Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts

17 August 2019

Africa Is a Continent on the Brink ... but of What?

It makes sense that a continent home to 54 countries and 1.2 billion people would also house a mass of contradictory developments. Africa features several of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a burgeoning middle class. But much of the continent remains mired in debt, ravaged by conflict, disease or terrorism, and plagued by elites clinging to power.

Even as economies expand, people are driven to migrate—either within Africa or across continental borders—because of humanitarian catastrophes or because opportunities are not coming fast enough for everyone. Yet, many remain behind and look to disrupt the status quo. Civilian-led reform movements have toppled regimes in Algeria and Sudan already this year.

From a geopolitical perspective, European nations and the United States are looking to shore up bilateral trade across the continent. These moves are driven both by an interest in spurring individual economies to help stem migration flows, but also to counter China’s growing presence in Africa. On the back of its Belt and Road Initiative, China has been leveraging infrastructure financing deals for access to resources and increasing influence.

16 August 2019

In Africa, China Is the News

By Aubrey Hruby

Beijing’s infrastructure projects may grab headlines, but its efforts to shape the media are more dangerous.

Washington has long been concerned about China’s “no strings attached” infrastructure deals in African markets. These large port, rail, and road projects grab headlines and stoke fears about African government debt levels and Chinese political influence. But the real strategic threat for the United States is not bricks-and-mortar projects but rather China’s efforts to reshape African countries’ media landscape.

In just over a decade, China has dramatically expanded its media presence in Africa, urging not just African publics to “tell China’s story well” but also influencing the continent’s underlying telecommunications, data, and information standards. Given that the United States has historically held a competitive advantage in communications and media, it should pay attention.

15 August 2019

Africa Is a Continent on the Brink ... but of What?

It makes sense that a continent home to 54 countries and 1.2 billion people would also house a mass of contradictory developments. Africa features several of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a burgeoning middle class. But much of the continent remains mired in debt, ravaged by conflict, disease or terrorism, and plagued by elites clinging to power.

Even as economies expand, people are driven to migrate—either within Africa or across continental borders—because of humanitarian catastrophes or because opportunities are not coming fast enough for everyone. Yet, many remain behind and look to disrupt the status quo. Civilian-led reform movements have toppled regimes in Algeria and Sudan already this year.

From a geopolitical perspective, European nations and the United States are looking to shore up bilateral trade across the continent. These moves are driven both by an interest in spurring individual economies to help stem migration flows, but also to counter China’s growing presence in Africa. On the back of its Belt and Road Initiative, China has been leveraging infrastructure financing deals for access to resources and increasing influence.

9 August 2019

From the Gulf to Egypt, Foreign Powers Are Playing With Fire in Sudan

Richard Downie

A cast of foreign actors is seeking to shape Sudan’s incomplete political transition after the fall of longtime President Omar al-Bashir, each nudging it in the direction they favor. Their competing agendas are complicating negotiations between the ruling Transitional Military Council and civilians in the pro-democracy movement represented by the Forces for Freedom and Change. The two sides reached a major agreement on July 5 to jointly manage a three-year transition to civilian rule, and there was a recent breakthrough on Aug. 4, as they finalized that July deal and thrashed out its details. Yet the transition remains fragile and vulnerable to spoilers.

The involvement of so many outside powers in Sudan’s affairs underlines the country’s strategic importance, not only to its African neighbors but to the broader Red Sea region and the Persian Gulf. The danger for Sudan is that it could get sucked into geopolitical rivalries that do not serve its national interests, dashing the hopes of its citizens for a peaceful, democratic future. ...

1 August 2019

Why President Essebsi, and Tunisia, Stood Alone

By Allen James Fromherz

Last Thursday, Beji Caid Essebsi, the president of the Republic of Tunisia, died in a military hospital at the age of 92. His death fell on a national holiday of particular resonance: Republic Day commemorates the founding of modern Tunisia on July 25, 1957, when the country abolished its monarchy and became a republic.

Essebsi had an important connection to the events of 1957. He belonged to the party and government of the Republic of Tunisia’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, who was among the most important, and most stridently secular, nationalists in the Arabic-speaking world. Bourguiba was friends with U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy. He made headlines for drinking orange juice on television in the middle of the day during Ramadan, as well as for policies against veiling. Less famous, but more profound, were the changes Bourguiba made to Tunisia’s economy and social fabric—reforms that propelled Tunisia to become one of the most developed and educated countries in the Muslim world.

