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Putin’s push in Africa

Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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What We're Watching: COVID elections, jobs lost forever, Africa's COVID enigma

Elections continue despite pandemic: Nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis. Americans, like voters everywhere, are at odds on many issues these days. But a Trump victory in November would signal that voters aren't ready to blame political leaders for the coronavirus' impact while a loss would make him the world's first COVID-19 political casualty. There are more upcoming coronavirus election tests. Regional elections in Italy later this month will test the strength of that country's wobbly coalition government. Hard-hit Iran will hold a presidential election next June—though it's not clear how far the clerical establishment will go to limit voter choices—and the government's pandemic response will shape broader views of its competence. Voters in virus-ravaged Peru will have their say in April 2021, and Mexico will hold congressional elections in July. A power transition in Germany next year will allow voters angry over COVID-19 restrictions to air their grievances.

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Failing the Sahel

A steady increase of violence in the Sahel region of Africa over the past eight years has imposed fear and hardship on millions of the people who live there. It has also pushed the governments of Sahel countries to work together to fight terrorists.

The region's troubles have also captured the attention of European leaders, who worry that if instability there continues, it could generate a movement of migrants that might well dwarf the EU refugee crisis of 2015-2016.

But is Europe helping to make things better?

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The Graphic Truth: Global approval for US leadership declines

Global approval for US leadership has dropped since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 — but not equally across regions, according to an annual Gallup survey. The decline has been steeper in the Americas, Asia and Europe than in Africa, where approval for US leadership has dipped slightly under Trump but not as much as over the last seven years of the Obama administration. One reason that could explain the diversion is that Africa is rarely on Trump's radar, giving the US president less opportunity to make deeply polarizing statements about countries there, compared to other regions where he regularly antagonizes individual countries and their leaders. We compare the average US global leadership approval rates across world regions for the last ten years.

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Ventilator shortage in Africa, India's risky reopening, exodus from the Gulf

Bleaker projections for Africa: For weeks, global health experts have been warning about the possibility of a coronavirus catastrophe unfolding in Africa. Now, as cases rise across the continent, the bleakest projections yet come from a Reuters report on the African countries' dilapidated and insufficient health care infrastructure. Africa has fewer than one ventilator and one intensive care bed per 100,000 people, while the continent's three most populous countries – Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt – have fewer than 2,000 intensive care beds for their combined 400 million inhabitants. The World Bank, for its part, says it has secured medical equipment for 30 African nations, but the shipments are still en route. Testing capacity in Africa is also extremely limited. Countries such as Kenya and Chad say they simply don't have enough testing kits on hand and are waiting for aid to arrive. To date just 685 tests per million people have been conducted in Africa compared to 23,000 tests per million people in Europe. UN models now predict that the outbreak could surge from thousands of cases now to 10 million in the next six months, causing up to 3.3 million deaths.
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COVID-19 in US, Emerging Markets; US-China Blame Game; Venezuela Coup?

What is the coronavirus update? Have emerging markets been spared so far?

The biggest news is that the US might have a lot more mortality from coronavirus than previously expected in the models. Particularly as we start seeing opening of economies. The US is a federal system and states don't necessarily listen to each other. They don't follow the federal government, and people don't necessarily pay attention to what state governments say. Put all that together, expect to see a lot more people get sick. Whether that is 3,000 or 800 deaths a day, two wildly different models, for the next month. What I've seen so far makes me feel a bit more optimistic, because opening up economies isn't people in full engagement. Big difference in what government says and what people do.

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Bolsonaro in Brazil; Kim Jong-un health speculation; COVID-19 in Africa

What is going on in Brazil? Is it at a tipping point?

I'm not sure it's tipping point for Brazil, but it's a tipping point for Bolsonaro. When he came in, it was after years of political scandal, Lava Jato. You had impeachments, ministers getting thrown out of office. Former President Lula in jail. Dilma Rousseff impeached. Finally, somebody clean who has the former federal justice who helped put away a lot of these ministers as the new minister of justice. Now, a president that mishandled coronavirus, attacked the governors as fake news, you can't have shut downs, and cases in Brazil are spiraling much higher per capita than in other major Latin American economies; now he's gotten rid of his minister of justice. He's resigned, said Bolsonaro is interfering with investigations, getting too close to his family. That is the opposite of what you want in the midst of the worst economic contraction, maybe in Brazil's democratic history. His approval ratings are dropping, down in the low 30s. He might end up getting impeached. He'd have to lose more support. But, the idea that he governs effectively in Congress with a reformist coalition is off the table. He is in a lot of trouble. This is the beginning of what I suspect will eventually be the end of Bolsonaro. It's much harder to imagine him getting another term. Even lasting the full term.

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Coronavirus Politics Daily: A different Ramadan, Chile issues immunity IDs, Africa lacks ventilators

Ramadan in the time of COVID-19: Many of the world's 1.8 billion Muslims begin marking the holy month of Ramadan on Thursday, but it will be a commemoration with little precedent as communities around the world have to rethink new ways of incorporating some of Islam's central traditions. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, and it's customary to gather in mosques and hold communal meals to break the fast. But given quarantine orders in countries with some of the largest Muslim populations, including Pakistan, India, and Malaysia, ensuring compliance with social distancing measures while allowing citizens to observe the holiest month on Islam's calendar, will prove challenging for many governments. In Pakistan, for example, some influential Islamic authorities have instructed Muslims to defy government orders that limit the number of people who can attend mosque services and to gather for prayers. Some Arab countries are leaning heavily on clerics to enforce guidelines. Meanwhile, in Iran, one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19, supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei told Iranians to avoid public gatherings during Ramadan and to pray at home – hoping to prevent the chaos seen last month when some Iranian hardliners, bolstered by Shiite clerics, violently stormed shrines that were closed because of the pandemic. In Egypt, meanwhile, actors and production crews have flouted social distancing guidelines in order to produce the country's famed Ramadan soap operas, which are heavily anticipated and widely watched every year.

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