Dozens Killed as South Africa Erupts

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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: At least 72 people die in South Africa unrest, the Biden administration is to issue a warning to U.S. businesses operating in Hong Kong , and French President Emmanuel Macron announces drawdown of troops in Africa’s Sahel region.

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: At least 72 people die in South Africa unrest, the Biden administration is to issue a warning to U.S. businesses operating in Hong Kong, and French President Emmanuel Macron announces drawdown of troops in Africa’s Sahel region.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Looting Spreads Across South Africa

At least 72 people have been killed in South Africa following days of protests and riots sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma.

More than 1,200 people have been arrested during the unrest, police said, as protests and looting spread from Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal to Johannesburg, leading to supply chain disruptions and food shortages.

Zuma presented himself to authorities last Wednesday after he was found guilty of contempt for failing to testify before a corruption tribunal and then ignoring a constitutional court order. While he serves a 15-month sentence in prison, Zuma’s foundation has used the latest violence to call for his release. “Peace and stability in South Africa is directly linked to the release of President Zuma with immediate effect,” the foundation tweeted on Tuesday.

South Africa’s current unrest can’t be seen only as a response to Zuma’s situation. Like many middle- and lower-income countries, South Africa is still struggling with the economic shocks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic: Unemployment for the first three months of 2021 stood at 32.6 percent, while youth unemployment is the highest of any country worldwide, according to World Bank figures.

A third wave. The country is also dealing with a third wave of coronavirus infections, reporting a record 26,485 new cases on July 3. The surge in cases has also prompted an extension of social restrictions, including a ban on the sale of alcohol and a 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew.

South Africa’s vaccination drive was initially hobbled by the emergence of the beta variant, prompting the country to sell on its AstraZeneca stock in March amid reports of the vaccine’s low efficacy against the variant. Another order of 2 million Johnson & Johnson shots was delayed due to blood clotting fears and eventually scrapped due to contamination in materials sent from a U.S. factory.

Vaccine potential. Although just 2.5 percent of South Africans have been vaccinated, the country’s own pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities make it an essential partner for less fortunate countries in the region.

Local firm Aspen Pharmaceutical has been contracted to supply the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and has the capacity to produce 200 million doses per year, while in June the World Health Organization announced a plan to establish a mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa to train manufacturers from low- and middle-income countries.

What We’re Following Today

Biden’s business warnings. The Biden administration is expected to issue a warning to U.S. businesses this week over the risks of operating in Hong Kong, citing concerns over data security and the territory’s national security laws.

The likely move comes after a Tuesday announcement from the U.S. State Department, strengthening its warnings to companies over the risks of doing business in China’s Xinjiang region due to the “severity and extent” of the human rights abuses there. Businesses with supply chains, ventures, or investments linked even “indirectly” to Xinjiang run a high risk of breaching the law, the State Department said in a statement.

The updated advisory, which was originally released last July, came the same day as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also addressed the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang in his call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying that they should “live in prosperity and peace as equal citizens of China,” according to Ankara’s statement—though the two also discussed the great potential for business ties between their countries.

SCO meets on Afghanistan. Foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meet Wednesday to discuss the future of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The group, which includes China, India, Pakistan, and Russia, is expected to issue a joint statement following the meeting while laying the groundwork for a meeting of heads of state in September. The summit marks a busy week for Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as he visits Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan on a Central Asian tour.

Russia’s wildfires. An area larger than the state of Delaware has been destroyed in wildfires tearing across Siberia, as record-high temperatures in the region in recent weeks exacerbate an increasingly intense wildfire season. “The fire risk has seriously flared up across practically the entire country because of the abnormal heatwave,” Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Tuesday as President Vladimir Putin ordered the defense ministry to assist local authorities to fight the blazes. The fires form part of a vicious cycle brought on by climate change: In 2019 and 2020, Siberia’s fires led to record amounts of greenhouse gas emissions from the region.

Keep an Eye On

Bulgaria’s election. The Bulgarian opposition party There Is Such a People won the Bulgarian parliamentary election, gaining the support of approximately 24 percent of the electorate and edging out the GERB party of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov by 0.5 percent. Seeking to avoid a third election in the space of a year, There Is Such a People leader Slavi Trifonov—a popular TV host and musician—said he would seek to form a minority government, rather than enter coalition negotiations, and appoint a Western-trained economist as prime minister.

France draws down in the Sahel. French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday that the French counterterrorism mission in the Sahel region would end by March 2022. The announcement comes after Macron’s comments last Friday promising a “reconfiguration” of the French presence in the region, which currently includes 5,100 troops. Macron cautioned that France was not withdrawing entirely from the Sahel and is expected to leave as many as 3,000 troops in the region.

Ethiopia’s civil war. Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces have moved south following the group’s recapture of the Tigrayan capital of Mekele in late June. The TPLF has claimed the capture of Alamata and Mai Tsebri in the Tigray region—towns that are also claimed by the neighboring Amhara region. The advance has prompted the National Movement of Amhara, a regional political party, to issue a statement calling on local militias to complete “quick preparations to mobilize to the fronts.”

Odds and Ends

Iran has launched a state-approved dating app to encourage singles to get married amid rising divorce rates and falling birth rates. The new app, Hamdan—“companion” in Farsi—promises the help of artificial intelligence to find a match “only for bachelors seeking permanent marriage.” The app has one advantage over its popular—albeit officially banned—competitors in Iran: Users must undertake a psychological evaluation before joining the service.

The innovation comes after Iran’s parliament passed a bill in March calling for financial incentives to encourage marriage and for families to have more than two children.