Thursday. 10/6/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Emma Searle

Continental shift

The G7’s commitment to Africa has dwindled over the past 20 years. Foreign aid and debt relief, once prominent features at G7 gatherings of the late 1990s, have since taken a back seat. At this weekend’s summit in Cornwall, Africa will be represented by South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa (pictured, on right, with Emmanuel Macron), who will see this as a crucial opportunity to get the priorities of his country and the continent back on the agenda.

Ramaphosa intends to bring a message of hope and recovery to the summit, signalling that his country is emerging from the pandemic. But his central pitch will be to let Africa help itself by producing more vaccines rather than waiting on handouts from abroad. Together with India’s Narendra Modi, who will be joining remotely, Ramaphosa hopes to persuade G7 nations to agree to a temporary waiver on some intellectual property rights for inoculations, which in turn could pave the way for an African-made jab. “If the international community is truly committed to human rights, vaccines should be viewed as a global public good,” Ramaphosa said in a statement last month.

Africa currently accounts for less than 5 per cent of the world’s vaccine-manufacturing capacity. Public-health experts believe that a locally-made coronavirus vaccine – even one based on the science of a formula developed in the West – could go a long way to boosting public confidence. “Africans are becoming less trusting of vaccines imported from the West because they don’t want to be treated as guinea pigs," Christian Happi, a Cameroonian infectious-disease specialist, whose own coronavirus vaccine is in stage-2 trials, recently told Monocle 24. “If a vaccine were to be developed in Africa, we’d see a different response on the continent because they will identify with that vaccine.” As leaders prepare to meet for this week’s G7 summit, let’s hope that Africa is more than a mere footnote to proceedings.

Image: Getty Images

Space / USA

Preparing for launch

Many people are suffering from wanderlust these days but who would want to explore a planet swirling in sulphuric acid and carbon dioxide? Well, Nasa, evidently. The US space agency has greenlighted two new missions to Venus. To describe Earth’s nearest neighbour as inhospitable would be an understatement: the planet’s 450C surface temperatures are hot enough to melt lead, not to mention the parachutes of past probes that tried to land there in the 1970s and 1980s. But less than a billion years ago, Venus had a climate much like ours, complete with oceans, comparable weather and, possibly, some form of life – until a runaway greenhouse effect caused the evaporation of its entire water cycle. Studying Venus could be a stellar way to learn about greenhouse gases and climate change on Earth. And at the very least, it might leave us feeling a little more cheerful about the vagaries of our own weather.

Image: Getty Images

Migration / EU

United approach

Ministers from the so-called ‘Med 5’ countries – Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Malta – have backed the creation of an official EU agency with powers of repatriation and deportation. It comes amid a marked increase in arrivals this year, especially in Spain; the five southern states believe that the EU must act now or risk more summer turmoil in the Mediterranean. In return, the Med 5 have accepted that they might have to drop demands to equitably redistribute asylum seekers among the 27-nation bloc.

“The fact that this small shift by the Med 5 has gained attention is indicative of just how stuck the EU is on the migration issue,” says Charlotte McDonald-Gibson, author of Cast Away: True Stories of Survival from Europe’s Refugee Crisis and Monocle’s correspondent in The Hague. “There’s still a very long way to go to get consensus on meaningful reform that will have a real impact on the lives of people who are risking everything to reach Europe.”

For more on this story from McDonald-Gibson, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Christophe Viseux

Culture / Abu Dhabi

Fuel for the soul

Having already become home to the Louvre’s first international outpost (pictured) in 2017, Abu Dhabi is doubling down on its ambition to become a global cultural attraction. The city announced this week that it is setting aside a whopping $6bn (€4.9bn) to invest in the construction of more museums as well as projects from media to music. Among other things the funding will build on plans to create a “cultural district” on Saadiyat Island, which is already slated to host the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the Zayed National Museum and two other venues. It’s all part of a broader effort to diversify the national economy, which is heavily geared towards oil. Given that the UAE relies on petroleum for about 30 per cent of its GDP, a shift towards a non-exhaustible resource is essential: and with such a handsome budget, opting for the creative industries is a timely investment.

Image: Getty Images

Fashion / UK

Cutting ties

London Fashion Week returns this weekend with combined men’s and women’s shows – and the industry is hoping that it will mark the beginning of the end of digital-only showcases. Organisers behind Milan Men’s Fashion Week, which starts next Friday, and Paris Fashion Week for menswear, taking place from 22 June, will have a mix of digital and physical events, including audiences. And after that? “From September, when the traditional fashion weeks take place, there is a really big push to make those physical again,” brand consultant Rebecca Tay told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “New York is encouraging designers to show up and there are two big designers returning to the schedule: Joseph Altuzarra [pictured] with his brand Altuzarra and Thom Browne.” Meanwhile, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, which is behind Paris Fashion Week, says that it will be providing tools for designers to measure the environmental effects of future showcases; a return to physical shows can be done with sustainability in mind.

Image: Stefan Ruiz

M24 / The Foreign Desk

António Guterres

The UN Security Council has backed secretary-general António Guterres for a second five-year term in office. Listen back to this special episode of The Foreign Desk, where Monocle’s news editor Christopher Cermak speaks with Guterres about his plans to revive international diplomacy and why he is feeling “hopeful” about 2021.

Monocle Films / Global

Copenhagen: healthy city growth

The concept of kolonihave, a blissful combination of an allotment and a summer house, has shaped Danish cities since the late 17th century. Today avid growers convene in these colonies to find a peaceful place to commune with nature – and a community of diverse characters.

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