For the past two decades, Southern African leaders have been looking for external support and genuine foreign investment in infrastructure, agriculture and industry. Besides these economic spheres, the leaders plan to boost significantly business ties with foreign partners and seek effective ways to strengthen exports on foreign markets.
In this regard, Southern African countries welcome investors from all over the world. Russia has a long history of bilateral engagements with the Southern African countries, which constitute the Southern African Development Community.
The Memorandum of Understanding renewed in October 2018 envisages strengthening ties in a broad range of fields and it further shows that SADC remains comparatively as one of Russia’s key regional partners in Africa.
According to official documents, Russian Foreign Ministry [MFA] first signed a Memorandum on Cooperation with Southern African countries on September 1, 2003 during an indepth meeting held between then Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and SADC Executive Secretary Prega Ramsamy.
That agreement primarily aimed at strengthening the diplomatic relations and coordination between the Russian Federation and SADC. The document outlined the most promising areas, as well as the forms and methods of mutually beneficial cooperation in the trade-and-economic and scientific-and-technical areas, transport and communications, energy and mineral resource development, public health, education and culture.
It sets out the mutual desire of Russia and the SADC member countries to step up the many-sided ties between the parties, including the importance of intensifying political contacts at various levels. Both sides as a top priority task emphasized in the document the necessity of making the maximum use of the existing considerable potential.
Since 2003, Russia has had a staggering economic profile in the African region. Indeed, 15 years have elapsed and not much significant have been achieved due to multiple factors, highly experienced experts say in separate interviews as reported here.
Stergomena Lawrence Tax, Executive Secretary of SADC, said “Russia and Africa have been partners for many years, and expressed a desire to achieve a new level in the relationship.”
According to SADC Executive Secretary, Russia has not been visible in the region as compared to China, India or Brazil. But, for past few years, it is encouraging that Russia has made enthusiastic efforts towards repositioning itself to be a major partner with Southern Africa.
Stergomena Lawrence Tax, a Tanzanian by birth and educated in Japan, was appointed in September 2013 at the 33rd Summit of the Heads of State and Government in Lilongwe, Malawi. She is the first woman to hold the position in the history of the regional bloc, SADC.
Rex Essenowo, Member of the Board of Trustees of Nigerians in Diaspora Europe [NIDO] and Senior Executive of Asian Africa Trade, a Moscow based business lobbying NGO, pointed to Russia’s tremendous growing interest in the Southern African region. Similarly, he first welcomed the new development that the agreements have been renewed after 15 years, but this time, there should be some level of commitment – not just signing the Memorandum of Cooperation.
He noted that the key issue emerging from many policy experts is a fresh call on Russian Government to seriously review and change some of its policy approach currently implemented in Africa. The experts called for more commitment towards development-oriented policies that would help the continent overcome its development problems.
Essenowo, however, expressed optimism that “if Russia intensifies efforts in understanding the African development needs, there could be smooth flow of effective operations. It is important to note that financial commitments, investment guarantees or some sort of financial stimulus plan are needed to improve trade and investment programmes, so as to make policies more effective than mere declaration of interests.”
“In addition, African financial banks and related economic institutions must get up to the task. There is nothing much to talk about without adequate funding and effective management of our resources. We should expect a boost in trade balance between Russia and the SADC region, even with other key regional blocs like, East and West Africa,” the Trade Expert concluded.
Professor Gerrit Olivier from the Department of Political Science, University of Pretoria in South Africa, noted that Russian influence in Africa, despite efforts towards resuscitation, remains marginal.
“What seems to irk Russians, in particular, is that very few initiatives go beyond the symbolism, pomp and circumstance of high level opening moves. It is still not clear how Southern Africa sees Russia’s willingness [and intention] to step up its role in Africa, especially with China becoming more visible and assertive on the continent,” he questioned.
While, given its global status, it ought to be active in Africa as Western Europe, the European Union, the United States and China are, it is all but absent, playing a negligible role, Olivier added.
