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Explainer: Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa

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Why does the EU need a new Strategy?

Africa is Europe’s closest neighbour. The ties that bind Africa and the European Union (EU) are broad and deep as a result of history, proximity and shared interests. It is time to take this relationship to the next level.

2020 will be a pivotal year for Africa-EU relations to realise the ambition of forging an even stronger partnership.

The new Partnership Agreement between the EU and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States is expected to be concluded and the next EU-African Union Summit will take place in Brussels in October 2020 in view of defining a joint partnership agenda.

Both Africa and Europe face a growing number of shared challenges, including the effects of climate change and the digital transformation.

So Europe needs to partner with Africa to tackle together the common challenges of the 21st century. This is why this communication proposes new avenues for cooperation between the two continents to strengthen the EU’s strategic alliance with Africa

What is new in this proposal for a new Strategy?

The joint communication by the Commission and the High Representative is a contribution towards a new strategy with Africa. It sets out ideas to intensify cooperation in all aspects of the EU-Africa partnership. It proposes a comprehensive framework for future partnership to enable both sides to achieve their common goals and to tackle global challenges.

As a response to new, changing realities, the proposal for a strategy introduces a specific focus on the green transition and the digital transformation as key target areas for future cooperation.

More importantly, throughout the joint communication, the EU emphasises the need to fully take into account youth and women as well as their potential as agents of change. Responding to their aspirations will determine the future of the continent.

The proposal for a new strategy is a starting point to take the partnership to a new level based on a clear understanding of our respective and mutual interests and responsibilities. It aims at reflecting the comprehensiveness and maturity of our relationship in which the interests and values of both sides are brought together to promote joint cooperation on areas of common interest.

These include developing a green growth model, improving the business environment and investment climate, boosting education, research, innovation, the creation of decent jobs through sustainable investments, maximising the benefits of regional economic integration and trade, combatting climate change, ensuring access to sustainable energy, protecting biodiversity and natural resources, as well as promoting peace and security, ensuring well-governed migration and mobility and working together to strengthen the multilateral rules based order that promotes universal values, human rights, democracy and gender equality. Enhanced cooperation on global and multilateral affairs must be at the heart of our common action.

The EU and its Member States must adapt the way it engages with Africa ensuring its positioning is in line with our mutual interests and give more prominence to values, key principles and good regulatory practices in the light of the increased interest from many players in Africa’s potential.

What are the main challenges and areas of cooperation going forward?

The strategy identifies five key areas for deepened future cooperation between Europe and Africa.

These are: (1) green transition and energy access, (2) digital transformation, (3) sustainable growth and jobs, (4) peace and governance, (5) migration and mobility

Under each of these headings, the proposal for a new strategy sets out ways to deliver on common goals.

In addition, forging a strong political and enhanced cooperation on global and multilateral affairs will be at the heart of our common action.

Has the EU engaged with stakeholders to produce this strategy?

Today, the Commission and the High Representative presented the first elements of the strategy. There has been preliminary outreach before. Beside internal engagement with EU member states and members of the European Parliament, as well as with civil society, both formally and informally, the EU has reached out to African partners, including during the 10th Commission-to-Commission meeting on 27 February 2020 in Addis Ababa.

The proposals also build on the agenda jointly agreed at the 2017 African Union-EU Summit in Abidjan and on recent exchanges that took place at political level.

Today’s joint Communication set out proposals to feed in the ongoing dialogue with EU member states, African partners, as well as private sector, civil society and think thanks, which will be taken forward ahead of the next EU-African Union Summit in Brussels in October 2020.

The African Union-EU Ministerial meeting on 4-5 May in Kigali will be another opportunity to discuss the communication in depth at a more formal level with the African side.

The EU-African Union Summit in October 2020 should be the culminating moment when we hope to agree on a common way forward with our African partners to tackle joint priorities, which is our objective.

Will the new strategy replace the Joint Africa-EU Strategy set out in 2007?

