What will happen in 2022

Extensive Update 2022-03-22

What will happen for the rest of 2022 and beyond​

Just three months into the year, the world has been set on end by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ramifications by this aggression echoes worldwide. Safeture’s team of analysts discusses how it affects USA, several African countries, European energy- and resource interests, Russia’s international standing, but also China’s outspoken interest in Taiwan.

While the war in Ukraine is grabbing headlines worldwide, there are also several bright spots when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic and how many countries are going into an endemic phase.

Follow the links on the right to respective analyst’s addendum and article.

These are the nine major trends and events that will happen in 2022, covering every major continent. In this Preview of 2022, Safeture’s team of analysts also recap the events that shook the world in 2021. While the pandemic will remain on top of everyone’s mind for many in 2022, other issues will also be at play, such as cyber-security threats, the military build-up in Russia and Ukraine, environmental issues following the COP26 summit, and stability in West Africa’s Sahel region. Also featured in this edition is Safeture’s Risk Forecast that identifies the type of risk that we believe will be the dominant theme for each country in 2022. 

Editor’s Note

Another year has passed, with the world continuing to reel from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic that started in 2020. From controlling the pandemic at its onset, much of the world has since moved on to living with the virus as we learn more about it and vaccination drives gained momentum. The road to recovery has also started, albeit at a different pace across the globe, amid concerns over the emergence of a new variant, with Omicron being the latest. Aside from Covid-19, 2021 also saw the chaotic withdrawal of Afghans following the return of the Taliban and the escalation of the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia, two events that, among others, were highlighted in Safeture’s Preview 2021 edition. 

In 2022, we hope to continue to help you with assessing and preventing risks through Alerts and risk assessments in both our platform and monthly Previews. 

With the world set to ring the New Year bells, Safeture would like to take this opportunity to wish you a great 2022 and stay safe. Happy New Year! 

Safeture team

Risk Map: Global Risk Forecast of 2022 by Safeture’s Analytical Team

Nine significant events or trends to look out for in 2022

Festivals in 2022

18 January

Thaipusam Day

Thaipusam is a festival celebrated by the Tamil communities mainly in India, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. It is observed on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai. The highlight of the celebrations is the kavadi pilgrimage.

1 February

Chinese New Year

It is observed to celebrate the beginning of a new year accord- ing to the Chinese lunar calendar. It is also the most important holiday in China as well as for the most of Chinese communities around the world.

17 March

Saint Patrick's Day

St. Patrick’s Day is observed annually on 17 March. The Irish have celebrated this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years. It has evolved as a celebration with parades, special foods, music, dancing, drinking and a whole lot of green.

18 March


Holi is referred to as the “Festival of Colours” and is to mark the burning of the demoness “Holika”. The celebration is marked by people throwing coloured powder on each other and squirting each other with water guns.

2 May

Eid al-Fitr celebrations

Eid al-Fitr is to mark the end of month of Ramadan. It is one of two major religious holidays celebrated by Muslims worldwide.

17 April

Easter Sunday

It is the most famous festival in Thailand to celebrate the begin- ning of the traditional Thai New Year. The festival is observed annually from the 13th to the 15th of April.

13 April

Songkran festival in Thailand

It is the most famous festival in Thailand to celebrate the begin- ning of the traditional Thai New Year. The festival is observed annually from the 13th to the 15th of April.

9 July

Eid al-Adha celebrations

Eid al-Adha the latter of the two official holidays which celebrated by Muslims worldwide. It falls on the tenth day in the final (12th) month of the Islamic Calendar.

4 October

Yom Kippur

It is observed as the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Also known as the Day of Atonement for the Jewish.

24 October

Diwali celebrations

Diwali is a festival of lights and one of major Hindu religious fes- tivals celebrated by Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism worldwide.

2 November

Day of the Dead in Mexico

It is a celebration of life and death. The holiday originated in Mexico; however, it is also commonly celebrated all over Latin America with colourful calaveras (skulls) and calacas (skeletons).

24 November

Thanksgiving Day in the United States

Thanksgiving is an annual national holiday for the United States. It is observed on the fourth Thursday of November.

13 December

Saint Lucia Day in Europe

Saint Lucia Day is also known as festival of lights, mainly cel- ebrated in Sweden, Norway, and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland. It is an important holiday celebrating light during the long, dark winter.

25 December

Christmas Day

Saint Lucia Day is also known as festival of lights, mainly cel- ebrated in Sweden, Norway, and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland. It is an important holiday celebrating light during the long, dark winter.

