Thursday 3 August 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 3/8/2023

The Monocle Minute

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Opinion / Ope Adetayo

Ties that bind

Following last month’s coup in Niger, the Economic Community of West African States, known as Ecowas, threatened to use force to restore Mohammed Bazoum (pictured), the democratically elected president. While the outlook for the region doesn’t look great (Niger is the fourth West African country to experience a successful coup since 2020), any sort of military intervention would only serve to inflame an already combustible security situation.

The Ecowas defence chiefs are currently meeting in the Nigerian capital of Abuja to brainstorm a military response. But this is going to be an exercise in expensive folly. While Ecowas has a history of successful interventions (Sierra Leone in 1997, when it restored Ahmed Tejan Kabbah; 2017, when it ensured the mandate of The Gambia’s Adama Barrow), none of them have created lasting peace.

Nigeria’s president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, currently holds the rotating chairmanship of Ecowas. But, more importantly, he is the leader of Niger’s neighbour. With shared security issues and a history of collaboration, it is paramount for Tinubu to resolve the situation over the border. And that means managing to do it amicably, without resorting to military force. Nigeria has too many internal problems to get involved in a long-term conflict or even a peacekeeping mission.

With Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Niger now under juntas, there has clearly been political failure across the region. Remaining democratic governments such as Senegal have also demonstrated autocratic tendencies and have often continued to subvert the people’s will. Leaders need to stop their power grabs and focus on the root causes of broken societies, from corruption to extremism via economic stagnation. These coups are not happening in a vacuum. The sooner West African leaders understand this, the better the region’s long-term democratic health will look.

Ope Adetayo is a Monocle contributor based in Lagos. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / USA

History repeated?

A rematch of the 2020 US presidential race appears almost inevitable despite the early promise that Republican pretender Ron DeSantis would upset the apple cart – and it could be a nail-biter. Joe Biden and Donald Trump lead the field to become nominees for their respective parties, while the first national poll on next year’s race by The New York Times and Siena College Research Institute shows there to be a 43 per cent split among registered voters choosing between the two potential candidates.

This is despite Donald Trump’s criminal indictment on Tuesday, related to his attempts to hold onto power after losing the 2020 election. Trump is accused of defrauding the US, obstructing a government proceeding and depriving Americans of the right to have their votes counted. While Biden will seek to capitalise on the development, Trump’s legal woes seem only to have riled up his loyal base of supporters. While next year’s candidates could be the same, their backers are even more divided.

Society / UK

Taking liberties

The UK is facing a growing threat to its democracy as a result of recent government legislation and “culture wars” tactics, according to a report published this week by two UK charities. The research from Civil Exchange and the Sheila McKechnie Foundation finds that policies such as this year’s Voter ID Identification Regulation, which restricts what counts as valid ID to vote in the UK, and the lack of independence and diversity in the mainstream British press are contributing to a rapid decline in public freedoms.

Civicus, a not-for-profit organisation that produces an annual report on the health of civic spaces worldwide, came to the same worrying conclusion earlier this year, labelling the UK as “obstructed”. According to Civil Exchange’s director, Caroline Slocock, charities and the general public can reimagine the future of democratic spaces. “We could create places in which people’s voices count and in which our democratic institutions are truly accountable,” she tells The Monocle Minute. “Ultimately, these are goals that cross political divides.”

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Morocco

Pedal to the metal

Morocco’s automotive industry is speeding ahead. In fact, it has just overtaken the country’s phosphates industry, which draws on the world’s largest reserves, to become the North African nation’s biggest export. Automotive exports have already generated €4.3bn in the first half of 2023, a record 23 per cent increase from last year, making it the most buoyant car market in Africa and Morocco is now a manufacturing hub for some EU companies.

Despite the industry’s stagnation during the pandemic, trade agreements worth €1.23bn with European manufacturers such as Dacia, Peugeot and Renault, as well as with US equivalents, have seen factory production steadily moving to Morocco. Forecasts suggest that the country could be making as many as one million cars a year by 2030, with hubs in Kenitra, Tangier and Casablanca. In an industry equal to €2.61trn annually, Morocco won’t want to take its foot off the accelerator.

Culture / Switzerland

Bigger picture

Every year a small Swiss city on Lake Maggiore becomes a giant, open-air cinema. Locarno Film Festival, which opened for its 76th edition yesterday, is a film buff’s paradise. Screenings take place around town but none compare to the idyllic setting of Piazza Grande, which can hold up to 8,000 other moviegoers. The latest edition will be president Marco Solari’s last in charge after more than two decades. His much-anticipated successor will be arts patron and Luma Foundation founder Maja Hoffmann.

“Locarno is a place of artistic freedom,” says Solari. “The main purpose of the programme is to discover authentic talent, even in contexts where it struggles to emerge or is blocked by political or financial obstacles.” With the festival running until 12 August, look out for the European premiere of Shayda by executive producer Cate Blanchett and the Cannes award-winning courtroom drama Anatomie d'une chute.

Image: Benedickt Rent

Monocle Radio / The Monocle Weekly

Daphne Guinness

Monocle Radio’s senior correspondent, Fernando Augusto Pacheco, speaks with fashion icon and singer Daphne Guinness about her new single and upcoming album.

Monocle Films / Hospitality

Welcome to the Auberge Monocle

Monocle has so far resisted the temptation to open a hotel – but that doesn’t mean that we don’t spend time thinking about who we’d hire to oversee a renovation, run the bar or design the uniforms. With this in mind, here are the six house rules we’d strictly enforce to keep things civil and serene around the pool, in the lobby and on the balcony.


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