South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the media after meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Pretoria, South Africa, Nov. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

If anyone was hoping for a post-pandemic renewal of international cooperation in a world still feeling the aftershocks from Brexit, Donald Trump’s presidency, trade wars and global supply chain disruptions, they would likely be disappointed today. International relations in 2020 were driven primarily by the politics of aid and mask diplomacy. The second year of the coronavirus pandemic has been all about vaccines, geopolitical competition and travel restrictions.  In a July edition of my Africa Watch newsletter, I noted that the rhetoric of renewed multilateralism heard at global summits and other international fora at the onset of the pandemic ultimately […]

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, Dec. 11, 2021 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

What is the U.S. up to in the Middle East? How does the granular reality of developments as seen from the region square with Washington’s strategic assessment? Last week, a senior Biden administration official offered some answers to those questions in a briefing for journalists on the White House’s plan for a realistic, downsized Middle East policy. (Though the official remained anonymous, it sounds an awful lot like Brett McGurk ). Whether or not this plan will work—and I’m not so sure that it will—the administration’s description of its own approach sounds accurate, and that’s a welcome change. It does away […]

Afghans wait in front of a bank as they try to withdraw money in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2021 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

As 2021 comes to a close, the international community faces several emerging humanitarian and security catastrophes—even beyond the global pandemic that has gripped the world for two years. Ethiopia is undergoing a complex and multifaceted civil war that has spurred a humanitarian disaster of monumental proportions, with nearly 1 million people now living in conditions approaching famine. Meanwhile, Russia has been building up its military presence on its border with Ukraine, increasing tensions with the West and prompting fears that there will be yet another attack on Ukrainian sovereignty. And in the Taliban’s Afghanistan, more children are expected to die this winter from starvation than […]

A pro-democracy protester flashes the victory sign during a protest against a military coup, Khartoum, Sudan, Oct. 25, 2021 (AP photo by Ashraf Idris).

When I first joined the WPR editorial team and took over Africa Watch, I wrote an inaugural edition introducing myself and my guiding principles, as well as the trends, topics and developments you could expect to see me cover in the newsletter as well as in my other writings for WPR.  It’s now been six months since I began writing these newsletters, an experience that has been as remarkable as it has been exciting. And while the newsletter’s format has since evolved, I would like to believe that the orientation I set out in that edition has largely remained intact.  During […]

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed at the Fontainebleau castle, south of Paris, France, Sept. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

While U.S. President Joe Biden seems determined to reduce the U.S. footprint in the Middle East, finally embracing Washington’s long-discussed  pivot to Asia, French President Emmanuel Macron is headed in the opposite direction. In recent years, Macron has made repeated trips to Lebanon, Iraq and the Gulf states, and launched a series of diplomatic initiatives in a bid to address regional crises. It is hard to think of any Western leader who has been even half as engaged as Macron across the range of high-priority issues confronting the Middle East.  Macron’s recent visit to the Gulf, during which he concluded […]

Workers advertise their skills while looking for work outside a hardware store in a Johannesburg suburb, Feb. 26, 2020 (AP photo by Denis Farrell).

As 2021 comes to a close, a wide range of commentators—including international financial organizations, regional development banks, credit agencies, consulting firms and media organizations—have begun rolling out their forecasts for the coming year’s global economic outlook. Figuring centrally in all these projections is how the global economy will recover from the stop-and-start effects of the coronavirus pandemic over the past two years.  But for the approximately 1.4 billion people in Africa’s 54 countries, the overwhelming majority of whom remain unvaccinated, the question isn’t just how to build back better from a pandemic that plunged the continent into its first recession […]

Tunisians demonstrate against Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis, Tunisia, Oct. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Hassene Dridi).

Tunisian President Kais Saied announced a timeline for a new constitutional referendum Monday, to be followed by elections to restore the parliament he disbanded in July. But the plan remains silent on the question of who will draft the new constitution, and Saied’s announcement suggests that the country will remain without an elected legislature for at least another year. Saied said in a televised speech that there would be three months of vaguely defined consultations before the constitutional referendum, which is to be held next year on July 25—the one-year anniversary of his seizure of power. Tunisians would then go […]

A soldier walks past a poster of Thomas Sankara outside a bar that was attacked by al-Qaida-linked extremists in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Jan. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

OUAGADOUDOU, Burkina Faso—Dressed in green leopard-patterned fatigues, Gen. Gilbert Diendere was ready for battle in early November as he stood in the witness dock of a converted court room in Ouagadougou. Lawyers fired questions from all directions about his involvement in the assassination of Burkina Faso’s revolutionary president, Capt. Thomas Sankara, as well as eight of his bodyguards and four civilians on Oct. 15, 1987.  Diendere, who has been accused of complicity in the killings, seemed to have an answer for all of them. He heard gunshots and saw Sankara’s dead body, he claimed, but didn’t see the shooter, echoing […]

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the White House during the opening of the Democracy Summit, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, looks on, Washington, Dec. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Leaders from government, civil society, journalism and the private sector in 17 African countries have been invited by U.S. President Joe Biden to join their counterparts from nearly 100 other nations at a two-day virtual summit on democracy. While campaigning for his party’s presidential nomination, Biden made the defense and promotion of democracy at home and abroad a cornerstone of his agenda. In particular, Biden pledged to host a summit for democracy in his first year in office, a promise this gathering fulfills.  Biden administration officials described the summit as offering an “affirmative agenda for democratic renewal” focused on three […]

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, is welcomed by Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, right, in Rabat, Morocco, Nov. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Mosa’ab Elshamy).