Sport Events in 2022

4-20 February

Winter Olympics in Beijing, China

28 July - 8 August

Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England

21 November - 18 December

FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Summits in 2022

17-18 February

African Union (AU)-European Union (EU) Summit in Brussels, Belgium


40th ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia


G7 Summit in Germany


41st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit Phnom Penh, Cambodia


G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia

16-18 October

World Health Summit in Berlin, Germany

7-18 November

27th UNFCCC Conference of Parties, location TBA


Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Thailand

Elections in 2022

24 January

General election in Libya

9 March

Presidential election in South Korea

27 March

General election in Lebanon

10 April

Presidential election in France

9 May

Presidential election in the Philippines

9 august

General election in Kenya

11 September

General election in Sweden

2 October

General elections in Brazil

8 November

Mid-term election in the United States

The bright and dark side of Covid-19 in 2022

Addendum 2022-03-22

Declining global Covid-19 cases pave optimism

With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly, there has been growing optimism that the world is a step closer to the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. Governments have pressed ahead with reopening plans as the number of new cases showed a declining trend, following a five percent drop in early February. Amidst such encouraging figures, the continuous development of vaccines and treatment options also meant that the world is getting a better understanding of the virus than when it all started two years ago.  

Vaccinations and Omicron being less deadly than Delta – leading to gradual endemicity

The reason for such optimism, to some degree, lies in the fact that Omicron is less deadly compared to its peers, particularly the Delta variant. Hospitalizations remain under control while those who are vaccinated and boosted have mostly been spared from the worst effects of the virus. Capitalizing on these positive signs, European countries and the United States have since become the earliest to wind down their restrictions as they race toward reaching the endemicity stage. In contrast, governments in the Asia-Pacific region are taking more gradual steps to lift restrictions.  

Omicron surges in ‘zero-Covid approach’ regions – underscoring the value of a dynamic strategy

As many countries moved away from imposing restrictions, some in the Western Pacific have also been experiencing worrying surges of cases. Those that have embarked on the zero-Covid approach since the beginning of the pandemic are among the notable examples that have been hit hard by the Omicron surges. For instance, cases spiked in Hong Kong earlier this year despite its strict policy that managed to keep the virus largely at bay in 2020 and 2021. The Healthcare system in the territory was pushed to the brink as serious infections rose significantly. 

The relatively low vaccination rate, especially among the elderly in Hong Kong, has also proven that focusing on mitigation measures alone is inadequate. In contrast, New Zealand imposed a total lockdown in August 2021 after only a single community case was detected shifted its approach to be more tolerant by acknowledging that the virus would be part of life, thus underscoring the importance of having a dynamic strategy.  

Endemic not synonymous with harmless – but a milestone towards normalcy

Evidently, not all parts of the world are moving at the same pace when it comes to moving from pandemic to the endemic stage, as issue such as vaccine equity also remains at play. The transition toward the endemic phase will unveil a new kind of return of normalcy. Vaccination efforts will remain crucial in protecting individuals against severe illnesses, with possible booster shots offered to the public. Governments should continue testing and tracking possibly new and emerging variants in sustaining the next normal. Under the reasonable best-case, there will still be smaller regional or seasonal outbreaks of cases that could lead the government to impose localized restrictions. It is important to remember that endemic is not synonymous with harmless, yet this transition will serve as an important milestone after the emergence of the virus in late 2019.

Original Article 2021-12-26
Is it time to finally say Covid-19 will be over in 2022? After nearly two years, medical experts seem to agree that the world must learn to live with it and begin what many refer to as the endemic phase.

The question is, how fast can we move on into this phase? Pandemics fade out of view because of human efforts like vaccine development, contact tracing, genomic analysis, containment measures, and international cooperation. These are the basic toolkit to end the pandemic as quickly as possible. On the bright side, we have seen vaccines being developed, and they have served to lessen and prevent severe Covid-19 symptoms. Despite the grim outlook next year due to emerging variants, vaccination efforts will continue with booster shots and the introduction of antiviral drugs available to counter more robust variants. However, it is essential to highlight that vaccine inequity between high-income countries, medium, and low-income countries remains, and this could be a bane to global efforts to tame the virus. While the rich countries roll out booster doses, their middle and poorer counterparts struggle to vaccinate half of their population. 

As stressed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), no one is fully protected unless everyone is protected. Hence, there is a need to increase vaccine availability to allow for better uptake and remove barriers that prevent countries from producing their own vaccines.