“At present diplomacy dominates its approach: plethora of agreements have been signed with Southern Africa and various other countries in Africa, official visits from Moscow proliferate apace, but the outcomes remain hardly discernible,” Olivier, who previously served as South African Ambassador to the Russian Federation, wrote in an email comment from Pretoria, South Africa.
Alexandra Arkhangelskaya, a Senior Researcher at the Institute of African Studies and a Senior Lecturer at the Moscow High School of Economics said that Russia and Africa needed each other – “Russia is a vast market not only for African minerals, but for various other goods and products produced by African countries.”
Currently, the signs for Russian-African relations are impressive – declarations of intentions have been made, important bilateral agreements signed – now it remains to be seen how these intentions and agreements would be implemented in practice, she added.
Dr. Martyn Davies, the Chief Executive Officer of the South African-based Frontier Advisory [Pty], suggested to Russian officials the adoption of a model by China to readily fund its companies interested in investing in Africa. He explained that the Chinese model of financing various infrastructure and construction projects in Africa had enhanced investments by the Asian country into the continent. China, the world’s second-biggest economy after the United States, is currently Africa’s largest trading partner.
There are an estimated 1500 Chinese corporations doing business in Africa, most of which are private companies investing in the infrastructure, industry, agriculture, energy and banking sectors.
Davies said the main factor that had assisted this speedy market engagement between Africa and China was that Russian banks had “de-risked” the projects in Africa from a financial perspective, finally explained that “Russia’s banking sector operates quite differently.”
Kelvin Dewey Stubborn, South African based Senior Analyst on BRICS and African policy, observes that Southern African region presents attractive growth opportunities for both foreign private and public investment.
“It seems Russia has to change its approach, move forward to deliver on overarching pledges and promises, [long-overdue step] in order to win the hearts of Africans. Undoubtedly, African leaders are not looking for Soviet-era level of relationships. ”
He maintains that Russia is determined to support African peace and security initiatives, to end conflicts on the continent of Africa but how much its [Russia’s] overall economic footprint and influence will contribute to improving stability is less certain. As already known, Russia has shown interest in the settlement of various conflicts in Africa, primarily in countries such as South Sudan and the Central African Republic, and the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa.
Stubborn explained the hidden public interpretation that African politicians have become political tourists, passionately going forth and back for diplomatic consultations with little impact on the economic development in Africa. Russia has been engaging with African political elite for many years and this has to reflect on the economy.
According to him, “the world is witnessing how Western, European, Asian and the Gulf states are using economic diplomacy and effectively addressing development needs under the principle of mutual respect, equal cooperation, and mutual benefit for Africa. It’s completely a new era that requires comprehensive system of strategies, get engaged or get disengaged – a totally different reality, a new paradigm shift on the African landscape.”
For many policy practitioners such as these mentioned here in this article, Russia’s engagement efforts should necessarily include African experts, civil society representatives and the media – some aspects of public diplomacy as its aim is to appeal and attract partners rather than coerce them into a relationship in one form or the other. Russians have to find ways while dealing with investing into Africa’s future.
Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov has acknowledged that Russia’s economic cooperation is not as far advanced as political ties but would do well to raise trade and economic ties to a high level of political cooperation by promoting joint activity in order to make broader use of the huge potential of Russian-African trade and investment cooperation.
On the other hand, Lavrov indicated that “Russia is not only committed to long-term cooperation but also ready for large-scale investments in the African markets with account of possible risks and high competition. Equally important is African businesspeople who are looking to work on the Russian market.”
Russia ultimately intends to regain its leading position and influence in Africa. Quite recently, among the initiatives that were designed to strengthen overall ties between Russia and Africa, Lavrov informed that “Russia-Africa forum will be held at the parliamentary level in the near future, followed by a Russia-Africa business forum. All of that will serve as important steps for laying the way to a full-blown Russia-Africa summit, as discussed at the meeting of the BRICS member countries with their African partners in Johannesburg in July.”
The Southern African region is the integrated market resulting from a combined population of approximately 327 million people, and a collective GDP of US$ 600 billion , which is supported by generally favorable weather conditions in most parts of the region.
