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Coronavirus

Here's Why Healthcare Workers Around The World Are Quitting In Record Numbers

The long toll of the pandemic is the final straw for many burned out healthcare workers in the West. But the Great Resignation in the medical field is global, with developing countries already struggling to contain the pandemic in the face of a doctor brain drain.

PARIS — The COVID-19 pandemic has led many around the world to reevaluate their careers, becoming part of the so-called “great resignation.” Just take one statistic: a record 4.5 million U.S. citizens quit their jobs last November. By far, the industry that has been most shaped by the pandemic is healthcare, the field leading resignations, with a 3.6% increase in the number of U.S. health workers quitting their jobs in 2021.

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COVID School Chaos, Snapshots From 10 Countries Around The World

Teachers, students, parents and society as a whole have suffered through the various attempts at educating through the pandemic. Here’s how it looks now: from teacher strikes in France to rising drop-out rates in Argentina to Uganda finally ending the world’s longest shutdown.

School, they say, is where the future is built. The next generation’s classroom learning is crucial, but schools also represent an opportunity for children to socialize, get help for special needs … and in some villages and neighborhoods, get their one decent meal a day.

COVID-19 has of course put all of that at risk. At the peak of the pandemic, classrooms were closed for 1.6 billion schoolchildren worldwide, with the crisis forcing many to experiment on the fly for the first time in remote learning, and shutting down learning completely for many millions more — exacerbating worldwide inequality in education.

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Why The Right To Die Is Expanding Around The World

Euthanasia and assisted suicide laws are still the exception, but lawmakers from New Zealand to Peru to Switzerland and beyond are gradually giving more space for people to choose to get help to end their lives — sometimes with new and innovative technological methods.

The announcement last month that a “suicide capsule” device would be commercialized in Switzerland, not surprisingly, caused quite a stir. The machine called Sarcophagus, or “Sarco” for short, consists of a 3D-printed pod mounted on a stand, which releases nitrogen and gradually reduces the oxygen level from 21% to 1%, causing the person inside to lose consciousness without pain or a sense of panic, and then die of hypoxia and hypocapnia (oxygen and carbon dioxide deprivation).

While active euthanasia is illegal in Switzerland, assisted suicide is allowed under certain conditions and under the supervision of a physician, who has first to review the patient’s capacity for discernment — a condition that Sarco aims to eliminate. “We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves,” Australian doctor Philip Nitschke, the machine’s creator, told news platform SwissInfo. Some argue that this is against the country’s medical ethical rules while others expressed concerns about safety.

But Nitschke says he found the solution: an online AI-based test, which will give a code to the patient to use the device if he passes.

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South African Parliament Fire Raises Deeper Questions About Democracy

It took firefighters nearly three days to extinguish the blaze at the historic building in Cape Town, and the damage will persist as South Africans try to figure out how this happened, and what it says about the country’s struggle to reinforce its young democracy.

That the devastating fire at South Africa’s parliament building broke out in Cape Town on Sunday — one day after anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu's funeral was held nearby — only adds to the anguish of a nation struggling to reinforce its democracy nearly three decades after its first free elections.

Since the blaze was finally extinguished for good on Tuesday, South Africans have been debating the ramifications of the fire that tore through the 150-year-old building, laying waste to the wood-paneled assembly where the president makes his annual state-of-the-nation address.

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Society
Umar Timol

Big Prizes For African Writers Don't Change Balance Of Power In Literary World

Novelists from Africa have been receiving some of the most prestigious literary prizes. But there are still questions around who are the world’s literary gatekeepers and what role writers from the Global South can play, writes Mauritian poet and photographer Umar Timol.

-Analysis-

PORT LOUIS, MAURITIUS — In the arena of prestigious literary awards, 2021 was the year for Africa: Senegal's Mohamed Mbougar Sarr won France’s Goncourt Prize, the Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah won the Nobel Prize in Literature and the South African Damon Galgut won the Booker Prize (for English-language novels). All are well-deserved recognitions for the continent, but is the success limited by the expectations of Western critics?

Mohamed Mbougar Sarr won France’s top literary prize for his novel La plus secrète mémoire des hommes (“The Most Secret Memory of Men”) and even he recognized how it expanded who could receive the Goncourt: “It is a strong signal [...], a way, also, to show that France is sometimes much larger and much nobler — in any case much more open — than what we can, what we want to reduce it to."