The dark side of this unknown phase is the return of Covid-19 measures, as we cannot rely solely on vaccination. Relaxation of mitigating public health measures will carry several risks. Epidemic waves will continue to hit different countries, and governments must respond with their own experiences and capabilities. Some may reintroduce hard measures such as restrictions, curfews, or even lockdowns in response to the threat of variant of concerns, while others may rely on their citizens to encourage regular testing or take it easy approach when it comes to social interactions.
Covid19 2022

Vaccination rates around the world as of December 2021 (Source: Our World in Data)

China’s growing assertiveness under the spotlight in 2022

Addendum 2022-03-22

China’s dilemma in the Russia-Ukraine crisis

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has also presented yet another dilemma for Xi. Beijing has long been an ally of Moscow, and the latest move by President Putin, however, has put Xi in a catch-22 situation. On the one hand, China has always been portraying itself as an advocate of respecting sovereignty, but at the same time, it also expressed recognition of Russias so-called legitimate security concerns.” Besides, policymakers in Beijing also understand the need to avoid backing Russia’s aggressive move among Western nations that will harm its trade interests. While some were surprised by the countrys abstention from voting against the United Nations (UN) resolution condemning Russia, Beijing has so far refused to call the situation in Ukraine an invasion.” The Chinese government could be more open to the idea of playing a mediating role in ending the crisis but expressing criticisms on Kremlin is something unlikely to happen anytime soon. 

China’s reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine generates buzz from Taiwan

Across the Taiwan Strait, Chinas reaction to the invasion has also generated a buzz in the island that Beijing has regarded as a renegade province. Amidst the parallels of both issues, Chinese officials have been quick to point out that the Taiwanese issue is purely an internal matter, and reunification is bound to happen, especially with Xis pledge in 2021. Taipei, however, has a different take on the crisis as the mainland has never ruled out using force to achieve the purpose. President Tsai Ing-wen has also expressed sympathy and solidarity with Ukraine as both Russia and China have been viewed as revisionist powers that claimed sovereignty of others as their own. 

The US likely to intervene if push comes to shove due to Taiwan’s importance in the Global Supply Chain (GSC)

While such concerns are not unfounded, several factors will come to the fore, including geographical proximity and Taiwans importance in the global supply chain, making a strong response from the United States more likely should China decide to invade. President Biden has also promised to defend Taiwan should China attack though it should be noted that the Taiwan Relations Act 1979 did not explicitly state that such action must be taken should a war breaks out.  

Both China and Taiwan watch the Ukraine crisis out of a David and Goliath perspective

However, both mainland and Taiwan will be watching the developments in Ukraine closely as there will be many lessons to be learned, ranging from military strategies, management of economic resources, diplomatic moves, and even battle of propaganda in the media sphere. The asymmetrical nature of the conflict in Ukraine that resembles the battle between David and Goliath will also be another key takeaway. This is as Ukraine, being an underdog, continued to hold off against the Russian invasion for weeks, despite the latter being a bigger adversary with a more powerful military. Similarly, Taiwan will also be regarded as David should the Goliath China decides to launch a military operation in the future.  

Original Article 2021-12-26
2022 will mark the 10th anniversary of Xi Jinping’s ascension to the Communist Party leadership in China. Typically, a new generation of leaders would have already been announced as the country undertakes its once-in-a-decade transition seen in 2012 and 2022 during Hu Jintao’s and Jiang Zemin’s tenures, respectively.
In 2022 however, such transition will not take place as the party abolished the two-term limit in 2018, essentially allowing Xi to rule for life Evidently till now. There has been no clear successor to Xi, and the vice-president post that is usually reserved for the next leader seemed to be held firmly by Wang Qishan, a veteran who is well-known for his anti-corruption blitz but unlikely to become the new president.

With Xi’s indefinite rule, his assertiveness at home and abroad will likely continue to be of high interest in 2022. The issue of Taiwan will continue to dominate the security agenda as tension flared in 2021 over Beijing’s constant incursions of the former’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ). War is still a bit off the horizon as Xi remains keen to avoid a cross-strait bloodbath, especially during a year when the Winter Olympics is being held. Besides Taiwan, the relationships with other great powers such as the US and Europe will also be high on the list. Differences with the US remain stark after two years of Biden’s presidency, while the idea of “decoupling” from China by Germany, the traditional leader of the European Union (EU) following the departure of Merkel, could also risk irking Beijing more. As the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, the calls for an inquiry and assertion of a lab leak in China are also expected to be yet another source of tension in the global community.

Key moments of Xi’s 10-year of leadership

15 November 2012

Assumed office as the General Secretary of Chinese Communist Party

14 March 2013

Assumed the presidency of ChinJune 2013: Launched a corruption campaign that saw top civilian and military leaders, including ex-Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) member Zhou Yongkang and ex-vice-chairman of the military Xu Caihou being purged

26 September 2014

Beginning of Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong over increasing Chinese interference in the ex- British colony

24 October 2017

“Xi Jinping Thought” became part of the Communist Party constitution

11 March 2018

National People’s Congress removed presidential term limit, allowing Xi to rule for life

Russia, Ukraine military build-up stoke tension

Russia, Ukraine military build-up stoke tension

Addendum 2022-03-22

Russian invasion of Ukraine

At around 03:00 UTC on 24 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine. At around the same time, initial Russian strikes using Kalibr and Iskander cruise missiles were reported from multiple locations in Ukraine. 