The Joint Africa-EU Strategy in 2007 was an important step in the relationship between the EU and Africa. However, in 2007, the world was a different place and the reality of our partnership with Africa was in a different global context. In 2020, 13 years later, new opportunities and challenges occur – such as climate change, the digital transformation, inequalities, demographic pressures and global governance. Africa is a booming continent, with over recent years some of the quickest growing countries worldwide, and is attracting the attention of several other players. We live in a competitive global environment where global public goods are under threat. We have to adapt to these new realities and renew our partnership with Africa.

Today the EU proposes the potential priorities for this new partnership. The EU will continue to engage with our African partners in view of defining together our joint strategic priorities for the years to come.

How does this strategy fit with the European Commission’s broader objectives, such as the EU’s Green Deal and a focus on digital?

The European Commission wants to lead the transition to a healthy planet and a new digital world. On both of these issues, the EU’s engagement with Africa reflects those ambitions.

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the EU and Africa alike need to opt for a low carbon, resource efficient and climate resilient future in line with the Paris Agreement.

The European Commission is committed to making Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent; in its external action, it proposes to partner with Africa to maximise the benefits of the green transition and minimise threats to the environment. This will include every aspect from the circular economy and sustainable value-chains and food systems through to promoting renewable energy, reducing emissions, protecting biodiversity and ecosystems, and advancing green and sustainable models of urbanisation.

African countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change as it risks jeopardizing the ongoing progress on sustainable development.

Similarly, the European Commission has vowed to create a Europe fit for the digital age; in its external action, it proposes to partner with Africa to promote and harness digital transformation in Africa and ensure access to safe and affordable digital services.

A 10% increase in digital coverage could boost by over 1% Africa’s GDP, according to estimations. With the right investment, infrastructure and regulatory framework, digitalisation has the power to transform African economies and societies. Moreover, the interdependence of the two continents means that the EU’s engagement with Africa is driven by its values and by its interests alike.

What economic ties exist between Europe and Africa?

The EU is Africa’s largest trade and investment partner, and the main supporter of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with €72.5 million mobilised by the end of 2020.

In 2018, total trade in goods between the 27 EU member states and Africa was worth €235 billion – 32% of Africa’s total. This compares to €125 billion for China (17%) and €46 billion for the US (6%).

In 2017, the 27 EU Member States had foreign direct investment stock in Africa worth €222 billion – more than five times either the US (€42 billion) or China (€38 billion).

How much development and humanitarian aid does the EU provide in Africa?

The EU and its Member States are the leading provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa. In 2018, the EU and its 27 Member States provided €19.6 billion – 46% of the total which Africa received.

Furthermore, the EU, together with its Member States, is Africa’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Since 2014, the European Commission itself has allocated more than €3.5 billion for humanitarian relief in Africa.  

The EU is currently negotiating its future long-term budget. Under the European Commission’s proposals, the new EU external funding instrument for the period 2021-2027 would have a global scope, but over 60% of the funds available would benefit Africa.

What is the EU doing to boost investment and job creation in Africa?

Africa is a continent of growing opportunities, with a young, innovative workforce and high levels of economic growth. The EU is Africa’s largest trade and investment partner.

We want to partner with Africa to:

– Boost trade and sustainable investments in Africa

– Promote policy reforms which improve the business environment and investment climate

– Increase access to quality education, skills, research, innovation, health and social rights

– Advance regional and continental economic integration

This can be achieved building on the work under the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs announced in 2018 with the objective of creating 10 million jobs in five years, boosting investment and promote sustainable development. Through the EU External Investment Plan, a key part of the Alliance, the EU has already allocated €4.6 billion in funds for blending and guarantees since 2018. These funds should leverage €47 billion of public and private investment. Moreover, since 2018, the EU has also provided almost €1.4 billion to Africa to strengthen the business environment and investment climate.

The EU is proposing to turn the Alliance into the central pillar of economic relations between the two continents.

Will EU will prioritise trade, investment and economic growth over human rights? How will the strategy promoterespect for human rights?

Respect for human rights remains at the heart of the EU’s development cooperation, and therefore play a fundamental role in the proposal for a new strategy.