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Future
Gado Alzouma

Why Africa Has So Few Nobel Prizes In The Sciences

Even as it celebrates this year's literature prize going to Tanzanian author Abdulrazak Gurnah, Africa is again completely absent from the list of Nobel winners in science. In research as elsewhere, money is the key.

Nobel Prize recipients from around the world have been celebrating their achievements this month at their respective award ceremonies. But besides Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner in the literature category, the African continent was largely absent from the awards — most notably in the science categories. But this is nothing new.

With the notable exception of Egypt, which boasts a Nobel Prize in chemistry, and South Africa, which has five in chemistry, physiology and medicine, over the years Africa only has obtained Nobel Prizes for literature or peace. By comparison, the United States leads the way with 296 laureates, followed by Germany and Japan, with 94 and 25 awards respectively.

Many would be tempted to find the explanation for this poor African performance in a lack of "predisposition for science" or "scientific spirit" among our people. This is not the case: The capacity to produce scientific breakthroughs and to make discoveries does not lie in any "superior intelligence," in a supposed "genius," in alleged "genetic predispositions," or in the culture of the people.

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Weird

When Public Statues Go Very Wrong

This giant chicken will attract tourists! Let's honor a heroine of our history with a see-through dress! And other very visible bad ideas around the world...

From Mount Rushmore to Lenin's statue at Saint Petersburg’s Finland Station, political legacies have long been carved into stone, literally. But sometimes the vanity or silliness driving such projects turns them into monumental WTFs. That was undoubtedly the case last month in the U.S. state of Georgia, where a local mayor was ousted from office after pushing through a project to build a giant chicken as a way to attract tourists to this town.

But the list of grandiose ideas that fell flat, or worse, is long: from the racy likeness of an Italian heroine to the immortalizing of a corrupt African leader who isn't even from your country.

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Coronavirus

Omicron Extra! 16 Magazine Covers And Front Pages Around The World

The ominous Omicron COVID-19 variant has made a splash on international dailies and weeklies alike.

It's been another week dominated by an invisible virus. The news last Friday of a "variant of concern" identified by South African health care officials set off a new round of travel restrictions, global health policy criticism and vaccine debates as COVID-19 once again dominated news headlines and dinner conversations around the world.

Though the full impact of the Omicron variant must still be determined by ongoing scientific studies, the world was once again joined in a collective moment of anxiety and uncertainty a full two years after the first mentions of a novel coronavirus discovered in China began to appear in the world's news outlets. And now...?

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Coronavirus
Anne-Sophie Goninet

New Variant, Same Story? The Vicious Circle Of Our COVID World

As we learn yet another Greek letter through the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, around the world the new wave is starting to sound very familiar.

It’s been another 72-hour global moment.

It came in the days after the news first broke last Friday that B.1.1.529, named Omicron, had been identified by scientists in South Africa and assessed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “variant of concern.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has supplied a series of these collective worldwide “moments:” from the first wave of lockdowns to the discovery that the vaccines were effective to the Delta variant’s new wave of infections.

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Coronavirus
Shabir A. Madhi

Omicron Guidance For The World From A South African Epidemiologist

A South African researcher of infectious disease sees specific steps that governments should and shouldn’t be taking in light of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron.

South Africa reacted with outrage to travel bans, first triggered by the UK, imposed on it in the wake of the news that its genomics surveillance team had detected a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa has been monitoring changes in SARS-CoV-2 since the pandemic first broke out.

The new variant – identified as B.1.1.529 has been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation and assigned the name Omicron.

The mutations identified in Omicron provide theoretical concerns that the variant could be slightly more transmissible than the Delta variant and have reduced sensitivity to antibody activity induced by past infection or vaccines compared to how well the antibody neutralises ancestry virus.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

New COVID Variant, Black Friday Amazon Strikes, Tiny IKEA Flat

👋 Selamat pagi!*

Welcome to Friday, where a new fast-spreading coronavirus variant has been identified in South Africa, Amazon is hit by global protests on Black Friday and IKEA is renting a tiny apartment for a tiny rent in Japan. Meanwhile, boars, jaguars, pumas and bears invade our newsletter as we look at how wildlife is moving into cities around the world.