Initial invasion plan of Kyiv failed

As of mid-March, available information indicates that the Russian invasion has not proceeded according to initial plans. According to most analysts, it seems that the Russian leadership underestimated the capabilities and fighting will on the Ukrainian side. The initial stage of the invasion consisted of rapid advances using small ground formations and airborne units to capture Kyiv within a few days, with the idea that this would cause the rest of the country to surrender. This plan did not work well as Russian forward elements eventually met heavy resistance, and logistical units were ambushed along the unsecured supply lines. 

Russian troops morale low – Modern defensive equipment proves effective

Beyond the faulty assumptions underlying the invasion plans, several notable shortcomings have been pointed out. The initial Russian strike on Ukraine seems to have been partially ineffective, exemplified by the continuing operation of Ukrainian fighter jets and air defense assets. There have been numerous signs of poor morale among Russian forces, and reports indicate many units were told they were only going on exercises. As a result, there have been numerous reports of Russian army vehicles abandoned in the field. Based on open-source data regarding Russian army equipment losses, it also seems that modern weapons recently supplied to Ukraine, including Javelin missiles and Bayraktar drones, have proven to be fairly effective, while the effectiveness of top-attack protection measures observed on Russian armored vehicles has been called into question. 

Civilian casualties on the rise as Russian artilley strikes ramp up

Following the failure of the first phase, the Russian advance has slowed significantly, but it has proceeded, mostly along the southern front. Russian artillery attacks have been ramped up, and as a result, the extent of damage to civilian areas and casualties are increasing. Although Russia may eventually achieve something that may be called a military victory, achieving the political goals of the campaign seems unlikely. The conduct of the invasion indicates that the aim was to achieve full control over the country, either directly or by puppet government. Resistance motivation seemingly remains strong both in the Ukrainian armed forces and the populace. Russian forces have attempted to install pro-Russian mayors in the area they have taken control over and kidnapped sitting Ukrainian local leaders. 

Russian governing highly unlikely – Occupation force a costly quagmire

However, there have been continuing protests by remaining civilians in these areas against the presence of Russian forces. It thus seems likely that for any form of Russia-friendly governing bodies to remain in place for any length of time, a heavy presence of Russian military police would be required. Considering the current trajectory in Russia itself, it is likely these forces will be needed to maintain order domestically. Maintaining a prolonged presence might also present Moscow with a very costly quagmire. Maintaining an occupation force would likely require many more troops than those Russia has committed to the operation, and they could face a highly motivated and well-armed insurgency.  

Original Article 2021-12-26
By the end of 2021, there have been increasing international concerns regarding the build-up of Russian military presence along the border with Ukraine. Intelligence estimates that the number of Russian troops stationed along the border to Ukraine could reach 175,000 in the near future.
The diplomatic rhetoric has also hardened since then, such as the Kremlin regime’s claim that Ukraine occupies Russian lands historically. The Russian and Belarus governments also declared that military exercises are to be held near Ukraine’s border in early 2022. The recent build-up may be posturing intended as a warning to Ukraine not to pursue military options in the Donbas region, and it has been likened to a similar, albeit smaller, build-up last April.
In the latest escalation, however, intelligence sources have indicated increased combat preparations, such as the installation of top-attack protection on Russian tanks, measures that seem unnecessary unless there is an expectation of possible combat. A Russian offensive

is, however, likely to be costly. The Ukrainian armed forces have improved in training, veterancy, equipment, and readiness since 2014. They have received advanced arms from the US and other partners, such as modern guided anti-tank missiles and attack drones (likely the direct cause for the recent tank defense modifications). While direct involvement by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces is unlikely, material support may increase significantly in case of Russian aggression. Any aggression also comes with a high probability of hard sanctions hitting the Russian economy. However, whether or not these factors influence Moscow’s decision-making and what their intentions are will remain unclear for now.

COP 26- Environmental activists and coal usage dilemma

Beyond COP 26: Environmental activists and coal usage dilemma

The COP26 in Glasgow was one of the main events within international relations in 2021. Representatives from almost 200 countries met up to discuss one of the most important contemporary global issues: Climate Change. Simultaneously, climate activists protested the lack of bold action while Europe had an energy crisis.

In 2021, civil unrest due to lacking climate action has affected many countries, such as the United Kingdom. Severe protests and strikes and road and air blockages were undertaken by climate activists determined to press the government to do more. Organizations such as Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion, and Insulate Britain have been critical of COP26 and have claimed that it has been unsuccessful in taking action. With the summit leaving much to be desired, these organizations and many others are likely to increase their activities, causing severe disruptions throughout 2022.