Respect for the universal human rights –political, civil, economic, social or cultural- will remain a key trait of our partnership.

Through the partnership for peace and governance, the EU will seek to join forces with African partners to promote full respect for human rights, acting at all levels. For example, the EU will continue to support human rights defenders and initiatives to reinforce civil society organizations. A more strategic and structured approach to human rights political dialogues with African countries will also be adopted, in complementarity with regular consultations with African regional organisations and the well-established consolidated AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue.

Development, meaning economic growth, can only be sustainable if it is built on a foundation of respect for human rights.

What does the EU do to promote peace and stability in Africa?

Peace and security are not only a basic need for all, they are also a pre-condition for economic and social development.

Peace, security, good governance and economic prosperity in Africa are also vital for the EU’s own security and prosperity.

The EU is already active in this field in Africa. It is currently providing advice and training to more than 30 000 African military, police and judiciary personnel through 10 Common Security and Defence Policy missions. In addition, the EU has provided €3.5 billion through the African Peace Facility since it was established in 2004, including €2.4 billion since 2014, to contribute to peace and military operations led by the African Union.

Additionally, more than one million people in sub-Saharan Africa have benefited from EU-supported post-conflict peace building and conflict prevention programmes since 2014.

Under the proposals set out in the strategy, the EU will adapt and deepen its support to African peace efforts through a more structured and strategic cooperation, with a particular focus on regions with the highest tensions and vulnerabilities. The EU proposes to support African capacity in defence and security, including through the European Peace Facility and its CSDP missions, and focus on an integrated approach to conflict and crisis, acting at all stages of the conflict cycle. This entails prevention, resolution and stabilisation efforts by well targeted humanitarian, development, peace and security actions.

Resilience should in particular be at the heart of African and EU efforts to address protracted conflict and fragility, given that resilience, peace, security and governance are intimately linked. The EU proposes in the strategy to support the efforts of our African partners to address the full spectrum of challenges and increase their overall resilience.

How will the EU partner with Africa on migration and mobility?

Demographic trends, the aspiration for economic opportunity, the ongoing conflicts and crisis and the impact of climate change will mean that the levels of migration and forced displacement will continue to pose both challenges and opportunities for both Europe and Africa.

Migration will remain one of the priorities of our partnership. Well-managed migration and mobility can have a positive impact on countries of origin, transit and destination alike and benefits both our societies.

Since 2015, the EU and African countries have developed a joint approach to managing the external aspects of migration and mobility,in the context of the dialogue and cooperation under the Valletta, Rabat and Khartoum processes, which has proven that together we can save and protect lives, assist those in need, and break the cruel business model of smugglers and traffickers.

The EU will partner with Africa on a balanced, coherent, and comprehensive approach to migration and mobility, guided by the principles of solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility and based on the respect for human rights and international law. Both issues of legal migration opportunities and improved cooperation on return and readmission will be part of the discussions on the way forward.

The EU promotes continent to continent dialogue on mobility and migration and will continue to enhance the trilateral cooperation between the African Union, the United Nations and the EU.

How will negotiations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific be reflected?

The EU and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States are expected to conclude a new Partnership Agreement to replace the Cotonou Agreement, which will expire at the end of 2020. The future ACP-EU agreement covers a common foundation agreement, along with three specific partnerships tailored to each region, including one for EU relations with Sub-Saharan African countries that are party to the ACP Group of States. This will create a new legal framework for relations between the EU and the ACP countries.

The EU also has separate Association Agreements with four Northern African countries.

The overall relations between the EU and the AU are defined by the joint Summits, which take place every three years, and by the regular ministerial meetings, giving political steering to the continent-to-continent relationship.

Africa Today

First of four UN humanitarian airlifts for Ethiopia refugees lands in Khartoum

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A young Ethiopian refugee sleeps on a mattress at a transit site in Hamdayet, Sudan. © UNHCR/Olivier Jobard

An airplane loaded with humanitarian supplies for people fleeing violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region has arrived in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, the UN refugee agency (UNCHR) said on Friday, in an appeal for international assistance to cope with the growing numbers seeking shelter in Sudan.

