Health officials administer a polio vaccine to children at a camp for people displaced by Islamist extremists in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Aug. 28, 2016 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. After a decades-long eradication campaign, health officials declared Africa free of wild poliovirus this week, even as they called for ongoing vigilance against a rare mutation of the virus that still circulates on the continent. Wild poliovirus, which is usually transmitted through contaminated water, primarily affects children under five years old, causing irreversible paralysis and even death. As recently as 1996, the virus affected 75,000 African children. That was the year health officials launched the ambitious eradication effort, coordinating continent-wide immunization campaigns […]

A nearly empty shopping street in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

South Korea, deservedly well-known for one of the world’s most successful initial responses to the coronavirus pandemic, is now seeing a dangerous spike in COVID-19 cases. On Thursday, 441 new infections were reported, the largest daily increase since March. The country has now seen triple-digit increases in new cases for 15 consecutive days, and patients have tested positive in all 17 provinces. Authorities have placed new restrictions on restaurants and ordered schools and kindergartens to close in Seoul, the bustling capital that is now the epicenter of the outbreak. The situation shows just how difficult it is to control this […]

A man and a boy walk past graffiti against AFPs, Chile’s pension system, in Santiago, July 22, 2020 (AP photo by Esteban Felix).

The coronavirus pandemic will likely push Latin America into its worst-ever recession, with the region’s economy expected to shrink by more than 9 percent in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund. But in a part of the world with few economic bright spots, Chile is forecast to perform relatively well, with a 7.5 percent contraction this year and growth of 5 percent in 2021, which would be one of Latin America’s more vigorous economic recoveries. At first glance, this is surprising, as Chile is among the most open economies in the region and is sensitive to volatility in commodity […]

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at the NASREC Expo Center in Johannesburg, April 24, 2020 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

When Cyril Ramaphosa became president of South Africa in February 2018, many South Africans saw it as a “new dawn” for their country. In the aftermath of Jacob Zuma’s corruption-plagued presidency, Ramaphosa seemed to offer the hope of competent leadership and accountable government. Commentators spoke of “Ramaphoria,” as the new president sought to revive the spirit of idealism that informed the early days of post-apartheid South Africa in the 1990s, and to engineer a definitive break with what he acknowledged were “nine wasted years” under Zuma. Ramaphosa promised more than just a change in the political atmospherics, however. His administration […]

A man walks past a wall showing posters of political figures in Male, Maldives, Sept. 21, 2018 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

ADDU, Maldives—Visitors are slowly returning to the famous beach resorts of this island nation in the Indian Ocean after it reopened its borders last month, having largely contained its initial wave of COVID-19. While it failed to avoid the virus entirely, the Maldives has registered a relatively small caseload of around 5,300, including 21 deaths, confined largely to its crowded capital, Male. In recent days, however, community transmission across the atolls has increased at an alarming pace. Around a third of the country’s estimated 550,000-strong population live in Male, on one of the most densely populated islands on the planet, […]

A man walks past a poster encouraging people to wear face masks correctly in Hanoi, Vietnam, Apr. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Hau Dinh).

With the exception of Thailand, the five countries of mainland Southeast Asia are some of the poorest in the Asia-Pacific region. According to the World Bank, Cambodia has a per capita GDP of around $1,600, while Myanmar’s is roughly $1,400. Laos and Vietnam fare only marginally better, each at around $2,500. Their political systems run the gamut from semi-democracies to authoritarian one-party states. Yet despite some initial missteps, they have all largely suppressed COVID-19, proving far more effective in addressing the pandemic than most developed countries, including the United States. Vietnam, a country of roughly 95 million people, has reported […]

A volunteer sprays disinfectant to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, at the Santa Marta favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 10, 2020 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is testing and revealing the limits of state authority. Simultaneously elevated and enfeebled, the nation-state has been the principal organizing unit behind the global crisis response. But often, it has lacked the legitimacy and authority it needs to manage the pandemic in the territories it purports to govern. In disputed territories and conflict zones, on remote isles in archipelagos, in favelas and urban settlements, citizens may look to the state for protection. But there at the margins, where the world’s most vulnerable populations often live, communities are instead enduring the pandemic without help from, […]

Children run down a street past a mural warning people about the dangers of the coronavirus, Nairobi, Kenya, June 3, 2020 (AP photo by Brian Inganga).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Bowing to the reality that they cannot prevent the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms full of students and teachers, Kenyan officials canceled the 2020 school year in July, at its midpoint. The implications of the decision will be felt not only domestically, where a nearly year-long break in learning could widen educational disparities, but also across the continent. Kenya initially suspended classes back in mid-March, days after the country’s first COVID-19 case and early in its academic year, which begins in January. […]

Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes attends a news conference following a meeting of the National Security Council, in Brussels, July 27, 2020 (pool photo by Francois Lenoir via AP).

BRUSSELS—In their responses to the coronavirus pandemic, some countries have channeled greater powers to their central governments in order to curb the virus’s spread, while others have left their states or regions to fend for themselves. The divergent responses have sparked debates in many countries about federalism and the appropriate role of the state. Here in Belgium, a highly federalized nation whose main political parties have been unable to form a working coalition for more than a year, Parliament approved temporary expanded powers to the caretaker government to manage the coronavirus crisis. On the surface, this seemed like a surprisingly […]

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, at an EU summit in Brussels, July 18, 2020 (pool photo by Francois Lenoir via AP Images).

Authoritarian leaders have taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic, intensifying their efforts to undercut the democratic norms that restrain their power. Some of those leveraging COVID-19 for their autocratic agenda are in the European Union, where they have created dilemmas for the bloc for years. And yet, this crisis has also created opportunities. If managed skillfully, the EU can convert the upheaval of the pandemic into a turning point, at long last exerting meaningful pressure to start reversing Eastern Europe’s undemocratic, illiberal tide. Last month, EU leaders managed to craft a muscular economic rescue package to deal with the pandemic’s […]

Demonstrators hold a placard in French reading, “This regime is a coronavirus for Mali,” as they protest in, Bamako, Mali, June 5, 2020 (AP photo by Baba Ahmed).

In recent weeks, Mali has been beset with mass protests against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s government. At times, tens of thousands of people have poured into the streets of the capital, Bamako, to demand Keita’s resignation. The protests’ organizers, calling themselves the June 5 Movement after the date of the first demonstration, have brought together opposition political parties, religious groups, civil society organizations, trade unions and even members of the police. These disparate elements of Malian society are uniting around their deep anger at entrenched poverty and unemployment, the government’s ineffectual response to the coronavirus pandemic, and the rapid deterioration […]