Governance reform could see African economies benefit to tune of £23bn
The latest edition of PwC’s bimonthly Global Economy Watch has found that African economies could receive a windfall of £23bn if each economy applied similar governance reforms equivalent to those made by Cote d’Ivoire since 2013.
The continent-wide economic analysis modelled the performance of each country across six of the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators (2013-17), which covers aspects such as regulatory quality, rule of law and government effectiveness.
The analysis has found that if each African economy made an improvement to governance equivalent to that made by Côte d’Ivoire over the past four years, these gains would be worth around $23bn if realised across the continent.
The countries with the largest potential gains are those with a comparatively high GDP per head but a poor track record on governance. Accordingly, oil-rich Libya and Equatorial Guinea would see the greatest increase, with each person gaining an additional $400 and $200, respectively.
Those with lower GDP per capita, such as Niger and Malawi, would see a smaller improvement, despite their governance rank being below the average for the region. By contrast, economies like Rwanda, which have made similar improvements to Côte d’Ivoire, would also only realise a small benefit, with greater gains made through further diversification of their economies.
Regional differences are significant
The forecast also notes strong regional differences in economic growth across the continent. Economic growth has been particularly strong in East Africa (at around 3% a year since 2013). Central Africa, by contrast, saw annual real GDP per capita fall by an average of 1.3% over the period. North Africa and the Southern region experienced very sluggish growth (of 0.4% and 0.8% a year respectively), while West Africa saw faster growth of 1.9% a year.
Mike Jakeman, senior economist at PwC UK says,
‘Given that Africa contains more countries than any other land mass on earth, it is vital that we consider each economy in its own terms. Economic performance has varied wildly in recent years, but the correlation between strong economic growth and improvements in governance suggests a way for all of Africa to grow more quickly.
‘It is important to acknowledge the real benefits that governance reform can bring. Improved governance can also help countries identify other opportunities for growth. Although we should move away from a single narrative about the African economy, we can also acknowledge areas of mutual interest and benefit across regional economies.’
Manufacturing has driven the global slowdown
Looking at the recent performance of the global economy, the report also explores the causes of the slowdown since mid-2018. The weakness appears concentrated in the manufacturing sector, with purchasing managers indices for the US, China and the euro zone, in particular, declining.
Mike Jakeman says, ‘There are two interrelated stories here. The first is the effect of the US-China trade conflict, which is causing disruptions to supply chains suppressing appetite for trade. This is bad news for Europe, especially, which is a big exporter to both the US and China.
‘The second is the Chinese government’s attempt to deleverage its highly indebted corporate sector, which is likely to have exerted downward pressure on its own manufacturing output and those of its main suppliers. However, the cooling effect of the trade war on the economy has led the government to prioritise its GDP target of 6-6.5% over its deleveraging programme.
‘This short-term relaxation of policy, especially if combined with an armistice on trade, could be enough to re-inject some momentum into the global economy in the remainder of 2019.’
Africa: A Rich Continent and Poor Policies
Africa, the land of good, peace and natural wealth that is unparalleled, but under the circumstances, this continent have been under the yoke of foreign colonialism for long and bitter years, suffering from the problems of poverty and deprivation and being classified as “third world.” The situation is even worse with the epidemics and serious diseases that have plagued this continent, in addition to the endless wars, related to religious, political and societal divisions. This bad situation, which is unacceptable in the 21st century, urges the world to take responsibility.
The African continent has been a source of wealth for many who are “not African.” The African continent has been used for many years to build nations outside the African borders and serve the world’s people. In addition to the external hand that dominated and took over the resources of African land, the only thing that is incredible “rich land and a poor and hungry people.”
Africa is rich in gold, diamonds, chromium, cobalt, platinum and uranium. Some African countries such as Algeria, Angola, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Libya and Nigeria, for example, rely on the export of crude oil for about 70-95% of foreign exchange. Botswana relies on exporting diamonds for 80% of foreign exchange, as well as Zambia, which relies on copper exports for 80% of foreign exchange. Niger relies on uranium, which accounts for 96% of foreign exchange. But there is another problem: the inevitability of dependence on the outside because of the link between the economy of these countries with import and export, specifically its connection with Europe and America. Talk of full African independence will not be realistic because of the economic ties of the Great Powers.
