Monday, April 6, 2020

Kenya-Somalia Indian Ocean Boundary Dispute

World Politics Review published on 6 April 2020 an analysis titled "Kenya and Somalia's Long-Simmering Territorial Dispute Threatens to Boil Over" by Julian Hattem.

High level diplomacy to solve the Indian Ocean boundary dispute between Somalia and Kenya has been halted by the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the situation is ripe for small scale skirmishes and shows of force by both sides.

Gold Mining in Sudan

The Rift Valley Institute published in March 2020 a briefing paper titled "How Sudan's Gold Boom Is Changing Labour Relations in Blue Nile State" by Mohamed Salah and Enrico Ille.

The authors conclude the while small-scale artisanal gold mining in Sudan's Blue Nile State will open new economic opportunities for some, it also risks the health of many who are involved.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Ethiopia and COVID-19

Ethiopia Insight posted on 4 April 2020 an article titled "Ethiopia Inaction Will Lead to Another COVID-19 Catastrophe" by Chris Preager, resident in Addis Ababa.

The author urges Ethiopia to learn the lessons of other countries, especially Iran and South Korea, in its efforts to combat COVID-19.

Friday, April 3, 2020

African Debt to China

The China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies posted on 1 April 2020 an analysis titled "Is China Hiding Its Overseas Lending? Horn, Reinhart and Trebesch's 'Hidden Loans' and Hidden Data" by Deborah Brautigam and Kevin Acker.

This analysis looks at competing ways to determine the amount of debt China holds in African countries and the discrepancies in the way data is handled. The China Africa Research Initiative, which takes issue with another recent analysis, does agree that a number of African countries have worrying debt concerns, and China is a substantial lender on the continent.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Dirty Deals Threaten South Sudan's Mining Sector

The Sentry published in April 2020 a report titled "Untapped and Unprepared: Dirty Deals Threaten South Sudan's Mining Sector."

Ineffective accountability mechanisms, an opaque corporate landscape, and inadequate due diligence have exposed South Sudan's mining sector to abuse by bad actors within the country's ruling clique. South Sudan's mineral wealth could do little more than spur the kind of violent competition that has ravaged the oil sector.

Why Ethiopia Rejected US Blue Nile Dam Deal

Ethiopia Insight posted on 2 April 2020 a news analysis titled "Why Ethiopia Rejected the U.S.-drafted GERD Deal."

Ethiopia rejected the draft U.S.-Egypt agreement concerning the fill rate and subsequent water release from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) because it was designed to help ensure implementation of the 1959 agreement, which allocated 55.5 billion cubic meters of Nile water to Egypt even during periods of severe drought in the region. During these periods the Nile might not be able to provide that amount of water, which would require Ethiopia to drain the reservoir behind the GERD to meet a treaty commitment that Ethiopia was never part of and, without the existence of the GERD, has occurred in the past.

The US Needs an Africa Strategy that Does Not Treat China as Zero Sum Competition

War on the Rocks published on 2 April 2020 a commentary titled "Does America Need an Africa Strategy?" by Sam Wilkins, an active duty US Army Special Forces officer.

The author concluded that the United States needs a continental strategy because it has real interests in Africa and increasingly limited means with which to advance and protect them. Chinese activities have sharpened the need for a continent-wide policy, but American interests in Africa go well beyond zero-sum conceptions of competition with Beijing. American policy in Africa risks becoming reactive to Beijing's moves on a country-by-country or issue-by-issue basis. Chinese activity should not be the organizing principle of American policy in Africa. Rather, a more nuanced Africa-wide strategy would harness American advantages and prepare for what will become a decades-long competition in Africa with a determined and authoritarian state. America's approach to China in Africa should emphasize U.S. strengths--transparency, high quality goods and services, and democratic governance--and trust the appeal of those fundamental values as a compelling alternative to the Chinese model.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

China's Ambassador to South Africa Recalled to Join Media Campaign?

The Daily Maverick published on 30 March 2020 a commentary titled "Ambassador Lin Songtian's Recall Signals Shifts Ahead in China-Africa Relationship" by Cobus van Staden, South African Institute of International Affairs.

China's recently recalled ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian, is the former director general for Africa in the foreign ministry and one of China's most senior ambassadors. He was well known for his media outreach and use of Twitter in South Africa, especially his critique of US policy in Africa. His premature departure from Pretoria may signal a promotion whereby he joins China's effort to criticize US policy globally and highlight the positive aspects of China's policy.

Ethiopia: Dealing with COVID-19

Ethiopia Insight published on 1 April 2020 an article titled "Ethiopia's COVID-19 Quandary" by Ermias Tasfaye.