In late November, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited Morocco to formalize military cooperation between both countries with the signing of a memorandum of understanding. Gantz’s trip came a year after Morocco normalized its diplomatic relations with Israel and follows a previous visit by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to Rabat in August.  The existence of military ties between Israel and Morocco is not new, but their acknowledgement of them is. The very public presence of Gantz in Rabat demonstrated Morocco’s desire not only to recognize Israel but to use the rapprochement to balance Algeria in the context of heightened tensions with its […]

Senegalese President Macky Sall, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, inspect the honor guard during a state visit in Dakar, Senegal, July 21, 2018 (AP photo by Xaume Olleros).

A few days before last week’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Dakar, Senegal, the Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor published a story claiming that China was on the verge of taking over Uganda’s Entebbe Airport, the country’s main international airport, due to an inability to service a $200 million loan from China incurred in expanding the airport. Almost immediately, the story went viral on Twitter and other social media. On Facebook, several posts making the same claim as the original Daily Monitor story, including many with a digitally altered AFP photo giving the impression that the airport had already been seized […]

A Mozambican soldier rides on an armored vehicle at the airport in Mocimboa da Praia, Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique, Aug. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Marc Hoogsteyns).

Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi created a stir in early November, when he dismissed Defense Minister Jaime Neto and then Interior Minister Amade Miquidade within 24 hours of each other. This shake-up in the country’s security leadership, coming less than two years after both had taken up their posts, likely signals the start of a broader effort at managing Mozambique’s image abroad as it seeks to reassure would-be investors that the government has a handle on internal security.  The tenures of both Neto and Miquidade coincided with a period of rapid expansion of the Islamic State affiliate Ahlu-Sunnah Wa-Jama, or ASWJ, […]

Youths demonstrate in Paris after French unions called for strikes and protests to demand more government aid for those struggling financially because of the pandemic, Feb. 4, 2021 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).

Young people across the world are struggling to find work. Even before the pandemic hit, young people were three times more likely to be unemployed than those over the age of 25. And one in five met the criteria for what the international system characterizes as NEET—for “not in education, employment or training”—meaning they weren’t gaining experience in the labor market, receiving an income from work or enhancing their education and skills.  Now, the pandemic has demonstrated that in a crisis, young workers are also among the first to lose their jobs. More than one in 10 young people—aged 16 to 25—were forced to […]

Iran’s national security adviser, Ali Shamkhani, and the UAE’s national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shake hands prior to their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 6, 2021 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

High-level diplomacy has intensified among competing Middle East regional powers, a flurry of bilateral talks that increasingly suggests what a “Plan B” would look like if, as seems likely, the U.S. and Iran fail to revive the deal that briefly constrained Tehran’s nuclear program. The pace of contacts and meetings between the region’s prime movers has stepped up a notch in recent weeks, in a tangible sign that governments in the Middle East are responding to what they see as a clear downsizing of Washington’s role in the region. The most visible example of this adjustment was a meeting that […]

Oil derricks are busy pumping as the moon rises near the La Paloma Generating Station in McKittrick, Calif, June 8, 2017 (AP photo by Gary Kazanjian).

The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change contains a curious omission: The phrase “fossil fuels,” which appears nowhere in the nearly 7,200-word document. Nor do the terms “coal,” “oil” or “natural gas,” despite these resources being responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions. That lacuna was no accident. It reflects the decision by national governments, reinforced by industry lobbyists, to focus emissions reduction efforts on reducing the demand for fossil fuels, rather than limiting fossil fuel supply by discouraging or even prohibiting their extraction in the first place.  In other words, as climate activist Tzeporah Berman points out in a powerful […]

Advocates for migrants’ rights light candles in front of a banner that reads, “309 dead on the France-U.K. border since 1999,” during a gathering outside the port of Calais, northern France, Nov. 25, 2021 (AP photo by Rafael Yaghobzadeh).

On Nov. 24, two devastating and separate, but ultimately interrelated, incidents took place in far-flung corners of the world. First, at least 27 people perished while attempting to cross the turbulent waters of the English Channel, which separates France from the United Kingdom. The dead were migrants from Africa and the Middle East whose fragile, flimsy raft sank before it reached the U.K.’s shores. This was the deadliest migrant crossing across the channel ever recorded, but it is not an isolated incident. Attempted channel crossings have spiked since 2018, resulting in hundreds of deaths.  On the same day, more than […]

African delegates walk by a screen panel showing an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ahead of the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Beijing, Sept. 3, 2018 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

The eighth edition of the triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, or FOCAC, took place this week in Dakar, Senegal, marking the first time the meeting was held in West Africa. The conference, which took place days after the release of a Chinese government white paper detailing a new era of cooperation with African countries, saw major announcements on COVID-19 vaccines, Special Drawing Rights allocations and climate cooperation. While those areas of cooperation portend to be the cornerstone of engagement between China and Africa, growing debates are emerging on the continent and elsewhere about the imbalanced nature of the relationship. FOCAC […]

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