Africa is also dependent on many foreign countries for its undeniable debt, aid and donations. Africa is not yet ready to pursue a policy of giving up foreign aid and talking about Africa, self-sustaining and not in need of other countries. The debt problem in many countries of the African continent has reached high rates. The average ratio of debt to GDP in sub-Saharan Africa increased from 51% to about 100% during 1982 and 1992.It is therefore necessary to develop an economic strategy for the African continent that makes it a fully sovereign geographical area. Since sustainable development begins with economic growth, all the problems of the continent will be resolved if a viable economic policy is pursued. A large proportion of Africa’s debt comes from the colonial powers themselves, such as France and Britain.
The endless wars in many African countries are a source of constant tension, making the African continent classified as politically and security unstable area, which threatens the tourism sector and the pace of economic growth and makes the investor prefer to invest in other areas more secure and stable. African countries are required to pursue a strict security policy that works to root out extremism and rein in terrorist and subversive groups that have brought destruction, devastation and economic decline to the country.
The extreme poverty that afflicts the African continent is due to unfair policies that do not take into account the criteria of community development in many cases, and most importantly, the accumulated external debt that hinders the process of social and economic development. As the African continent, as mentioned earlier, is a region rich in natural resources, it is therefore important to make use of these resources, and not to leave them to foreign countries, in other words, not to allow the African continent to be an open and unregulated territory.
The most serious diseases in the world today are rampant and widespread in the African region, such as malaria, kidney disease and AIDS, which plague African people. International organizations and bodies such as the World Health Organization are now required to work, move and intensify efforts to reduce the prevalence of these diseases.
The illiteracy rate is very high on the African continent and this is unacceptable nowadays. As there is no way to progress and develop except in education and the dissemination of the culture of science, International educational institutions should focus on the poor and educate them and increase the proportion of schools and universities in bilateral and collective cooperation.
This miserable situation in the African continent has long led many to think of emigration or resort to other countries. But most of them live in difficult conditions in foreign countries, and the phenomenon of asylum and intensive migration leads to the abundance of cheap labor in foreign countries and provides them with difficult jobs that are not easy for the countryman to carry out.
The African continent is rich in natural resources and has surplus labor, which is sufficient to achieve self-sufficiency if accompanied by a sound economic and social policy. Therefore, African governments and the African Union must take unified decisions and not follow the policy of dependency because such a policy will only increase the African continent deficit and economic and social decline.
The governments of the African countries should make their relations with the countries of the world friendly regardless of the financial or military power of the other side so that the African countries will not remain in the position of the weak. All this indicates that African countries are capable and need only to unite and work on sound policy. Poverty in African countries can be solved if natural resources are exploited well and in the interest of African countries and not of other countries.
Western Sahara: UNSC resolution draft and calls for neighboring commitments
In view of the adoption of the MINURSO, issues, and circumstances that have been associated with the Issue of the Sahara conflict resolution case have still in processing. Current discussions have studied upon the main functionalism of the forum and its effectiveness and productivity in managing its performances over the conflictual region.
Due to this, the recent budget cost of the UN mission is given as a new financial deposit for MINURSO in Sahara territory. The interests of the UN Security Council resolutions on the renewal of financial process to the conflict is to bring regional stability and securitized MINURSO’s work field under international UN standards, and preserving the safety of its members coinciding with the current political uprising in Algeria and Polisario’s camp. This is quite superficial that the pressure poured by the superpower powers on the commitment to frame up an territory for the settlement, particularly the United State side, which was intentionally supervised to decrease its contribution to the United Nations, and the Secretary-General and his envoy to set a time frame in six months to cope with the Sahara case.
Yes, Resolution 690 had brought the result of the ceasefire and how MINURSO guided the division of the settlement plan process and the observing of the cease-fire. Meanwhile, new missions were added to the adjustment file, especially, the implementation of the voter identification and registration program after the full establishment of the identity confirmation committee to handle the referendum, over the introduction and presentation of the lists and the holding of the proportion.