“This morning, a plane carrying 32 tonnes of UNHCR emergency aid from our global stockpiles in Dubai landed in Khartoum”, said spokesperson Babar Baloch. “Another airlift is scheduled to leave Dubai on Monday with an additional 100 tonnes of additional relief items…In total, we plan to send four airlifts.”

Growing exodus

Since the start of fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in early November, more than 43,000 refugees have crossed into Sudan.

People have sought shelter amid reports of a heavy build-up of tanks and artillery around regional capital Mekelle, following the Ethiopian Government’s ultimatum to forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to surrender, which has reportedly expired.

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed deep concern over the unfolding situation, before urging “the leaders of Ethiopia to do everything possible to protect civilians, uphold human rights and ensure humanitarian access for the provision of much-needed assistance”.

In a statement, the UN chief also called for the “free and safe movement of people searching for safety and assistance, regardless of their ethnic identity, across both national and international borders”.

Echoing the Secretary-General’s message, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, warned that both sides were using rhetoric that was “dangerously provocative and risks placing already vulnerable and frightened civilians in grave danger”.

One million refugees

Even before violence erupted in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region causing mass displacement, Sudan was already home to nearly one million refugees, mainly from South Sudan.

In eastern Sudan, UNHCR has continued to step up its relief effort, together with national and local partners. “Aid is being mobilized to help refugees, almost half of whom are children”, Mr. Baloch said, citing “complex logistical challenges”.

To date the agency has helped to relocate nearly 10,000 refugees to Um Rakuba site, 70 kilometres inside Sudan, as work continues to put up shelters and improve services.

Family tracing services have been established and these have already reunited many separated refugees.

Mr. Baloch noted that although humanitarian agencies continue to provide shelter and other facilities to help refugees, “more resources are required and Sudan needs international support urgently”.

Inside Tigray, concerns continue to grow for the safety of civilians in Mekelle, home to more than 500,000 people, and some 96,000 Eritrean refugees based in four camps.

No access

“Without humanitarian access, it’s very hard to say what is actually going on, on the ground but there were worrying reports that fighting was getting closer to these refugee camps”, Mr. Baloch told journalists via video link at a regular UN Geneva briefing.

Before the conflict erupted, UNHCR had “regular access to the refugees”, the UNHCR official continued, but “since the start of it, we have lost access”.

Highlighting the refugees’ reliance on humanitarian distributions, Mr. Baloch said that “according to what they have had…they will be running out of food as of Monday”.

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Africa Today

Quality and standards: Game-changers for the post-COVID recovery of African economies?

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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has organized a webinar onquality and standards in the context of post-COVID-19 recovery of African economies. It provided a multi-stakeholder platform to discuss the role of quality institutions and services for the sustainable and inclusive industrialization of Africa.

The discussion took place in the framework of the UNIDO–African Union joint celebration of Africa Industrialization Week 2020 on the theme, “Inclusive and sustainable industrialization in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and COVID-19 era”. It also represented a follow-up to the International Quality Infrastructure Forum held in April 2019 in Brussels, which focused on the contribution of Quality Infrastructure (QI) to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to implement the AfCFTA.

The session was moderated by Patrick Gilabert, Head of the UNIDO Liaison Office in Brussels, and introduced by Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento,Managing Director of UNIDO Directorate of Digitalization, Technology and Agri-Business, at UNIDO headquarters.  Calzadilla-Sarmiento stated that standards and quality for the AfCFTA, strong partnerships, and investments, were key to ensure inclusive and sustainable industrial development in Africa and achieve the SDGs for people, planet and prosperity. He also highlighted that “digitalization will be an integral part of the new normal”.

The keynote speech was delivered by Elsie Meintjies, Chief Technical Adviser for the UNIDO South Africa office, who presented case studies in the South African region. For her, “it is clear that we are facing challenges, but also opportunities to uniquely position ourselves in the world”. COVID-19 is, in her view, “the catalyst for South African technical infrastructure to take a quantum leap to the next level of service for our industry and our citizens”. She also confirmed the role and significance of standards, conformity assessment, accreditation, and metrology in the economy of South Africa.

