A Hot Week In Africa Diplomacy

A Hot Week In Africa Diplomacy

Africa is hot these days – diplomatically speaking. UK Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are both hitting the road with multi-country visits to the continent this week, and next week Chinese President Xi Jinping will preside over a yearly China-Africa forum that brings representative from 53 of 54 African nations (all but Swaziland) to Beijing.


And why not? Africa is set to be the fastest growing region in the world economically over the coming decades. But the approaches of the UK, Germany, and China in the region also reveal interesting details about their broader global concerns and who, ultimately, is poised to prevail.

The UK, Going Global, Alone: On Tuesday, Theresa May arrived in South Africa for her first ever trip to the continent as prime minister. The purpose of the visit, which will also see her stop in Nigeria and Kenya (where no British prime minister has made an official visit in 30 years) is to solidify British commercial ties in Africa as part of a broader post-Brexit “Global Britain” plan. In a word, the UK is looking for new friends, economically. Skeptics back home have pointed out that collectively the economies of May’s three stops are smaller than the Netherlands. Others snickered at her awful, if not somewhat courageous, dancing. All in all, it’s hard to see Africa making a big dent in Britain’s post-Brexit economic blues.

Germany, Looking for a Quick Fix: Meanwhile, German Chancellor Merkel starts her own three-day visit to the continent today, with will include stops in Senegal, Nigeria, and Ghana. Merkel’s main aim is to negotiate the return of some of the 14,000 migrants from these three countries that currently reside in Germany without approval. Merkel, once the EU’s standard bearer in promoting development and investment to deal with the drivers of mass migration from Africa, has been forced onto the back foot by political forces in Germany and the EU. She’s now looking for quick fix to a long-term challenge.

China, A Grand Strategy: Then there is President Xi. Fresh off a trip to Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, and Mauritius last month, the Chinese leader is now preparing for the opening of the annual Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing next week. In recent years, Chinese trade with region has ballooned—hitting $170 billion last year, four times larger than that between the US and Africa. Initially reliant on Africa for commodities exports, China has since expanded its investments into sectors such as construction and telecommunications. Despite some recent pushback, it has built ports, laid down miles of new railways, and established a bigger military foothold.

As Africa’s global economic and strategic footprint continue to grow, more countries will be eager to court new opportunities there. Beyond their choice of international partners, African leaders have plenty of domestic priorities to worry about – including elections next year in Nigeria and South Africa. The latest diplomatic flurry suggest that China, with its steady hand and long-term thinking, will continue to overshadow other contenders across the continent.

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Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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Nasal sprays, oral vaccines, and other new types of COVID-19 vaccines may be ready soon, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization. She previews some of these needle-less vaccines and notes that the possibility of being able to store vaccines at room temperature could be a game-changer for vaccinating poorer nations. The advantage of nasal sprays, she explains, is that they "would generate local mucosal immunity in addition to systemic immunity." Dr. Swaminathan's conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 9. Check local listings.

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