But the inefficiency and lack of the UN mission to designate a clearly specified scope was the first sign of failure to terminate the file of the Sahara conflict, making the application impossible and contrary to the rules of rational sought to avert anarchy and maintain stability in an open arena on all geopolitical potentials and variables.
As noted, the MINURSO Mission’s relationship with the parties to the Western Sahara conflict has been moved to the sphere of disagreement, and has pushed to Morocco’s call for MINURSO personnel quit and suspend the liaison office of the United Nations Mission in Sahara (UNSMA) in Dakhla, as long as the failure of the approach adopted to hand over different possibilities, scenarios and go beyond the established and beyond-of the Mission, the failure of the latter was seen in mishandling the process of independent human rights monitoring in 2014 that goes beyond the usual tasks of peacekeeping missions. Though this indicates a symbol of its failure to engage in biased approaches, risky alternatives, weak ability to rearrange the process of the settlement, and how to maintain it. And also currently discussed the preparatory talks in Geneva, I and II, with the decisions of the mission and the envoys of the Secretary-General of the United Nations during the past periods, and argued the framework of the settlement plan to be implemented since the resolution 690 and possible alternatives and initiatives proposed, as well as recording abuses and inequality management of the cease-fire since the early nineties of the last century .
To certain extent, the transformations in the international sphere have overcasted the duty of the mission in Western Sahara and the adjustments seen by all the parties engaged in the Sahara issue, both advocating the Polisario Front, particularly after the Kingdom of Morocco back to the African Union and the enhancing of European and Moroccan strategic cooperation, as well as the progress of economic and financial openness with many states such as China, Russia, and India. Algerian leverage declined due to the financial crisis caused by the descend in oil and Gas interests, and the current political situation, with a constitutional vacuum, as an outcome of social mobility. And made it the fully complicated case in Algeria on the road map to be achieved, due to the new role and direct the Algerian party and the Mauritanian in the Western Sahara case as involved in seeking a suitable resolution within the scope of the settlement.
Accordingly, the real motives provided by the MINURSO mission in the Western Sahara in relation to the settlement project and the deterrents encountered in past stations, when they exceed the powers granted to them, the involved parties in conflict thought the Mission officers would be more professional to provide reliable plans and decided to reach rational peace and security over the territory of Sahara region, but it is supposed to evoke the developments and changes taking place in the regional and international environment, which seeks to end up the case, and stop the suffering of many individuals in the Tindouf camps.
In both theory and practice, it is widely held that the applicable existence of MINURSO in the Western Sahara conflict has been focused on two key aspects: First the time framework of the mission, and the mechanism of observing the conflict circumstances over the region, also the manner in which the case is handled by the United Nations, which is based on the quality of the events contained in the decisions of the UN envoy, and the pressure of members of the UN Security Council, particularly the United States. Who given strong positions in the statements of US National Security Advisor John Bolton and Senator Jim Anheoff.
The second aspect is rational, based on the right to develop a settlement policy, move away from rigid unreliable decisions, and take a real understanding of the geopolitical changes in the Sahara region and beyond in order to achieve security and stability of the Northeast region, and more importantly to develop the linkage of solidarity of the Maghreb integration based on institutional charter.
Equally, it is very crucial to understand why Russia and South Africa refused to vote for Sahara resolution text in the UNSC a few days ago, pointing out that the text resolution was prepared tried to ensure the political unity of the members of the Security Council on the subject of Western Sahara. Unlike the permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council showed their positions after the adoption by the UN Security Council of the extension of MINURSO’s mandate in Western Sahara until October 31, 2019, with the support of 13 members are willing to end up this longstanding conflict in Africa.
Yet, The representative of the United States of America, which is adapting the text resolution, is pleased with the support showed by the UN Security Council for the efforts of Horst Köhler, the UN envoy to Western Sahara, to make a lasting and acceptable solution by both parties to the conflict.