28 July 2019

Corruption Is Corroding Democracies Around the World


The world is constantly reminded that corruption knows no geographic boundaries. In South Africa, former President Jacob Zuma is embroiled in an inquiry into whether he ran a patronage system that drained money from the country’s treasury. A money laundering investigation launched in Brazil in 2008 expanded to take down a vast network of politicians and business leaders across Central and South America. And U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has been plagued by officials who have used their offices for private gain and been forced to resign.

The impact of actual corruption is devastating, whether it siphons money from public use or drives policy that is not in the public interest. The effects can be particularly pernicious in developing countries, where budgets are tight and needs are vast. The United Nations estimates that corruption costs $2.6 trillion in losses every year.

27 July 2019

AI across Africa and the Middle East: The Microsoft view

Lewis Page

According to a new study of AI in business across Africa and the Middle East, commissioned by Microsoft and carried out by EY, AI is an important topic of discussion in 80 per cent of C-suites across the region: but the majority of companies in the study hadn't yet gone further than piloting its use. Twenty-four of the companies surveyed were based in South Africa, and of the respondents 39 per cent worked at C-suite level and a further 52 per cent in senior management.

The relatively low uptake of AI by business across the region may be due to the fact that organisations, excusably given media coverage of the subject, tend to focus on the headlining application of AI: Machine Learning. This was defined for the purposes of the study as "A computer's ability to ‘learn' from data, either supervised or non-supervised". Some 61 per cent of companies in the study stated that they were using or planning to use Machine Learning, a much higher proportion than was the case with any other sort of AI deployment. The study authors added:

24 July 2019

How to Fix America’s Absentee Diplomacy in Africa

Howard W. French

Earlier this month, The New York Timescreated a mini furor on the internet with a job listing for someone to lead its coverage of East Africa. The announcement described it as an opportunity “to dive into news and enterprise across a wide range of countries, from the deserts of Sudan and the pirate seas of the Horn of Africa, down through the forests of Congo and shores of Tanzania.” It went on to speak of the region’s “many vital story lines, including terrorism, the scramble for resources, the global contest with China,” among others. Whether as afterthought or sop, it added that the job of Nairobi bureau chief offered “the chance to delight our readers with unexpected stories of hope.” Nowhere did one get the sense that East Africa is, in fact, a highly diverse collection of countries that encompasses more than 400 million people and includes some of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

22 July 2019

India’s Africa Policy

Dr Christian Wagner

Since the 1990s, India has significantly widened its relations with Africa. Three summits, increasing trade and newly agreed cooperation on security demonstrate the increased importance of the African continent to India’s foreign policy.

With this commitment to Africa, India continually underscores its claim to act as advocate for the countries of the Global South. Moreover, African countries now account for a larger share of India’s energy imports, thereby reducing its dependence on Middle Eastern countries. India is also trying to establish a counterweight to China’s activities in Africa. However, India’s decision-makers realise that they cannot seriously compete with China in this arena.

21 July 2019

How to Fix America’s Absentee Diplomacy in Africa

Howard W. French

Earlier this month, The New York Timescreated a mini furor on the internet with a job listing for someone to lead its coverage of East Africa. The announcement described it as an opportunity “to dive into news and enterprise across a wide range of countries, from the deserts of Sudan and the pirate seas of the Horn of Africa, down through the forests of Congo and shores of Tanzania.” It went on to speak of the region’s “many vital story lines, including terrorism, the scramble for resources, the global contest with China,” among others. Whether as afterthought or sop, it added that the job of Nairobi bureau chief offered “the chance to delight our readers with unexpected stories of hope.” Nowhere did one get the sense that East Africa is, in fact, a highly diverse collection of countries that encompasses more than 400 million people and includes some of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

15 July 2019

G20 Compact with Africa is a Long Game

By Peter Fabricius

Africa’s ‘development partners’ still struggle to define and manage their relationship with the continent. This was apparent at the G20 summit in Osaka that ended on Saturday.

The G20 has been accused of treating Africa exclusively as a development problem, thereby excluding it as an equal participant from deliberations about climate change, the future of work, the global trading system and other mammoth issues the G20 presumes to be capable of addressing.