On the other hand, the coal industry has been deemed obsolete by COP26. In many countries, however, the amount of energy coming from sustainable sources is sufficient to support this kind of transition. This is likely to result in continued natural gas trade, which will result in fluctuating energy prices when international negotiations are unsuccessful in agreeing. For instance, this could be seen in Moldova during 2021, resulting in an emergency due to an energy shortage. An important market is also lost by phasing out coal for the countries currently relying on exporting it. This is likely to result.

in negative consequences for large portions of the population globally, which could lead to civil unrest. All in all, COP26 has presented a catch-22 for some countries with regard to coal usage and pressure to phase it out for a cleaner future.

Coal production remains highest in the developing world, with China leading the pack (Source: Statista)

Separatism in Western Sahara
rickard analyst

Separatism in Western Sahara threatens foreign interests

The Western Saharan separatist movement, the Polisario Front, declared in late November 2021 that they intend to step up their military operations against the Moroccan army in the near future. They have also issued threats toward foreign companies operating in West Sahara to leave the region. In early December, the group also rejected a UN initiative for peace talks. The risk of increased hostilities in the short term cannot be ruled out.

According to estimates, the armed wing of the Polisario Front has a standing force of ca. 6,000–7,000 soldiers, although the group is expected to have the capacity to expand its force significantly. However, most of the equipment available to the force is thought to be old Soviet-made equipment. It is worth noting that this development follows a diplomatic deterioration between Morocco and Algeria, which is Polisario’s main supporter, and they could decide to increase their assistance to the
group. Due to the force disparity between the Polisario Front and their adversary, Morocco’s armed forces, any intensified operations are likely to take the form of guerilla tactics and hit-and-run strikes on less fortified Moroccan positions. Even though the Polisario Front has mainly targeted military targets, the recent threats meant that the risk to foreign companies in the West Sahara region is a concern.

Migrant caravans to continue trekking across the Americas

Multiple countries made international headlines in 2021 for imposing draconian internet restrictions that affected millions of people. In the first half of the year, there were already over 50 shutdowns across 21 countries.
Every year, millions of people cross Latin America to escape poverty and insecurity. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates over 73.8 million migrants in the Americas.
Many of these migrants have banded together to form caravans that offer safety in numbers for people hoping to make the long trip from Central America to North American as the Covid-19 pandemic and its ravaging economic effects drag on. The main destination for many is Mexico and the United States to apply for asylum. Following the easing of Covid-19 border restrictions in 2021, these caravans have also significantly increased in size and frequency. Given the history of migration in the Americas, it is expected that new caravans will be organized in 2022 to trek through the same routes used in previous years.
While these migrants have a legal right to asylum, routes commonly used by migrants are usually accompanied by heightened security forces and increased border controls to slow down their movements. Such measures have been imposed before due to pressure from the US, which has maintained the “Remain in Mexico” policy. The measure requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico until their cases are heard. Strict border controls are expected at Darien Tampon, between Colombia and Panama; Del Río, at the border of Mexico and the United States; and Tapachula, near the border of Guatemala and Mexico. Previous attempts to disrupt the caravans have led to severa clashes with security forces. Despite the risk of violence,
authorities could tighten entry restrictions further amid concerns over the Omicron variant of Covid-19. Stranded caravans are forced to ration limited supplies of essential items and are also exposed to diseases such as dengue. Regardless of the challenges, migrant caravans will continue to trek across the Americas in 2022, posing an ethical dilemma for authorities to manage.

Many Haitians migrated after the earthquake in 2010 to South America.
Source: International Organisation of Migration, IOM

Authoritarian regimes to contest internet freedom

Addendum 2022-03-22

Russia pushes for “Great Firewall” intranet as Ukraine War drags on

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February has triggered a global uproar among the people living in the country, particularly the opponents of President Vladimir Putin. Anti-war protests broke out in multiple cities as casualties from the war mounted. Predictably, such events were dispersed using brute force as thousands were arrested. Besides cracking down on dissenters, Moscow also took aim against media coverage of the war, especially online media outlets that have been critical of its action. Seeking to suppress public opinion, a new law was introduced to criminalize so-called “false information” about the invasion. Despite having a vague interpretation, several independent services have since been shut down. Relatedly, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have also been suspended or experiencing severe bandwidth throttling as Russia tries to control the wars narrative. 

Western sanctions can play into Kremlin’s hands due to further isolation of the Russian population

While the country still relies on the internet, the war has sped up Russian efforts to develop its own Great Firewall intranet system. These technological and legislative steps are cutting off Russia from the rest of the world. Furthermore, international sanctions have also expanded into the digital world. Several major tech companies such as TikTok, Netflix, and Amazon have restricted services for Russian citizens. However, such actions will likely play into the Kremlins hand as further isolation will support efforts to insulate Russia from the internet.  

