What We're Watching: Africa desperate for vaccines, US-EU truce on airplanes, ICC probes Duterte

Vials labelled "Astra Zeneca COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed South Africa flag, in this illustration photo taken March 14, 2021.

Africa is running out of vaccines: Africa has received fewer vaccines than any other continent, and the results are now showing. Faced with a third wave of infection, many African countries say that cases are soaring and that vaccine deliveries from the WHO-managed COVAX facility remain sluggish, in large part because of shortages from Indian drug manufacturers. South Africa, Namibia, and Uganda say that their healthcare systems are inundated with COVID cases; ICU beds are scarce, and COVID patients are dying while waiting for hospital beds. To date, just 0.6 percent of Africa's 1.3 billion people are fully vaccinated, and new variants are spreading, making containment across the continent even harder. (Cases in the South African province of Gauteng, home to the hubs of Johannesburg and Pretoria, where South Africa's more transmissible COVID strain has run rampant, have doubled over the past week, and doctors are bracing for a surge in deaths.) Meanwhile, the G7 countries agreed this week to send 1 billion COVID doses to poor countries, but experts warn that these may not arrive in Africa before most states' supplies run dry.


US and EU agree to truce on Boeing-Airbus row: After 17 years of quarreling, the US and the EU have agreed to put their differences aside in the ongoing saga over subsidies for Boeing and Airbus, their respective aerospace champions. In 2019, the World Trade Organization found that Brussels had illegally been providing subsidies to Airbus, essentially clearing the way for Washington to slap billions of dollars' worth of tariffs on EU products. Shortly after, the WTO found that Washington was doing the same thing for Boeing, violating international trade regulations and leading Brussels to threaten tariffs on US exports. In reaching this truce on the sidelines of the recent G7 summit, US President Joe Biden and EU representatives have agreed to suspend punishing tariffs — championed by former US President Donald Trump — worth a collective $11.5 billion a year on a range of products like whiskey, cheese, spirits, and tractors. But why now? President Biden has made it abundantly clear that he wants to get the Europeans on side in an increasingly bitter fight with China over a range of economic, human rights and tech abuses. The Biden administration also says that this move will help stabilize manufacturing jobs in aerospace and other sectors, reflecting its "foreign policy for the American middle class."

ICC to probe Duterte's drug war: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has asked permission to launch a full investigation of alleged crimes against humanity committed during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs from 2016 to 2019. Duterte's crackdown on drug traffickers has killed about 6,000 people, according to official police data, though local human-rights groups say the real figure is much higher. As expected, the Philippine government blasted the Hague's decision and vowed not to cooperate with the probe. In fact, Manila withdrew from the ICC in March 2019 in response to its preliminary investigation into the drug war. Duterte himself has kept quiet so far, but the threat of a full ICC probe won't draw any sign of remorse for his war on drugs, the signature campaign promise that helped elect him five years ago. Indeed, these days the Philippine president is more focused on choosing whom he'll endorse to run for the top job in next year's elections, and whether he'll be on the ballot as a vice-presidential candidate.

In a new episode of That Made All the Difference, Savita Subramanian, head of ESG Research, BofA Global Research, explains why ESG factors are critical to why some companies succeed and some fail.

"I think 10 years from now, we won't even call it 'environmental, social and governance,' or ESG investing. We won't call it sustainable. It'll just be part of investing," she says.

Link to the episode here.

This weekend, world leaders will open the COP26 climate summit, the UN's annual climate change conference, in Glasgow. Some insist this event is crucial to the multinational fight to limit the effects of climate change; others dismiss it as a circus that will feature politicos, protesters and celebrities competing for attention – one that's long on lofty promises and short on substance.

What's on the agenda?

Political leaders and negotiators from more than 120 countries will gather to talk about two big subjects. First, how to reduce the heat-trapping carbon emissions that scientists warn can inflict catastrophic damage on millions of people. This is where they'll offer their "nationally determined contributions," diplomatic jargon for their updated promises on their climate goals. Second, how to help poorer countries pay for adaptation to the climate damage that's already unavoidable.

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Less than a year after the world started putting COVID vaccines into people's arms, most regions have immunized at least half their populations, but Africa still lags behind. With industrialized nations hoarding jabs and the COVAX facility faltering, barely five percent of the African population is fully vaccinated.

Some enterprising South African scientists are now making a bold bid to change that, with an experiment that could benefit not only Africa's 54 nations and billion people, but the entire world: Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a Cape Town-based startup, has developed a plan to reverse-engineer Moderna's mRNA shot and manufacture it for priority distribution on the continent.

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11: Hit by a massive new COVID wave, Moscow has issued an 11-day lockdown of schools, businesses, and all "non-essential" services. Russia is now one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, having recorded 400,000 deaths by some estimates. Russia's high rate of vaccine skepticism isn't helping.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Has Russian behavior in cyber changed after President Biden and President Putin's meeting earlier this year?

Well, unfortunately, we see ongoing assertiveness and aggression from the Russian side, targeting the US government, but also US tech companies. And the fact that there is so little accountability probably keeps motivating. Shortly before the Russian elections, Apple and Google removed an app built by opposition parties, to help voters identify the best candidate to challenge Putin's party. The company sided pressure on their employees in Russia, but of course, the pressure on the Russian population is constant. And after these dramatic events, the silence from Western governments was deafening.

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No government today has the toolbox to tinker with Big Tech – that's why it's time to start thinking of the biggest tech companies as bona fide "digital nation states" with their own foreign relations, Ian Bremmer explains on GZERO World. Never has a small group of companies held such an expansive influence over humanity. And in this vast new digital territory, governments have little idea what to do.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Big Tech: Global sovereignty, unintended consequences

Right now, only one region of the world is reporting an increase in new daily COVID cases. Here's a hint: it's one of the places where vaccines are, for the most part, easiest to get.

It's Europe. According to the World Health Organization, the region last week notched a 7 percent uptick in new daily infections, the third week in a row that infections rose there.

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