‘If one lacks a seat at the table, then one is probably on the menu,’ says Cobus van Staden of the SA Institute of International Affairs. Perhaps, although Africa is represented through South Africa’s permanent membership and the regular participation of the African Union and New Partnership for Africa’s Development chairs at summits. The developed world clearly dominates, but Africa isn’t the only other region that’s under-represented.

28 June 2019

Ethiopia Is at a ‘Very Critical Juncture’

By Jefcoate O'Donnell

Ethiopia marked a national day of mourning on Monday after four government officials, including the governor of the Amhara region and the chief of the army, were assassinated over the weekend in dual attacks in Addis Ababa and Amhara’s capital city, Bahir Dar. State forces shot and killed Brig. Gen. Asaminew Tsige, a former political prisoner, who is allegedly responsible for the attacks, in Amhara state on Monday. Tsige was said to be resentful of perceived maltreatment by the central government, butthere remains some confusion about the nature and precise planning of the attacks.

Amid an internet blackout that has forced many Ethiopians offline and restrictions on cell phone use, the country is still working to make sense of the consequences. Foreign Policy spoke to Felix Horne, an Ethiopia researcher at Human Rights Watch, about the country’s regional politics, the record of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and what to look out for as Ethiopia confronts a volatile moment. 

Foreign Policy: How do the events of the weekend fit into Ethiopia’s broader political landscape? 

26 June 2019

Conflict and Competition in Sudan Middle Eastern powers are closely monitoring the protests in Sudan.


Protests erupted in Sudan in December after the cost of food rose dramatically. In April, after 30 years of dictatorial rule, Omar al-Bashir was removed from power by a military coup, whose leaders promised a quick transition to civilian rule. But when they formed a Transitional Military Council and announced that the transition would take two years, protesters again took to the streets to demand faster change.



25 June 2019

Conflict and Competition in Sudan


Protests erupted in Sudan in December after the cost of food rose dramatically. In April, after 30 years of dictatorial rule, Omar al-Bashir was removed from power by a military coup, whose leaders promised a quick transition to civilian rule. But when they formed a Transitional Military Council and announced that the transition would take two years, protesters again took to the streets to demand faster change.

20 June 2019

Can Sudan’s Revolution Be Saved?

Richard Downie

On June 3, the eve of the 30th anniversary of China’s bloody dispersal of demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Sudan’s military authorities launched their own massacre of unarmed pro-democracy protesters. State-linked paramilitaries attacked a peaceful sit-in in the capital, Khartoum, claiming, without proof, that it had been infiltrated by drug dealers and criminals. More than 100 people were killed, according to doctors’ groups in Khartoum. Scores of bodies were dumped into the Nile River, women were reportedly raped and hospital staff attacked as they tended to the injured. That the atrocities echoed those conducted in Darfur for more than a decade was hardly surprising; the perpetrators were the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, a successor militia to the infamous Janjaweed that was accused of genocide in Darfur. In the days that followed, the authorities rounded up protesters, deported political leaders and cut off internet services

19 June 2019

The Old Guard Are Killing the World’s Youngest Country


WAAT, South Sudan—“Jeck,” a voice calls from inside the mud-and-thatch hut. I recognize the pronunciation of my name—it’s close enough—and the voice. “My friend, Jeck,” the man says again. Ducking and then emerging through the door of the hut is a handsome face atop a large angular frame. At 6 feet, 8 inches tall—with broad shoulders and long arms—Koang (pronounced Kong) has a smile so wide it could span the Nile. We slap shoulders and then hands, in the Sudanese way, and then embrace.

It’s the summer of 2016, and I’ve returned to South Sudan, where two years of civil war have shattered the promise of the world’s newest state. I’ve come to speak with South Sudan’s elites and its ordinary citizens, with those perpetuating conflict and those who want nothing to do with it—hoping to revisit the country’s failure in a new light.

I haven’t seen Koang since the night we first met, in 2009, but the memory of our first conversation prompted me to seek him out again. Koang has come of age since I saw him last, and I am confident he will offer a different perspective on where his country has been, and where it is going.