In Foreign affairs doctrine, ” consensus ” refers to the accepted plan in which the adjustment of conflicts towards negotiation is only the legitimate way. The United States sent straightforward strong messages to Algeria. “Neighboring states should cooperate seriously due to achieve a political solution. This strong language has helped to make progress in today’s consultations with The kingdom of Morocco, Algeria, the Polisario Front, and Mauritania,”
For its part, France restated its strong support for the autonomy initiative, which proposes The Kingdom of Morocco to resolve the Sahara conflict, outlining autonomy as “the only basic, realistic, credible and trustworthy solution that can shape the keystone of the forthcoming negotiations.”
True, France showed its regret that the mandate of the MINURSO had not been improved for an entire year instead of six months, calling on the Security Council to renew to the old version of the forthcoming resolutions. France also pointed out the need for the engaged four parties to the conflict to continue in the same format, organizing the third session of the consultations.
South Africa, which abstained in favor of the resolution, showing its disapproval of its contents.”The resolution contains many aspects that are not fit for UNSC resolution. It is also unbalanced and does not accurately reflect the efforts of the parties, Morocco and especially the Polisario Front,” Indeed, South African is known an anti-Rabat stance for any resolution come to settled down Western Sahara conflict. Also, For its part, Cote d’Ivoire praised the efforts and achievements of the Kingdom of Morocco to end the Sahara issue, particularly the autonomy plan, which it characterized as “serious and solid for negotiations among the parties to the conflict.” The Côte d’Ivoire had hoped that the mandate of the United Nations Mission would be renewed for a full year instead of six months.
In effect, this is what the Kingdom has expected the outcome. The Russian position, which fully rejects the UN Security Council resolution, declared its rejection of the text resolution submitted by the United States, on the basis of which the Security Council resolution was passed. The Russian representative highlight that “amendments to the resolution go in an unbiased direction,” calling for “the determination of criteria on the basis of the ultimate aim of self-determination for the peoples of the Sahara.”
Having indicated that it would maintain to play a balanced role among all parties to the conflict in order to reach a mutually rational solution, Russia pointed out that the continuation of the current circumstances in Western Sahara could be used by jihadists groups, which would jeopardize the region militarily and politically.
As a strategically important Arab Middle East countries of Morocco, Kuwait, as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, welcomed the decision of the Security Council and Morocco’s efforts to close the Sahara conflict file. The representative of Kuwait points out that the final resolution of the conflict would give the progress of the peoples of the Maghreb region and upgrade the security and stability of the neighboring States of the region. Therefore, Kuwait also restated its support for the autonomy plan in the Moroccan Sahara, showing the need to respect Morocco’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, describing Morocco’s serious and credible solutions as well as the role played by the National Human Rights Council in Dakhla and Laayoune and Rabat’s cooperation with the UN human rights bodies.
The Security Council resolution highlighted the commitment for a rational, practical and lasting political solution to the case of Western Sahara on the sense of consensus and fully supported the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to sustain the process of new negotiations to resolve the issue.
So far, the resolution noted the significance of the Personal Envoy to invite the Kingdom of Morocco, the Polisario Front, Algeria, and Mauritania to meet again and welcomed their commitment to keeping to participate in this settlement process in a spirit of commitment and compromise to ensure success.
Additionally, The Security Council called upon the parties to restate negotiations under the supervision of the Secretary-General without preconditions and in good faith, taking into account the efforts made since 2006 and subsequent developments with a view to reaching a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would guarantee the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
Security Council stressed the importance of renewing the parties’ commitment to enhancing the political process, in preparation for deeper negotiations, and encouraged the neighboring countries especially Algeria to make important and effective contributions to the resolution process. In the end, the resolution advocated both parties and neighboring countries to engage seriously with each other ongoing to solve this conflictual issue and promote better implementation of UN mission in Western Sahara territory.
In summary, the classical Security Council resolution draft for MINURSO extension in Western Sahara doesn’t give any realistic solution to the issue, just a postponement. As a matter fact, UNSC needs to updates its time framework and implementation measures through calling all involved conflict parties, especially Algeria and Polisario Front to speed up their commitments and engagement in Moroccan Autonomy plan which is seen internationally more acceptable and more suitable for settling down the Western Sahara conflict.
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