An elderly patient receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Orange Farm, near Johannesburg, South Africa, June 3, 2021 (AP photo by Denis Farrell).

By the late 1990s, an HIV diagnosis was no longer considered a death sentence in the wealthy countries of the Global North. Advances in medical technology had brought new drugs onto the market that could reverse the disease’s progression. However, those life-saving drugs were priced out of the reach of most patients across the Global South, where millions of people continued to die unnecessarily. There are echoes now of that earlier era, as those same regions are largely going without COVID-19 vaccines—even as wealthier countries move on to administer booster shots for their populations. In response to the disparity in […]

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in Kearny, New Jersey, Oct. 25, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Next week, U.S. President Joe Biden will convene his Global Summit for Democracy, a virtual gathering of global leaders that aims to promote human rights, counter corruption and discuss ways to strengthen democracy against a rising tide of authoritarianism across the world. The event fulfils a campaign promise made by then-candidate Biden to organize a summit of democracies during his first year in office. The gathering has been dismissed in some quarters as a hollow performative exercise, rendered meaningless by the inevitable controversy over the guest list. But arguments about the substance of the summit, as well as which countries were […]

The United Nations Security Council meets, New York, Nov. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

Editor’s note: Guest columnists Richard Gowan and Pyotr Kurzin are filling in for Stewart Patrick this week. The United Nations Security Council may be about to pass its first-ever resolution on the implications of climate change for peace and security. The council has talked about climate security since 2007, and it has acknowledged that environmental challenges such as droughts and degradation of farming land can fuel conflicts in regions like the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. But it has not laid out a systematic approach to assessing these risks or responding to them. This could be about to change, as Niger […]

Delegates attend the opening session of the 33rd African Union Summit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020 (AP photo).

A number of recent developments, including the civil war in Ethiopia and a spate of military takeovers in Mali, Guinea, Sudan and Chad, have exacerbated longstanding concerns of democratic backsliding, the return of military coups and the viability of the nation-state in Africa. The reactions of regional bodies and the African Union to these developments have been typified by carefully worded diplomatic statements, suspension of erring member states from group activities and weak sanctions, evoking familiar criticisms of those organizations as “dictators’ clubs” beholden to national leaders at the expense of the citizens they ostensibly serve. The inability of these bodies to […]

Ethiopian soldiers march with national flags attached to their rifles at a rally to show support for the Ethiopian armed forces, at Meskel square in downtown Addis Ababa, Nov. 7, 2021 (AP photo).

As rebel forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Army close in on Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, domestic factions and international mediators are quickly revising their calculations regarding how the war may end and the kind of political order that could emerge in its aftermath.   Earlier this month, almost a year since the conflict began, the TPLF and the OLA announced they were forming an alliance with seven other opposition groups, with the goal of ousting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed—whether by force or through a negotiated settlement—and installing a transitional government. In light of their recent […]

President Joe Biden prepares to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., June 9, 2021 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Mel Pavlik is filling in for Candace Rondeaux. The week before Sudan’s military leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, arrested his country’s prime minister and seized power in a coup d’etat, U.S. President Joe Biden finalized the invitation list for his upcoming Summit for Democracy. The summit, claimed administration officials, aimed to counterbalance powerful autocracies such as Russia and China, and “galvanize democratic renewal worldwide.”  The world is a far cry from anything resembling democratic renewal. To the contrary, democracy is threatened on multiple fronts: not only by illegal seizures of power by military strongmen, as in Sudan, […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently on a five-day tour of sub-Saharan Africa, his first to the region since taking office in January. Having already visited Kenya and Nigeria this week, he will conclude his tour Saturday in Senegal. The trip comes amid intensifying challenges for U.S. policy across Africa, including a deadly new crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Sudan following last month’s coup, a persistent civil conflict in Ethiopia, and mounting concerns about instability, democratic regression and the viability of the state in Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation. Washington is also concerned about China’s deepening relationship […]

South Africa’s president and head of the ruling African National Congress party, President, Cyril Ramaphosa during a ceremony in Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021

For South Africa’s long-ruling African National Congress party, the outcome of local elections on Nov. 1 was a predictable disaster. The polls took place against a troubled backdrop for the ANC, which has struggled through a perfect storm of challenges and missteps this year: a lack of tangible economic progress, poor public service delivery, chronic power shortages, the worst violent unrest since 1994 and seemingly endless allegations of corruption—all unfolding amid a global pandemic that caused South Africa’s largest economic contraction in a century. All of this virtually guaranteed the party would face a backlash at the ballot box. When the votes were […]

Saudi Arabian Minster of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud speaks at the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Alberto Pezzali).

The COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow that wrapped up Saturday was intended to draw the world’s attention to the slow-burning emergency of global warming, as well as create policies for mitigating and adapting to its worst effects. Above all, however, the international gathering illustrated the problems of timing and collective action that frustrate efforts to stop climate change.  At the summit, world leaders, scientists and activists called for urgent action to reduce emissions and slow the rise in average global temperatures before the world crosses a threshold into an unlivable future. Instead, the conference delegates drafted what amounts to […]

Palestinian security forces participate in a drill at the International Police Training Center in al-Muwaqqar, Jordan, a country that receives U.S. support for key counterterrorism training programs, Mar. 17, 2018 (AP photo by Raad Adayleh).