[*Indonesian]

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Geopolitics
Claudia Lafrance and Olivier Marbot*

The Rush To Reverse Africa's Dismal Vaccination Rate

As many parts of the continent face a brutal third wave, the urgency to vaccinate is growing. But the obstacles are many, including a stubborn strain of vaccine hesitancy.

Vaccination against COVID-19 remains a challenge in Africa. The Delta variant is spreading on the continent and the third wave of the pandemic is causing fears of more sudden and concentrated arrivals of severely affected patients in hospitals. The situation is all the more worrisome given the lack of capacity to care for them. Some facilities are already saturated. The situation is particularly problematic in South Africa, where it's winter now, in North Africa (especially Tunisia), and in Uganda, so much so that the specter of an "Indian-style" scenario is increasingly being raised.

So far, just over 6 million cases and 155,000 deaths have been recorded on the continent. But these figures could be underestimated, as the data is fragmented. In all, 51 countries on the continent (including the Maghreb) have received roughly 70 million doses from various sources, and 18 million people are now protected by two jabs. That means that less than 2% of the African population has been vaccinated, numbers that are simply "unacceptable," the World Bank's director of operations, Axel van Trotsenburg, recently said.

"The Covax system was supposed to provide us with doses, but we can see that it not functioning very well," laments Dr. Moumouni Kinda, executive director of the NGO Alima, which has just launched a vaccination support and awareness campaign in six countries.

"The situation is very disparate. In some countries, there is a shortage of doses, in others people have received the first dose but are unable to get the second," he adds. "We must change our methods, otherwise the third wave that is hitting southern Africa will also arrive in West Africa and this will be a failure for everyone. We must opt for active vaccination, that is to say, we must sensitize the populations and go to them, not wait for them to come to the centers."

Complicating matters is the fact that a large part of the African population is also reluctant to be vaccinated. This mistrust is even fueled by some leaders. In addition to legitimate questions, there are prejudices and conspiracy theories about alleged attempts at poisoning or even disguised sterilization. Last December, only a quarter of respondents of a survey conducted by the African Union's Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 18 countries across the continent believed that coronavirus vaccines were safe. At the same time, 79% of respondents said they would accept an injection if it was proven safe.

We must stop thinking that in Africa, we do not vaccinate properly!

"Too much fake news is circulating, especially on social networks," says Dr. Amavi Edinam Agbenu, who works with the WHO's Africa division. "Citizens don't necessarily have all the data to analyze it and we are working to bring them information as soon as we can."

Media campaigns, creating informational videos, and support for state communication are now among the organization's priorities on the continent.

"Resistance to the vaccine has many sources: confusion in communication, lack of clear information, the reputation of AstraZeneca, which some European countries have suspended for a while," Alima's Dr. Kinda explains. "So we use community networks, people who are able to explain things to people. But we also need to be transparent about the side effects of vaccines, document them and inform seriously, to reassure people."

Complicating matters is the fact that a large part of the African population is reluctant to be vaccinated — Photo: Robert Bonet/NurPhoto/ZUMA

The NGO director also deplores what he calls "contradictory messages," explaining that some people who send doses to Africa refuse to allow nationals of our countries, even though they have been vaccinated, to enter their country. "This is very regrettable and does not reassure people," he says. "The suspicion must stop. We have a good experience with mass vaccinations. If necessary we are able to go to villages, to go door to door… We know how to do it. We must stop thinking that in Africa, we do not vaccinate properly!"

Amavi Edinam Adgbenu, a pharmacy doctor and expert in immunology, agrees. "African countries may have a limited income, but their health systems are often well trained and able to carry out large-scale vaccination campaigns," he says. "They are used to vaccinating more than 10 million people in one week against yellow fever, meningitis, or polio, for example."

In addition to the Covax package, which announced 31.5 million Pfizer doses for Africa by the end of August, the African Union has secured 400 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one injection. The shipments are expected to arrive in the third quarter of 2021. According to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's regional director for the continent, the number of available doses are expected to be much higher in July and August. The WHO says that 25 million will be sent from the United States in the next few weeks and another 3.5 million from Norway, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom.