Antti Karhunen, Acting Head of Unit at DG DEVCO, presented the European Union (EU) common response to the pandemic, called “Team Europe”, which will support Africa with a recovery package of 3.8 billion €.From an EU perspective, improvements in quality infrastructure and standards harmonization in Africa, together with investment promotion, private sector support (especially SMEs), and value chain diversification, are seen as great opportunities for Africa to emerge as a strong international trading partner. Karhunen recognizedthe need to build international partnerships, based on mutual interests and shared values to “build back better” and aim for a green, digital, and resilient recovery. He concluded by acknowledging that DEVCO was looking forward to continuing the excellent cooperation with international partners such as UNIDO and the Organisation of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).

Escipión Joaquín Oliveira Gómez, Assistant Secretary General of the OACPS in Brussels, warned that the COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted all economic and social processes. Value chains are being put in a very difficult position, hence the time for a paradigm shift towards more competitiveness based on “value propositions”. He said the guiding principles for OACPS to successfully tackle the COVID-19 pandemic are clear: recognize that it is not a crisis that can be tackled by one continent, region, country or sector alone; foster public-private sector dialogue and cooperation at all levels; promote national consumption of locally produced goods and services; assist vulnerable groups such as youth and women via special programs; take advantage of the crisis to promote the use of “leapfrog” technologies by MSMEs.

Eve Christine Gadzikwa, past President of the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), recognized that we live through times that are both exciting, where the concept Made in Africa is becoming more and more a reality, and challenging. For her, the critical elements to unlock value from the continent are the participation of SMEs and the contribution of women and youth. Obvious gaps are also access to information, logistics facilitation, intellectual property rights, payment options, and data storage. Even more importantly, she believes the mindset of the private sector has to change and become one of productivity, competitiveness, sustainable growth, market penetration and recognition of the value of the digital economy.

Dorsaf Labidi explained how the African Development Bank (AfDB) has contributed to the global efforts against the crisis. She mentioned the quick response mechanism put in place through loans amounting to 10 billion dollars. These budgetary measures for governments and private sector intend to mitigate the direct impacts of COVID-19. However, they should also be complemented by capacity-building measures and technical assistance in order to anticipate the needs for the economic recovery and future shocks.

Papa Demba Thiam, economist and industrial development expert, argued that shared growth with wealth distribution can only take place through value chains with value addition. In the AfCFTA context, quality standards, metrology, and testing truly matter. He suggested to focus on the strengths of the continent to support industrialization and to follow a more integrated approach through minimum integrated trade expansion platforms and operational services.

Ron Josias, Chair of the African Accreditation Cooperation (AFRAC), shared his view regarding the impact of COVID-19 on accreditation corporations responsible for evaluating and establishing regional arrangements for accreditation bodies on the continent. Challenges occurred in two main ways: people and processes. One the one hand, social distancing changed the way communication, trainings, and administrative management usually worked. On the other hand, preventing laboratory visits and the verification of technical competences proved to challenge accreditation bodies to witness the quality of processes. In this context, smart technologies became key. Despite these challenges, his view is that the crisis introduced new grounds for innovation as it “made us think in different ways”.

To conclude the webinar, speakers were invited to share their views on how they see the future of quality and standards. In a nutshell, key take-aways showed a common enthusiasm regarding the prospect of internationally accepted Made in Africa products, and a call for change in mindset that ensures consumers believe and trust in the quality of African products.

Panellists also agreed that collaboration was more than ever needed and especially through public-private partnerships. Joint efforts are required to ensure that pan-African quality infrastructure works, that concrete steps for the intra-African and South-South cooperation in regard to industrial development are made, and that integration is reinforced between all institutions.

Other concluding remarks urged the need for investments, capacity-building, digitalization of QI (especially data security, confidentiality and connectivity) and for taking more holistic approaches by working at regional level.