“It’s been what, seven years?” I ask Koang. “Yes, long time Jeck,” he says, laughing. “You have been so lost”—a favorite expression in South Sudan when you haven’t seen someone in a long time. “But now you are found.”

17 June 2019

Tracking African Swine Fever


African swine fever is an infectious disease that has already spread from Africa to Europe and Asia. The current outbreak has led to more than 1 million pigs being culled in China.


Despite Historic Rapprochement With Ethiopia, ‘Nothing Has Changed’ in Eritrea

Tanja Müller

ASMARA, Eritrea—The streets of Eritrea’s capital in the runup to this year’s Independence Day celebrations on May 24 were unusually quiet. But cafes and restaurants were full of many Eritreans from the diaspora who had traveled back to mark 28 years of national independence. “I come every year on this occasion,” an Eritrean living in Germany told me, “to celebrate my country.”

Most of the people I know who put up with life in Eritrea the whole year, however, do not feel like celebrating. For them, the holiday is a day off work that they will spend at home, in part because security tightens, with soldiers or police on every street corner. In the past few months, arbitrary arrests have apparently increased, so everyone is cautious and seems to avoid the center of the city. It is impossible to verify these stories, or other rumors of splits within the ruling party and increasing forms of dissent, given how opaque politics are in Eritrea. The only visible sign I encountered last month was anti-government graffiti inside a building, profanely calling out the ruling party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice. Photos of other anti-government graffiti have recently circulated on Eritrean social media. ...

11 June 2019

Sierra Leone, 2000: A Case History in Successful Interventionism

Janine di Giovanni

There is one place in the world where Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, is not vilified for his part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a West African country where, less than three years earlier, his government’s intervention helped to end one of the most vicious conflicts in recent history. In Sierra Leone, where he is a hero, the “Blair Doctrine” was a rare case of an overseas military operation not for strategic or commercial interest, but for humanitarian purposes and in the name of an ethical foreign policy. Blair would later write in his autobiography that the episode was one of his proudest moments in office.

A paradox of this claim is that the scope and success of the intervention depended less on deliberate policy and careful planning in Downing Street or Whitehall than on a daring degree of improvisation by the commanding officer on the ground. “Operation Palliser,” which began in May 2000, was led by General Sir David Richards, then a brigadier, later appointed chief of the British general staff and NATO commander in Afghanistan. Without official sanction from London, Richards protected the capital Freetown from rebel attacks and prevented it from falling. In so doing, he made a remarkable unilateral decision to go beyond his mandate in order to save a civilian population from the overwhelming likelihood of an all-out slaughter. The military historian David Ucko, writing in the Journal of Strategic Studies in 2015, calls Richards’s action “A rare success story, but… a poorly understood and little studied case.”

11 May 2019

Who Owns South Africa?

By Ariel Levy

There is a good paved road that runs into McGregor, a pastoral village at the foot of South Africa’s Riviersonderend Mountains, but it stops at the edge of town. When the road was cleared and paved, in the nineteen-twenties, the plan was to keep going through the mountains toward Cape Town, but that project, like many other public works that followed, was abandoned before completion. Consequently, McGregor has a sleepy, almost otherworldly feel. Summers are long, winters are mild, and the soil is fertile: fences along the dusty roads crawl with hot-pink Zimbabwe creeper and orange Cape honeysuckle. The sun is so strong that, when clouds go by, the sky turns not gray but almost white.

There are a handful of flourishing vineyards in the vicinity, but even small plots teem with growth. On a half acre behind his house, a seventy-year-old retiree named Gawie Snyders grows pumpkins, onions, green beans, lettuces, grapes, stone fruit, and roses. “I am a farmer without a farm,” Snyders, a voluble man with brown skin and a bald head, declared one afternoon, looking at his garden. “I know how to prune apricots, peaches, plums—you name it. I worked on a contract basis: forty people on a truck and I prune your farm. That is how I make my money. I harvest your farm.” He was sitting at a picnic table, surrounded by chickens, a litter of puppies, several neighbors, and two men he employs to help with his crops: they were sorting through plastic buckets of pears harvested from Snyders’s half-dozen fruit trees. “They are not working hard now,” he grumbled, gesturing toward the workers. “They are looking at you, because they have never seen a white woman sitting next to me. It’s apartheid, my girl—apartheid never dies. Apartheid will be with us for a very long time.”