Devastating as the wildfire on the slopes of South Africa’s Table Mountain was this past week, there are lessons that can be learnt about managing fire ignitions and the speed with which the flames spread. Brian van Wilgen and Nicola van Wilgen-Bredenkamp explore what these are as they unpack the factors that drive wildfires. For their part, Alanna Rebelo and Karen Joan Esler explain how the introduction and spread of alien trees on Table Mountain have made the environment even more inflammable. They give pointers on how this can be managed.

Shannon Morreira homes in on the fire damage at the University of Cape Town’s Jagger Library and the loss of the rich, historical archives that were housed there. She explains what the implications of losing recorded histories are for a country like South Africa with a fraught and contested past. And finally Andreas Hemp shares his insights on how fires have shaped the natural environment of Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro.

Nontobeko Mtshali

Education Editor

Wildfires are the inevitable consequence of three factors coming together at the same time: an ignition, the weather and fuel. Brenton Geach/Gallo Images via Getty Images

The Table Mountain fire: what we can learn from the main drivers of wildfires

Brian Van Wilgen, Stellenbosch University; Nicola van Wilgen-Bredenkamp, Stellenbosch University

The fynbos vegetation that historically clothed the slopes of Table Mountain is highly inflammable. This has been worsened by the spread of alien trees that burn more intensely than the fynbos.

A wildfire spread across the slopes of Table Mountain to the University of Cape Town. Photo by Brenton Geach/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Why the fire on Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain was particularly devastating

Alanna Rebelo, Stellenbosch University; Karen Joan Esler, Stellenbosch University

Fire hazards are influenced by three factors: weather, an ignition source and fuel loads. The first two are unpredictable. But fuel loads can be managed.

Significant archives are under threat in Cape Town’s fire. Why they matter so much

Shannon Morreira, University of Cape Town

Losing archives has significant implications in a country like South Africa with a fraught and contested history because voices from the past, which may carry alternative histories, are lost.

Fires shaped Mount Kilimanjaro’s unique environment. Now they threaten it

Andreas Hemp, Bayreuth University

There have been several severe fires on Kilimanjaro over the last few decades that have dramatically changed land cover.

Arts, Culture + Society

The history of protest songs in Tunisia and their link to popular culture

Alessia Carnevale, Sapienza University of Rome

The 1970s and 1980s saw a new genre of popular protest - its spirit would be felt even in 2011 when protests toppled a dictator.

For footballers of African descent, playing in Euro 2020 will be a double-edged sword

Wycliffe W. Njororai Simiyu, University of Texas at Tyler

Behind the multi-racial composition of the elite European teams competing in the tournament lies a complex and painful history.

Business + Economy

Ghana’s new mobile money rule could derail financial inclusion. But there are answers

PK Senyo, University of Southampton

An attempt to prevent fraud in Ghana's burgeoning mobile money sector could be a setback for access to financial services.

New business skills can improve livelihoods among poor people. How to avoid the pitfalls

Jody Delichte, University of Cape Town

Building business skills to improve livelihoods is increasingly recognised as bringing value to the fight against poverty. But it can also set up identity conflict and community-level tension.

Health + Medicine

We mapped the landscape for taxes on sugary drinks in seven African countries

Safura Abdool Karim, University of the Witwatersrand; Agnes Erzse, University of the Witwatersrand; Karen Hofman, University of the Witwatersrand; Susan Goldstein, University of the Witwatersrand

Implementing a sugar-sweetened beverage tax in all African countries will require sufficient political will and support from civil society.

How Rwanda is managing its COVID-19 vaccination rollout plans

Agnes Binagwaho, University of Global Health Equity

Due to early logistical planning, Rwanda had the capacity to store 5 million doses before the vaccines arrived.


Nigeria has a new police chief. Here’s an agenda for him

Lanre Ikuteyijo, Obafemi Awolowo University

Apart from tackling terrorism, banditry and kidnappings, Nigeria's new Inspector General of Police must embrace community policing.

How a protracted political battle led to the extension of the Somalia president’s term

Mohammed Ibrahim Shire, University of Portsmouth

Although polarising, parliament's move to extend Farmaajo's term has presented a practical road-map to hold direct elections for the first time since 1969.

Kenya should take note: recognising ethnic identities can lead to positive outcomes

Elisabeth King, New York University; Cyrus D Samii, New York University

On average, countries that adopt ethnic recognition experience less violence, more economic vitality, and more democratic politics.

Idriss Déby Itno offered Chadians great hope, but ended up leaving a terrible legacy

Helga Dickow, University of Freiburg

When he grabbed power in 1990, Déby promised to create a democratic society, but he turned out to be a ruthless authoritarian whose main agenda was to remain in office.


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