In May of this year, thousands of Colombian citizens took part in weeks of widespread protests against a newly proposed tax reform plan and, more generally, the country's growing economic inequality. The demonstrators included teachers, doctors, students and labor union members, as well as many who were new to protesting. But instead of allowing them to peacefully express their opinions, the Colombian National Police cracked down, killing at least 24 people in clashes that resembled their fights against criminal organizations and insurgents.  Of course, Colombia’s police are not unique in their heavy-handed approach to law enforcement. In 2019, police violence […]

Families gather on both sides of the closed Moroccan-Algerian border, near Oujda, Morocco, Nov. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Mosa’ab Elshamy).

Algeria has blamed Morocco for a Nov. 1 bombing that killed three Algerian truckers in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, adding a new layer of uncertainty to ongoing tensions between the two hostile neighbors. While the details remain unclear in part due to Rabat’s complete silence about the incident, the attack marks a potentially dangerous turn of events that raises the likelihood of a broader conflagration between Morocco and Algeria. Rabat has already been engaged in low-level clashes for nearly a year with the pro-independence Polisario Front, which receives support from Algeria. Any further escalation would increase the risk […]

A desolate, semi-arid landscape surrounds the Sahel village of Ndiawagne Fall in Kebemer, Senegal, Nov. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

At the recently concluded COP26 Climate Change conference in Glasgow, African countries—led by leaders of major continental states including South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya—made the case for firmer commitments on climate funding from rich, more industrialized nations and a longer timeline on the transition away from coal and other fossil fuels.  One of the major announcements to come out of the summit was South Africa’s “watershed” finance agreement with several Western powers to transition off of coal-burning power plants. But despite the triumphalism surrounding that deal, African delegates generally left the Glasgow summit disappointed that their […]

Coffins containing victims of a fuel tanker explosion seen lined up during a mass burial in Freetown, Sierra Leone (SIPA Images via AP).

More than 130 people have been reported killed after a fuel tanker hit a large truck and exploded Nov. 5 in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital. The tragedy occurred in the city’s densely populated Wellington district. The victims included motorbike drivers who reportedly rushed toward the scene to collect leaking fuel, which they presumably hoped to either use or sell, as well as roadside traders and commuters trapped in vehicles along the busy intersection. Many of the victims were burned beyond recognition, and posters of the dead and missing have been stuck on walls and buildings around the site of the […]

Eswatini’s King Mswati III and his wife attend a welcome ceremony of the Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Oct. 23, 2019 (TASS News Agency pool photo by Valery Sharifulin via AP).

Following the intense pro-democracy protests that rocked Eswatini over the summer, international interest in the small southern African nation has waned. But for proponents of democratic reforms in the continent’s last absolute monarchy—formerly known as Swaziland—the fight is far from over.  In mid-October, demonstrations once again intensified, partly to demand the release of two pro-democracy lawmakers who have been detained since July. Security forces loyal to King Mswati III responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, resulting in at least one death and 80 injuries. All told, dozens of people have been killed since protests first began in response to […]

Demonstrators gather to protest the recent military takeover in Khartoum, Sudan, Oct. 30, 2021 (AP photo by Marwan Ali).

In a brazen attack on Sudan’s democratic aspirations, the country’s military chief, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, overthrew the civilian government on Oct. 25. The coup ended a fragile power-sharing agreement between security officers and a civilian coalition known as the Forces for Freedom and Change, or FFC. The two sides had been on a collision course since they formed an interim government in August 2019, which was meant to pave the way to democratic elections following the ouster of dictator Omar al-Bashir earlier that year.  Under the transitional charter governing the partnership, the 11-member Sovereign Council was supposed to serve as the […]

Climate protesters demonstrate outside the local government legislature’s offices in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sept. 20, 2019 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

The standard, “flirting with apocalypse” narrative that dominates U.S. media coverage and political debates regarding climate change goes something like this: China, which is the world’s biggest carbon emitter, and India, which is lightly industrialized and still quite substantially poor, currently represent the biggest threats to saving the environment. The supposedly more altruistic West, by contrast, is prepared to make huge investments to forestall disaster. People who cling to this all-too-easy framing correctly say that if the world’s two most-populous countries do not radically constrain their carbon output, nothing the United States or Europe can do, including rapidly attaining net-zero […]

The high-speed rail Gautrain traveling between Johannesburg and Pretoria, in Pretoria, South Africa, Aug. 2, 2011 (AP Photo by Themba Hadebe).

Africa’s leaders and policymakers have long identified connectivity, tourism and, more broadly, mobility—human, capital and otherwise—as key to the continent’s economic structural transformation. For example, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, through seven key aspirations, has identified several programs and initiatives promoting connectivity and mobility as central to accelerating shared growth and development in Africa, as well as to forging a common identity.  Among its flagship projects intended to realize this ambition, the bloc has identified the need for an integrated high-speed train network connecting the continent’s capitals and commercial centers; a continent-wide free trade area, known today as the African […]

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