The rate of the use of vaccines received varies considerably from one region to another

The World Bank and several African leaders met earlier this month to discuss the development aid expected for the next three years, especially to fight the pandemic. But NGOs are concerned that donated doses will expire too quickly for countries to have time to roll out their campaigns.

Paradoxically, despite the shortage, batches of the vaccine have recently expired in the DRC, Health Minister Jean-Jacques Mbungani announced on July 14. And this is not an isolated case. Other countries are failing to administer them in time. In May, Malawi destroyed nearly 20,000 expired doses. The DRC, South Sudan and South Africa have also sent back doses, either because they were about to expire or because they refused the AstraZeneca vaccine, which did not work against the South African variant. Cameroon, seeing the deadline for its doses approaching, stepped up its vaccination campaigns last week. In all, some 20 sub-Saharan countries are still at risk, with some doses expiring by the end of the summer.

The WHO and CDC centers in Africa have been supporting governments for months in organizing their vaccination campaigns. Regular monitoring of stocks and their expiration dates has been put in place. "In some countries, the use of certain brands of vaccine has been frozen to clear priority uses," says Edinam Agbenu. Vaccination has also been opened earlier than planned to non-priority targets.

But the rate of the use of vaccines received varies considerably from one region to another. According to the latest figures available to WHO, Morocco, Angola and Rwanda have administered all their doses, followed closely by Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, Tunisia, Ghana, Uganda and South Sudan, which have exceeded 90% use. Sudan, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, and Eswatini are at around 80%

Some 30 countries have been less quick to develop their vaccine campaigns and have used between 30% and 80% of their doses, while seven others are really lagging behind. Some started their campaigns late. And it is possible that not all data has been reported.

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Geopolitics
Christian Putsch

In Rural South Africa, A Murder Rekindles Racial Tensions

The killing of a white farmworker near Senekal is dividing people once again along racial lines, even if most victims of violent crime — and not just in urban areas — are black.

SENEKAL — Two weeks later, there are still traces of dried blood in the grass.

"He was a hard worker with good manners, a great guy," farmer Gilly Scheepers says, kneeling down and pointing to the spot where his employee Brendin Horner was killed — strangled and stabbed.

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Sources

30 Years Later: Looking Back on Mandela's Release From Prison

Like the entire story of his life, Nelson Mandela's release from Victor Verster Prison exactly 30 years ago helped define the 20th century. Having served 27 years for leading the opposition to South Africa's racist system of Apartheid, his release brought to an end white minority rule. Four years later, Mandela would be elected president as the nation sought to find peace and reconciliation after decades of oppression.

But it was his release on February 11, 1990 became the iconic moment marking the change. After nearly three decades behind bars between Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison, the trained lawyer and activist triumphantly marched to freedom, walking hand-in-hand with his wife Winnie Mandela and surrounded by supporters.

There were many photographers on hand for the historic moment, but the best shot was captured by New York-based photographer Allan Tannenbaum. A veteran war photographer and chronicler of the New York City music scene, Tannenbaum had covered earlier uprisings in South African townships. When word came that Mandela was going to be released, the photographer got the call from his Sygma agency to cover the event. And with a steady hand and a bit of luck got the shot seen around the world.

OneShot is a new digital format to tell the story of a single photograph in an immersive one-minute video.

Follow OneShot:

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THE WIRE
Archishman Raju

Gandhi, A Singular Guide For MLK And Civil Rights Movement

At the 150th anniversary of the Indian independence leader and philosopher of non-violence, looking back long line of African-American leaders influenced by his ideas.

NEW DELHI — This year, we mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. A person's ideas and actions can only be judged by seeing their role over the course of world history. Even as we see the myriad aspects of Gandhi's life and associated ideas a century and a half after his birth, we should not forget his prime importance to history and to his time: as the leader of the Indian anti-colonial struggle, the culmination of which led to the first break from the chain of Western colonialism.

It is for this struggle in all its aspects and complexity, that India cemented its place in the 20th century inspiring leaders ranging from Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah who coined the term "positive action" based on his study of Gandhian satyagraha to Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh who called himself a "disciple" of Gandhi.

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blog
Bertrand Hauger

Up The Ibis Tree

The fauna and flora of South Africa rank among the most impressive I've seen anywhere in the world. Near Durban in the east of the country, I caught them both on vivid display, as a tree filled with white ibis.

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