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The Other Side of Agency

Last week I ran into a friend who’s a media studies scholar. We caught up about our work – she’s busy with a paper about the media representation of face masks. What am I working on? A paper on China’s provision of coal-powered electricity in Africa. Oh, ...

Sierra Leone’s Fishing Minister: ‘There Must Be Development’

The deal between the government of Sierra Leone and Chinese entities to build an industrial fishing harbor on 100 hectares of beach and rainforest reads like a textbook example of why China remains so unpopular among many African communities, even as its relationship with African governments goes ...

Commodity Supercycle Blues

The editorial board of Financial Times published an op-ed yesterday announcing a new commodities supercycle. They argued that the global pivot towards climate-friendlier technologies like electric vehicles is pushing demand for metals like cobalt, lithium and palladium (used in catalytic converters.) In addition, the Biden administration’s new commitments ...

The Winding Road of the COVID Crisis

One of the pandemic’s many challenges is how it outflanks our attempts to impose narratives on it. Humans are storytelling creatures – we use narrative to make sense of chaos and to prioritize threats. Each new phase of the pandemic scrambles the stories we used to make ...

When It Comes to Deforestation, There’s Plenty of Blame to Go Around

The NGO collective Forests and Finance released a new study today showing that investments by Chinese banks make it the world’s second-largest funder of projects linked to tropical deforestation.   Analyzing data from financial databases and company publications, the study found that between 2016 and 2020, Chinese ...

COVID and the Emerging Global Landscape

This week saw a small, but notable indicator in my corner of the global COVID landscape. South Africa announced that it will import 10 million doses each of China’s Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines. South Africa is hardly the first country in the Global South to ...

Quad Queries

I’ve wondered in the past whether ‘the Quad’ – the alliance among the United States, Japan, Australia and India dedicated as a counterweight to China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region – has taken on such prominence simply because the word is so fun to say. Quad quad ...

What We’ve Lost in the Fire

This weekend was a rough one for South Africa. On Sunday, the country watched as fires around Table Mountain slowly started creeping downhill, towards the beautiful campus of the University of Cape Town (UCT). Soon it was confirmed that the university’s African Studies library, which housed a ...

The Tesla-fication of Vaccines

175 former heads of state, Nobel Prize winners and other illustrious eminences added their support to the call for the U.S. government to mandate a relaxing of intellectual property laws to allow countries in the Global South to mass-produce vaccines without fear of being sued. One of ...

Unpacking African Agency

Today the South African Institute of International Affairs is holding a webinar featuring new work focusing on African agency in the face of Chinese power. How much power African actors have to shape their engagement with China is one of the field’s most ...
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