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Continent-Wide and Global Issues

This page updated on-line at http://www.africafocus.org/intro-gen.php.

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AfricaFocus Bulletin pays special attention to issues which are both Africa-wide and global. Today's global issues take different forms in different countries and on different continents. But the most critical issues transcend geographical boundaries and demand common action.

The talking points included in this set of pages were first prepared in July 2014, prepared for use at the Empowered Africa Forum at Howard University in Washington, DC, on August 4, 2014. Health as a Human Right was added in September 2014. Other global issues regularly covered by AfricaFocus include Migration and Information and Communication Technology.

Global warming and environmental damage from the fossil-fuel industry already affect all of us, although responsibility lies primarily with the rich industrialized countries and the newly industrializing powers. Africa is the most vulnerable continent, but extreme weather and sea-level rise have hit New Orleans and New Jersey as well as Lagos.

Inequality and tax evasion are growing both within and between countries, while the rich on all continents funnel their wealth into secret bank accounts scattered around the world. This erodes the public sector, starves countries of funds needed for development, and drives up deficits.

In responding to internal conflict, terrorism, and criminal violence, leaders in Africa and around the world most often rely on militarized responses that are ineffective and abusive of human rights. Although leaders give lip service to addressing the root causes, it is standard formulas of repression and funding for security forces that take priority in practice. Politicians and investors speak of creating good jobs. In practice, they most often promote a market-fundamentalist development model that sheds jobs while increasing profits for the 1%.
International agencies agree that small farmers are key to addressing poverty and food insecurity in Africa. But commercial monopolization of seeds and land grabs by both foreign and domestic investors make a mockery of international pledges. According to international law, health is a fundamental human right. Both national governments and the international community have the responsibity to ensure that this right is guaranteed in practice to everyone. Rich countries in particular have the responsibility to contribute their fair share to achieving this goal.

Most recent bulletins on continent-wide and global issues

November 23, 2021  Africa/Global: From Climate Denial to Deceit and Delay http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/cop26-2111.php
    Asad Rehman of War on Want spoke to the presidency of COP26 with words that resonated far from Glasgow: “The rich have refused to do their fair share, more empty words on climate finance. You have turned your backs on the poorest who face a crisis of Covid, economic and climate apartheid because of the actions of the richest. It is immoral for the rich to talk about the future of their children and grandchildren when the children of the Global South are dying now.” Less than 2 minutes. Watch here!

November 2, 2021  Africa/Global: The Heat is On! Time to Act! http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/clim2111.php
    The warnings are consistent and devastating, across the political spectrum from the International Monetary Fund from climate activists mobilizing at the climate summit in Glasgow and around the world. There are only eight years to have any chance of bending the curve of fossil fuel emissions sufficiently to avoid mounting climate chaos. Predictions are also consistent that the government officials gathered at the summit will continue to let promises and belated minimal policy shifts substitute for significant action.

October 15 , 2021  Africa/Global: Hardly a Dent in #VaccineApartheid http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/vac2110.php
    “Millions of people remain at risk of dying from COVID-19 because high-income countries (HICs), including the US, continue to hoard excess vaccine doses, warns a new report released [on October 11] by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The international medical humanitarian organization is calling on governments to commit to a concrete plan to redistribute vaccine doses to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) via COVAX or regional procurement bodies by the end of October.”

May 17, 2021  Africa/Global: Decolonizing Medical Technology http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/mal2105.php
    “A continent of 1.2 billion people should not have to import 99% of its vaccines. But that is the tragic reality for Africa. Fixing the lack of home-grown manufacturing capacity has become a top priority for Africa’s policymakers. Last week, 40,000 people, including researchers, business leaders and members of civil-society groups, joined heads of state for a two-day online summit designed to share the latest developments and kick-start fresh thinking on how to bring vaccine manufacturing to Africa.” - Nature magazine editorial, April 21, 2021

May 3, 2021  Africa/Global: African-Language Literature in Global Scholarship http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/aflit2105.php
    “Broad early modern comparative projects often fail to address Africa at all. A search of the MLAIB [Modern Language Association International Bibliography] finds that the number of pieces published in the last thirty years on the subject of 'globalization' is in the thousands, and yet only 5 per cent of them address Africa or African countries. When it comes to eighteenth-century studies, the exclusion is total: not one of the pieces on globalization addresses Africa or African countries. Not one. … This is more than unfortunate. No arena of study can be successful that has Africa as a lacuna. “ — Wendy Laura Belcher

April 19, 2021  Confronting Global Apartheid Demands Global Solidarity http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/ga2104.php
    "The COVID-19 pandemic has both revealed and deepened structural inequalities around the world. Nearly every country has been hit by economic downturn, but the impacts are unevenly felt. Within and across countries, the people who have suffered most are those already disadvantaged by race, class, gender, or place of birth, reflecting the harsh inequality that has characterized our world for centuries."

