities and hurdles confronting countries’ development aspirations. Nowhere is this of more profound – even existential – importance than in Africa.
Cuba has officially become the first country in the world to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to child. Margaret Chan, director-general for the World Health Organisation (WHO), described the small Caribbean island’s achievement as 'one of the greatest public health achievements possible.'
Heads of state of the BRICS countries will gather in Ufa, Russia, this week for the grouping’s seventh summit, which comes at a particularly challenging time for Russian diplomacy. Precipitated by the conflict in Ukraine, Russia is barred from Group of Seven/Group of Eight processes and increasingly estranged from the West.
Following the tragic killing of striking miners at the Lonmin Mine in Marikana on 16 August 2012, South Africa’s government established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate matters of ‘public, national and international concern’ arising out of the tragic event. Three years on, the release of the Commission’s final report has provoked hostile reactions from many quarters.
Reflecting the broadening of the BRICS agenda since the grouping was formed in 2009, the first ever meeting of BRICS environment ministers was held in Russia in April 2015. The ministers agreed to:
The signing of the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA) two weeks ago in Egypt between three of Africa’s major economic blocs COMESA, the EAC and SADC is an important development for intra-African trade and investment. By taking the first step towards the establishment of an economic bloc spanning the continent from South to North East, the African leaders have also laid the foundation for the establishment of a sizeable consumer market for international investors. Yet, it hardly received the attention it deserved at the AU’s 25th Summit in Johannesburg from 7 – 15 June 2015.
Ahead of the UN Conference of Parties (COP 21) meeting in December 2015, which it is hoped will deliver a universal, legally binding climate agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol by 2020, Paris is hosting an International Scientific Conference (ISC) from 7–10 July.
Some five weeks ago I attended the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) Academic Forum in Moscow as part of the South African delegation. The discussions held there provide interesting insights into the future direction of the BRICS group.
[Updated 29 June 2015] Preceding this month's 25th African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg a meeting of the AU Specialized Technical Committee on Defence, Safety and Security committed again to fully operationalise an African Standby Force (ASF) by December this year. The ASF has been ten years in the planning, and in that time has failed to establish a rapid response tool to deal with conflict on the continent.
As I write this, President al-Bashir has left the country. He should never have risked coming and the South African government should have suspected that something like this might happen.
The focus for this year’s African Union (AU) Summit – being held on 14 and 15 June 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa – is the 'Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063'. The Summit follows on from the launch of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), which encompasses 26 countries in Southern and Eastern Africa, including SADC, the EAC and COMESA.
The global economy loses $50 billion every year as a result of poor management of global fish stocks. That figure doesn’t tell the full story of how overfishing, illegal fisheries and environmental degradation impact the livelihoods of coastal and riparian communities, particularly in developing states.