The discussion led to the conclusion that it is high time for a paradigm shift. Africa and key partners should build on the social and economic disruptions related to COVID-19, the opportunities offered by the momentum of AfCFTA, and the innovations brought by digital transformations. Looking ahead, quality and standards will remain cornerstones of competitiveness and essential services for resilient, inclusive, and sustainable industrialization in Africa “to build back better”.

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Africa Today

Kenya’s GDP Contracts Under Weight of COVID-19, Impacting Lives and Livelihoods

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The latest World Bank economic analysis for Kenya projects the economy to contract by between 1.0 percent and 1.5 percent in 2020, as ongoing COVID-19 containment measures and behavioral responses restrict activity in Kenya and its trading partners.

The Kenya Economic Update, Navigating the Pandemic, notes the downturn in economic growth reflects the more severe economic impact of the pandemic to date than had been initially anticipated, including a large impact on the national accounts of the closure of education institutions since March. In response, the government has deployed both fiscal and monetary policies to support the healthcare system, protect the most vulnerable households, and support firms to help preserve jobs, incomes and the economy’s productive potential. With a sharp decline in tax revenues due to the weakening in economic activity, and tax relief, and an increase in COVID-related spending needs, the fiscal deficit has widened, and debt vulnerabilities have risen. The fiscal deficit widened to 8.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), up from the pre-COVID budgeted target of 6.0 percent of GDP, and Kenya’s debt to GDP ratio has risen to 65.6 percent of GDP as of June 2020, up from 62.4 percent of GDP in June 2019.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten both the lives and livelihoods of Kenyans, we remain committed to supporting the government to allocate sufficient resources to the health sector to combat the pandemic, continue with mass testing, support self-quarantine, social distancing, and protect the most vulnerable groups,” said Keith Hansen, World Bank Country Director for Kenya. “It is equally critical to provide well-targeted support to the most vulnerable affected households.”

Beyond strengthening health systems and protecting incomes, the report recommends several near-term actions that can play a role to combat recession and revive the economy’s productivity, creating the conditions for a resilient and inclusive recovery. Ensuring continued access to safe healthcare, including for non-COVID-19 related health concerns, remains a priority. Given fiscal constraints, this will require redirecting expenditures to the highest priority areas, whilst maintaining a focus on raising the efficiency of spending and ensuring the transparent use of funds.

Following the job and income losses precipitated by the crisis, the report notes support is needed for the “new poor” whose livelihoods have been affected. This could be achieved through a horizontal scale-up of social protection programs, appropriately targeted, timely, and temporary while the crisis persists.It is critical to ensure continued support to vulnerable households, while safeguarding human capital through expanded access to digital technology, combined with better access to information to mitigate usage of negative coping strategies (i.e. asset liquidation) and combat food insecurity while offsetting the increase in poverty.

“Following the extraordinary economic support efforts necessitated by the crisis, Kenya’s economic recovery can be supported by the authorities returning to an appropriately-timed and balanced fiscal consolidation path, to reduce mounting debt vulnerabilities and safeguard macroeconomic stability,” said Alex Sienaert, World BankSenior Economist and lead author of the report. “Kenya will also need to enhance its existing institutional setup for monitoring and responding to future communicable disease outbreaks, and further the still-critical “Big 4” agenda for medium-term inclusive growth, including realizing the government’s vision of sustainably providing universal healthcare.”

Kenya’s economic outlook remains highly uncertain, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold in the country, and globally. Under baseline assumptions, the economy is projected to rebound quickly in 2021, lifting real GDP by 6.9 percent y/y. A major factor in this strong rebound is the unusual impact on the national account’s treatment of education sector output normalizing, which is projected to add 2.2 percentage points to real GDP growth next year.Delayed availability of vaccines, and prolonged social distancing and other needed COVID-19 countermeasures, could undermine the projected recovery in economic activity.

The report’s policy section focuses on options to strengthen healthcare system and testing capacity, to support firms, and to protect the most vulnerable households to cope with the COVID-19 global pandemic.

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