PARIS — A decade after development began in earnest on the "continent of lions" — the result of vast riches in raw materials, and of Africa embracing globalization — the countries from the northern sub-Saharan Sahel region and large parts of central Africa are facing a double threat.
Over the past few weeks, panic over Ebola has replaced months of indifference and carelessness. At the same time, the spectacular ISIS advances in Iraq have shed a worrying light on the violence of armed Islamist groups in Africa.
What does this double crisis in Africa tell us? First of all, the arc of current health and security problems covers weak states. The threats are hitting hardest those that are struggling to face the rebellions and those — led by Liberia and Sierra Leone — in which authorities lack resources and the ability to organize a minimal quarantine to slow the spread of the virus.
The strong economic growth of Liberia and Sierra Leone over the last few years hasn't been enough for the countries to make up for decades of underdevelopment — not just in health care, but also in education, an essential factor in the evolution of cultural habits and social behaviors. Because it is wealthier and more organized, Senegal has fared much better.
But the dramatic events in these regions are telling us something else too, namely that "it's ridiculous to consider Africa as a single country. Would we say that of Europe?" asks Thierry Vircoulon, director of the Central Africa project at the International Crisis Group. There is a world of difference between the isolated countries of the Sahel or Central African Republic, and dynamic countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia or Zambia.
The economic question
Is the durability of the African growth miracle in question? Nobody wants to underestimate the risks that the crises carry for the continent. Some say that the effects of Ebola on the worst-hit countries are "more severe than a coup d’état." Their growth prospects, very encouraging until now, have already been revised down, and there are fears that the epidemic might create a diversion for victims of other diseases such as malaria.
The French Development Agency expects a "spillover effect on the budgets of neighboring countries that are taking precautionary measures." In Senegal, for example, "the shock could be irreversible if tourists leave," says Diery Seck, director of the Center for Research on Political Economy (CREPOL) in Dakar. He is also worried by the absence of a common risk management strategy and health coordination inside the Economic Community Of West African States, one of the best integrated organizations in Africa.
Meanwhile, World Bank officials believe that the "panic reaction fed by the fear of contagion" represents the real danger, more than the direct cost of Ebola.
But all experts are cautious about the risks on African development. "The growth of African economies is happening in an extremely chaotic context," explains Jean-Michel Severino, former CEO of the French Development Agency. "The growth of around 5% for the last 10 years will remain significant, but it will be fickle and will vary from country to country, insufficient to quickly bring the populations out of poverty and end political volatility without new structural changes. This will take a long time, and there's still work to be done."
Over and over again, experts point to Africa's great capacity for "resilience." After all, it has been living for decades with the ravages of HIV and virtually forever with malaria, which kills close to 600,000 Africans each year. What's more, Africa now has solid systems in place to combat these problems.
African economies have benefitted form debt write-offs, and they enjoy good trading conditions for their raw materials. They are also more diversified, fed as they are by an ever-growing global demand and an urban middle class that creates new markets. "Investors differ from one country to another, which minimizes the risks of contagion," says Patrick Raleigh, associate director at Standard & Poor’s.
Politically, "the risk of conflicts in Africa is today weaker than it was 20 years ago," says Philippe Hugon, research director at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris.
And despite undeniable shortcomings, the countries' foundations have been spectacularly shaken up over the last decade in terms of democracy, fallen dictatorships and varying governances, says Pierre Jacquemot, also a researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations.
Philippe Lévêque, director of the NGO Care France, holds a relatively optimistic view: Although Ebola "undermines the social and economic bases of the affected communities," it should not affect the rest of the continent.
Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.
[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.
• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.
• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.
• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.
• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.
• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.
• Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good
Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.
⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials
.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.
✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."
— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.
📈💥 IN OTHER NEWS
Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians
The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:
⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.
☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.
🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.
Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com
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