April 6, 2021  Africa/Global: People's Vaccine vs. Vaccine Apartheid http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/vac2104.php
    Despite the vast disparity in the pace of vaccinations for Covid-19, currently at over 20% having one dose in North America, 5% in the world, and less in 1% for Africa, the United States, other rich countries, and pharmaceutical companies are still rejecting growing demands to waive patents and transfer technology. See chart below and data by country at https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations.

February 22, 2021  Africa/Global: The Inequality Virus http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/ineq2102.php
    “COVID-19 has been likened to an x-ray, revealing fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built. It is exposing fallacies and falsehoods everywhere: The lie that free markets can deliver healthcare for all; The fiction that unpaid care work is not work; The delusion that we live in a post-racist world; The myth that we are all in the same boat. While we are all floating on the same sea, it’s clear that some are in super yachts, while others are clinging to the drifting debris.” – António Guterres, UN Secretary General

January 26, 2021  Africa/Global: Distant Horizon for Vaccine Equity http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/vacc2101.php
    “I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure – and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries. Even as they speak the language of equitable access [to Covid vaccines], some countries and companies continue to prioritize bilateral deals, driving up prices and attempting to jump to the front of the queue. This is wrong. … The situation is compounded by the fact that most manufacturers have prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries where the profits are highest, rather than submitting full dossiers to WHO.” - Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

December 14, 2020  Africa/Global: State of Tax Justice 2020 http://www.africafocus.org/docs20/tax2012.php
    “Of the $427 billion in tax lost each year globally to tax havens, the State of Tax Justice 2020 reports that $245 billion is directly lost to corporate tax abuse by multinational corporations and $182 billion to private tax evasion. Multinational corporations paid billions less in tax than they should have by shifting $1.38 trillion worth of profit out of the countries where they were generated and into tax havens, where corporate tax rates are extremely low or non-existent. Private tax evaders paid less tax than they should have by storing a total of over $10 trillion in financial assets offshore.” - Tax Justice Network, November 2020.

October 13, 2020  Africa/Global: The Future's Not in Plastics http://www.africafocus.org/docs20/plas2010.php
    “The petrochemical industry is already facing record-low plastic feedstock prices as a result of massive overcapacity. And yet, it plans to expand supply for virgin plastics use by a quarter at a cost of at least $400 billion in the next 5 years, risking huge losses for investors. The plastics industry is a bloated behemoth, ripe for disruption. … Meanwhile, 36% of plastic is used only once, 40% ends up polluting the environment and less than 10% is actually recycled.” - Carbon Tracker Initiative

August 3, 2020  Africa/Global: Preventing the Next Pandemic http://www.africafocus.org/docs20/zoo2008.php
    “COVID-19 is just one example of the rising trend of diseases – from Ebola to MERS to West Nile and Rift Valley fevers – caused by viruses that have jumped from animal hosts into the human population. … The rising trend in zoonotic diseases is driven by the degradation of our natural environment – through land degradation, wildlife exploitation, resource extraction, climate change, and other stresses.” - Press release from UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, July 6, 2020

July 6, 2020  Africa/Global: Not Pessimism or Optimism but Possibilism http://www.africafocus.org/docs20/econ2007.php
    “The evidence—gathered both from our own long experience of working with African governments and from the work of others—is that there are in fact cadres of thoughtful, public-spirited policy officials and even politicians; and furthermore that there is ample demand from wage workers and the intelligentsia for industrial policies rooted in evidence rather than abstruse economic theory.” - Christopher Cramer, John Sender, and Arkebe Oqubay

June 22, 2020  Africa/Global: Fossil Fuel Viability to Decline Sharply http://www.africafocus.org/docs20/clim2006.php
    “Falling demand and rising investment risk is likely to slash the value of oil, gas and coal reserves by nearly two thirds, sending shock waves through the global economy by hitting companies, financial markets and countries reliant on exports, finds a new report from Carbon Tracker. It warns that the fossil fuel industry is approaching terminal decline because of competition from clean technologies and tougher government policies to achieve climate targets and increase energy security. The COVID-19 crisis is now accelerating this: demand for oil could fall by 9% in 2020 according to the International Energy Agency.”