More countries supress dissent through internet censorship

Other authoritarian regimes will be closely monitoring the next moves in this digital contest. Internet censorship is becoming an increasingly popular tool to suppress dissent. The early months of 2022 have already seen security forces in Kazakhstan, Burkina Faso, Sudan, and Myanmar use internet suppression to stifle civil unrest. Other countries such as Indonesia and Nigeria are also pursuing their own plans to filter digital information. With Putin determined to escalate the war in Ukraine, the wait might not be long for Moscows next step to censor the internet to continue suppressing negative public opinion of its efforts.  

Original Article 2021-12-26
Multiple countries made international headlines in 2021 for imposing draconian internet restrictions that affected millions of people. In the first half of the year, there were already over 50 shutdowns across 21 countries.

Multiple countries made international headlines in 2021 for imposing draconian internet restrictions that affected millions of people. In the first half of the year, there were already over 50 shutdowns across 21 countries. Some temporarily blocked the internet nationwide or curtailed access for certain regions. Others restricted access to popular websites such as Twitter. Most governments justified their actions in the name of national security. However, most internet shutdowns also disrupted communications amid anti-government protests. While this is not a new trend, especially among authoritarian regimes and weaker democracies, the outages are becoming more sophisticated. Instead of a costly blanket shutdown, it is becoming easier and cheaper for governments to block certain websites using readily available commercial products. Software that bypasses internet censorship, such as virtual private networks (VPNs) and Tor, are also more vulnerable to being blocked. 

Furthermore, 2021 saw some countries such as Indonesia, Nigeria, and Russia move forward with their own version of China’s “Great Firewall.” The concept is a combination of legislative actions and technologies to enforce government control over the internet. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, international opposition has been muted as countries, and tech giants alike grapple with pandemic-related fake news on social media. Suppressing access to the internet will remain an attractive tool for authoritarian regimes in 2022, especially during a crisis. New technological advances are making such an option more cost-effective, and several countries have already set a precedent toward establishing a closely monitored intranet system. Internet freedom is no longer a guarantee.
In 2021, 30 of 70 countries assessed by Freedom House experienced a deterioration in internet freedom.

As France retreats from Africa, Russia steps in

Addendum 2022-03-22

Ukraine war makes both Europe and Russia turn to Africa for allies and resources

With majority of the world condemning Russias war on Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin may turn towards African allies for support. A recent United Nations resolution condemning Russian aggression passed overwhelmingly, with 141 nations voting in favor. Despite this, 17 African countries abstained from the vote, which highlights a splintered stance, indicative of Russias growing influence and inroads on the continent. 

30% of arms import in sub-Sahara of Russian origin – enforces diplomatic weight

Pro-Russian sentiment is gaining favor in countries like Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central Africa Republic, due in large part to Russia’s recent focus on developing security and defense alliances. Mali’s ruling junta has spurned a longstanding ally in France and embraced Russian military support in its fight against its own insurgency. These close political and security ties have understandably garnered favor and reinforced Moscow’s diplomatic weight in the region, which was reflected in the recent UN vote. These countries are likely to act on their own geopolitical interests despite objections from the West, and Russia may look beyond traditional allies to weather the storm they are in right now. With Russia providing for 30 percent of all arms exported to sub-Saharan Africa, many countries may feel torn between fully denouncing Moscow and maintaining important security and economic ties. 

Ukraine a large exporter of produce to Africa – A looming food security crisis

The invasion of Ukraine and the unprecedented sanctions leveled on Moscow have also had serious effects on financial markets and global supply chains. While these problems are likely to be felt on a global level, many countries in Africa are expected to be acutely affected. Both Russia and Ukraine are significant exporters of cereal, wheat, and corn, and a protracted conflict is likely to push up commodity prices and lead to supply chain shortages. Experts in Egypt have warned of a looming food security crisis due in large part to the fact that they import nearly 85 percent of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine. Disruptions to this supply and dwindling reserves could constitute an existential threat to their economy. Other countries, like Kenya, Nigeria, and Sudan that are heavily reliant on grain and wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia have already seen sharp increases in food prices in recent weeks. Several countries on the continent have seen relatively recent large-scale protests and movements denouncing rising commodity prices. Social unrest and civilian anger have coincided with volatile food prices in countries like Mali, Sudan, and Egypt. With a new food security crisis looming, a period of conflict and instability may be on the horizon. 

