The threat spectrum

Planet A

A new report on the impact of climate change in Africa predicts 118 million of Africa’s most impoverished people will be subject to climate-change-induced displacement, disasters and extreme weather conditions by 2030.

Africa’s average temperatures, sea-level rises and melting of glaciers are increasing faster than global averages. Total continental deglaciation may occur during the 2040s, which could have a flooding then drying effect on river flows. Food insecurity hit 40% more people in Africa in 2020 than in 2019, and the percentage spikes between 5% and 20% with each flood or drought.

By 2050, it’s estimated climate change will lower GDP by up to 3% in sub-Saharan Africa. On top of this, adaptation efforts will cost 2–3% of regional GDP in the next decade. The report probably underestimates this figure as it doesn’t include the costs of the transition away from fossil fuels, which will see large revenue losses for countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, South Sudan and Libya.

African nations contribute just 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions but bear a disproportionate climate change burden. The chair of the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change, Tanguy Gahouma, is calling for a donor tracker to hold developed nations accountable for their commitments, amounting to US$100 billion per year, to support developing nations under climate change.

Democracy watch

Protests in Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, escalated this week after the country’s nurses’ union announced its members will no longer treat any police officers, whom they describe as a ‘brood of vipers’. This extraordinary measure is in response to the killing of a bystander and the injuring of 30 nurses at a pro-democracy rally.

The country has been engulfed by protests since June in opposition to King Mswati III’s authoritarian rule and fuelled by the country’s staggering wealth disparity. Four-fifths of the population lives on less than US$2 a day, and Oxfam has designated Eswatini as the ‘most unequal nation on the planet’. Political parties have been banned since 1973 and the government recently also banned protests, closed schools indefinitely and repeatedly shut down internet access.

While King Mswati says he is open to dialogue after the Incwala ceremonies—where the king isolates himself and doesn’t participate in government for a month—opposition forces say they see this as a delaying tactic and that they won’t negotiate with a ‘king who has blood on his hands’.

Information operations

Facebook whistleblowers have revealed longstanding issues with the company’s monitoring of hate speech and misinformation, and a known disparity in the effectiveness of safety protocols between English-speaking and non-English-speaking countries. The Washington Post reports that just 16% of Facebook’s counter-misinformation budget was directed outside of the United States. It describes how the consequences of this under-resourcing played out in Facebook’s largest market, India.

In the lead-up to India’s 2019 election and amid flaring tensions with Pakistan over Kashmir, anti-Muslim hate speech and propaganda posts in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi flooded the platform, with few consequences for the accounts responsible. A year later, internal audits found Facebook’s algorithm couldn’t identify hate speech and misinformation across language groups in India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Myanmar. Despite ongoing efforts, these massive gaps in coverage leave the platform vulnerable to exploitation by bad actors and raise serious concerns about Facebook’s capacity and willingness to respond to misinformation in some of its largest markets.

Follow the money

The Australian government has announced its partnership with Telstra to acquire Digicel Pacific, the largest telecommunications provider in the South Pacific, for $2.14 billion. While Telstra is set to become the owner and operator of Digicel Pacific, the Australian government was the deal’s chief financier, with $1.9 billion of the total to be paid through Export Finance Australia and Telstra to contribute $360 million.

Rumoured for months, the deal comes after Digicel Pacific filed for bankruptcy in May last year with a reported US$7 billion in debt and amid concerns in Canberra that state-owned telco China Mobile was interested in acquiring the company. Despite questions over the firm’s long-term profitability, the Australian government is likely to see the purchase both as both a milestone commitment to its Pacific step-up and as a counter to the growth of Chinese regional influence.

Digicel is a critical part of the region’s communications infrastructure, servicing millions of people across Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga and Fiji. The deal is expected to be finalised within six months.

Terror byte

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in men in developed countries engaging with misogynistic ideology online. In this period, attacks against women linked to the ‘involuntary celibate’, or ‘incel’, movement have been reported in Canada, Germany, the UK, the US, Japan and South Korea, prompting authorities to question if these crimes constitute acts of terrorism.

Last year, Canada charged a minor emboldened by the incel movement with a terrorism offence when he killed a woman and injured two more. It was the first Canadian terrorism case brought against an incel-inspired person and also the first terrorist case in Canada not linked to Islamic extremism.

Some experts say that misogynistic ideology should be classified as terrorism to allow appropriate public policy and law enforcement responses to mitigate the threat. However, others argue that public health responses would better address incel radicalisation, especially since the number of incel-linked attacks is low.