Europe can turn to Africa for oil and gas with Russian export embargo

There are, however, some countries that could benefit from the crisis. Surging prices and a Russian oil embargo could see oil-producing countries like Nigeria, Angola, and Libya seizing the opportunity to bolster state revenues. Similarly, as Europe turns away from its reliance on Russian gas, it could turn to African countries looking to find a market for recently discovered energy reserves. Tanzania has restarted negotiations to revive the construction of offshore liquified natural gas projects, which could make them a significant partner on the continent. Algeria, a similar significant gas-producing country, has gradually increased its exports to Europe in the past decade. With talks underway to develop a trans-Saharan pipeline with Nigeria and Niger, Algeria could become a key natural gas provider to European markets. Nevertheless, production and capacity limits are likely to hinder any plans to look to countries like Algeria and Tanzania for a quick fix to Europe’s energy crisis. These opportunities represent long-term growth prospects, but they would require considerable investment, which could involve Europe footing a large part of the bill. Bolstering infrastructure to help meet production and transportation needs is vital if Europe wants to pivot away from Russian gas and tap into significant, reliable, and sustainable reserves in Africa.

African leaders forced to maintain relationships without reverting to Cold War alignments

The crisis in Ukraine has understandably cast a long shadow across Africa. A period of instability and volatility can be expected as the world adapts to rising fuel and commodity prices and disruptions to global supply chains. Many African leaders will have to navigate this crisis by maintaining their relationships with their often-competing external partners without reverting to Cold War era alignment politics, which could alienate and hamper development goals on the continent.

Original Article 2021-12-26
With French military presence steadily decreasing in Africa, Russian interests in the region appeared to have been moving in the opposite direction of late and likely to remain so for much of 2022.
French involvement in several African countries has long been conducted under the ‘Françafrique’ approach that sees Paris providing military and political support to former colonies. Although its influence is now waning, a security-orientated strategy has been maintained, which is most evident in the French-led anti-insurgent “Operation Barkhane” in the Sahel region. The operation since 2014, however, has proven ineffective in stemming the rise of violence and extremism. These perceived failures have led to a growing anti-French sentiment, which has been expressed in violent protests and even attacks on French military personnel in multiple countries. This response is indicative of changing dynamics as France scales down its military presence in Africa, leaving many African nations to turn to other avenues of cooperation, namely with Russia.
Officially, Russia has signed military cooperation agreements with several countries in a bid to boost influence. However, Moscow has also been accused of deploying private military companies (PMCs) comprising of former Russian security personnel to conflict zones. Eminent amongst such entities is the Wagner Group, whose leaders allegedly are close allies of President Vladimir Putin. Russia’s inroads in Africa have seen Wagner contractors serving on the frontline in Libya, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Through PMCs it controls, the Kremlin has been able to maintain plausible deniability despite using force to secure access to vital natural resources. Russia is expected to utilize these groups further to fill the vacuum left by French withdrawals in Mali and other African countries. These developments have worried many in the Western world, which is likely to result in further conflicts as foreign actors vie for a foothold in the region.
France retreats from Africa
French military involvement in the Sahel covers Mali, Niger and Chad (Source: Ministry of Armed Forces, France)
international sports events in 2022

The return of international sports events in 2022 despite Covid-19

Addendum 2022-03-22

Russia’s military campaign leads to exclusion from major sporting events

As the world enters the third month of 2022, the rapid development of global events has significantly reshaped the directions of the sports world. The Russian military campaign in Ukraine has prompted various international sports bodies to impose a slew of disciplinary action against its national sporting teams. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) took the lead by banning Russia and Belarus from participating in the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics. Further, FIFA and UEFA also made similar moves against Moscow and its associates. Reprimand acts against Russia also did not end with the suspension of memberships but also on its athletes, such as in the case of Ivan Kuliak, who displayed the Z sign in support of the invasion. A disciplinary proceeding was initiated against the gymnast. 

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) also took a step further by banning Russian and Belarus judges from presiding in future championships. Should the conflict prolong, it will also create a domino effect on other sectors that has Russias involvements such as sponsorships, marketing campaigns, and brand advertisements, among others. 

Original Article 2021-12-26

As the world adapts to the realities of living with Covid-19, more major events will make a comeback in 2022. Despite uncertainties, next year is expected to be filled with international sporting events. Some of the biggest events include the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. 

In the first quarter of 2022, China is back to host another Olympic Games, the Winter Olympics. Beijing will make history as the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics within a span of 14 years. The Games will feature 15 different competitions in Beijing, Zhangjiakou, and Yanqing from 4 to 22 February. However, several countries like the US, UK, Canada, and Japan have declared a diplomatic boycott to protest China’s alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, notably against the minority Uyghur population, triggering an uproar by Beijing.
Next, Birmingham 2022 is another multi-sport event for members of the Commonwealth, scheduled to take place between 28 July and 8 August. The United Kingdom will organize 19 different sports for 72 countries to compete in. Stadium seats will be filled as a record 1.5 million tickets are expected to be sold. Towards the end of the year, Qatar’s much-awaited 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held between 21 November and 18 December. The quadrennial football championship is going to be the first in the Middle East. Notably, the competition will also be the first to be
held during the northern hemisphere’s winter season. Matches will take place at eight state-of-the-art stadiums within a 75km (46mi) radius. With expectations running high, these organizers will be taking no chances to ensure 2022 is an exciting year for sports fans.

Venues of 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar (Source: The Times)

Rewind 2021

As curtains fell in 2021, Safeture reflects on some of the events that shook the world throughout the year.

Return of Taliban in Afghanistan

After being deposed by the United States in 2001, the Taliban returned to rule Afghanistan amidst the withdrawal of foreign forces that have been providing security for the war-torn country. The Taliban marched into the capital Kabul in mid-August without much resistance as the president, Ashraf Ghani fled. The rapid collapse of the Afghan government was also marked by the chaotic evacuation of foreigners and Afghans who feared reprisals due to their ties with western governments. As images of people fleeing beamed across the globe, questions have also been raised on how the Taliban intends to rule the country after a 20-year absence. Only time will tell if their rule will be any different.

Military coup derails Mayanmar democratic transition

Years of reforms in Myanmar were cut short on 1 February following a military coup that led to the collapse of a civilian government and house arrest of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. As the military took charge, the country also plunged into further uncertainty, with protests occurring daily against the junta. Armed groups under the People’s Defence Force (PDF) banner also sprung out in towns and cities, targeting military interests amid the risk of an all-out civil war.

Lebanon sees another year upheaval

Facing multiple crises, Lebanon continued to experience a bout of violent unrest for most of 2021. A controversial probe into the 2020 Beirut blast, political turmoil, and economic fallout have all played their part in pushing the country to the edge. Although the Lebanese people have so far demonstrated a high degree of resilience, the patience is certainly running thin with the ruling elites, who are getting more and more disconnected from normal citizens each day.

Tigray crisis in Ethiopia escalates amid Abiy offensive

The Tigrayan conflict in Ethiopia escalated throughout much of 2021, with the regional forces under the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) banner making significant gains in June. Abiy Ahmed, the president, and 2019 Nobel Peace Laureate, saw his grip on the country being threatened as the TPLF also joined forces with the Oromo separatists in the fight against his federal troops. Although some have claimed that the rebels could reach the capital Addis Ababa by early 2022, many remained hopeful that a ceasefire would take effect to avoid an all-out war.

Covid-19 restrictions, vaccine manadates spark global protests

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to take its toll worldwide, the growing uneasiness over restrictions and vaccine mandates also sparked protests in all corners of the world, particularly in Europe and the Americas. Viewed as an infringement of rights, some took to the streets to voice their anger that at times ended up in violent unrest, which resulted in damage to properties and injuries. The economic fallout of pandemic restrictions also further fueled such protests, and with no end in sight, such events are likely to become the staple of the pandemic in the year ahead.

Japan seeks political stability as Suga bows out after one year

After less than a year of ascension to the premiership, Yoshihide Suga once again became a casualty of Japan’s politics amid discontent over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. His exit came as approval rating tanked despite Japan’s success in holding the delayed 2020 Olympic Games. Following his resignation, his successor, Fumio Kishida called for a general election and proceeded to score a victory for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). With a new mandate backed by a desire for political stability, it has been hoped that Kishida will be able to tackle some of Japan’s toughest problems during his term.

Fear of 2020 Nagarno- Karabakh agreement collapse

A border crisis erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan following an incursion by the latter in May 2021. What started as a minor skirmish eventually widened to several fronts, including Armenia– Nakhchivan border and the Gegharkunik–Kalbajar area, leading to casualties on both sides. The skirmishes in November were the worst violation since the signing of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh agreement. A Russian-mediated ceasefire was later signed, and fighting was brought to a halt though potential flare-ups should not be ruled out in the future.

Leftists gain ground in Latin America

2021 saw several major elections being held in Latin America with a strong resurgence of leftist candidates in several countries. In Peru, Pedro Castillo, a socialist and son of peasant farmers, became the president, while in Honduras, the ex-first lady Xiomara Castro, another leftist, also became president-elect in November. Chileans also chose Gabriel Boric to be the new leader in late December to end the year. Their victories continued the trend of the rise of leftist parties in the region amid a push for “structural changes” by student and worker movements due to the perceived failure of neo-liberal policies. As the leftist movements capitalize on such anger, many wonder if the region is headed to yet another “Pink Tide,” a reference to the wave of left-wing governments in the early 2000s.


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