The author describes Ethiopia's challenges in combating COVID-19 throughout the country.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Upcoming Elections in Somalia

World Politics Review published on 31 March 2020 an analysis titled "Somalia's Historic Elections Bring Hope--and Despair--for Elusive Democracy" by Ilya Gridneff.

The article discusses the challenges facing elections in Somalia late this year or early next year.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and International Law

Ethiopia Insight published on 30 March 2020 a commentary titled "Ethiopia Does Not Need Egypt's Permission To Start Filling GERD" by Mahemud Tekuya, PhD candidate in international legal studies at University of Pacific.

The author looks at the filling of the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam from the perspective of his interpretation of international law.

Both Sides of Red Sea Form Red Sea Pact

The National Interest published on 29 March 2020 an analysis titled "Here Comes Saudi Arabia's African Offensive" by Ilan Berman and Jacob McCarty, both with the American Foreign Policy Council.

Five African nations--Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea, and Egypt--and three Middle Eastern countries--Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Jordan--signed in January the Red Sea Pact to enhance trade and diplomacy along the Red Sea corridor. The Pact lays the groundwork for what Saudi officials hope will become a new cooperative regime for the area. The objective is to increase trade and security along and within this important waterway that has choke points at each end--the Suez Canal in the north and Bab el-Mandeb in the south.

US and China Combat Coronavirus in Africa

The US State Department posted a press release on 27 March 2020 titled "The United States Is Leading the Humanitarian and Health Assistance Response to COVID-19."

As China ramps up its public relations campaign to demonstrate how it is supporting countries to deal with coronavirus, the United States is trying to make clear that it is providing more aid to combat coronavirus than any other country (read China). The United States has provided assistance to the following countries in Africa: Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It is providing additional health assistance to the Central African Republic, DRC, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.

Unfortunately, China's smaller effort to aid countries in Africa has resulted in far more effective messaging than that from the United States.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Criticism of US Position on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Ethiopia Insight posted on 29 March 2020 a commentary titled "Why the U.S. Lost Its Way on the Nile" by Zerihun Addisu, student at York University in Toronto.

This is a critical analysis of U.S. efforts to resolve the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia on the fill rate of the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.

African Support for China's Core Principles

The Spring 2020 issue of Orbis contains an article titled "Evolving Principles and Guiding Concepts: How China Gains African Support for its Core National Interests" by me and Josh Eisenman. This link only offers the abstract. Until I can figure out how to load the sharing mechanism and if you want a PDF copy of the entire article, please send an email to

Under Xi Jinping, China has packaged its policies using two interrelated guiding concepts, the "Chinese Dream" and "The Community of Shared Future." These concepts represent the conceptual framework that China has created to engage African and other countries as it expands its diplomatic, economic, and security interaction with Africa. Beijing has successfully obtained African support or, at least, acquiescence for its core national interests: Taiwan, Tibet, the mistreatment of Muslim minorities, human rights, South China Sea, and Hong Kong.

Friday, March 27, 2020

China's Investment Flows to Africa Less than UK and France

The Conversation posted on 24 March 2020 a commentary titled "China's Investment in Africa: A Fresh Lens Offers More Balanced Insights" by Simon Manda, University of Zamiba.

Much of the discussion on Chinese capital flows to Africa significantly overstates China's contribution to foreign direct investment (FDI). The United Kingdom and France continue to provide more annual FDI.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Ethiopia: Tigray's Ruling Party Threatened

Ethiopia Insight posted on 26 March 2020 a commentary titled "With Abiy in His Corner, Isaias Eyes TPLF Knockout" by U.S. resident Naty Berhane Yifru.

The author argues that an alliance of Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed threatens the future of the ruling Tigray People's Liberation Front in Tigray Region.

Rebuilding Somalia

The International Monetary Fund's March 2020 issue of Finance and Development containains an interview titled "Rebuilding Somalia" with Somali Finance Minister Abdirahman Dualeh Beileh, who has three degrees from the University of Wisconsin. He provides an optimistic view of Somalia's future.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Private Chinese Security Companies in Africa

The Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies China Africa Research Initiative published in March 2020 a study titled "The Footprint of Chinese Private Security Companies in Africa" by Alessandro Arduino, National University of Singapore.

China has seen throughout Africa how limiting the sole reliance on economic development is for insuring security and sustainable development. As a result, China is looking increasingly to private security companies to provide security in high risk areas of Africa.

Building South Sudan from Scratch

The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training just posted an oral history interview titled "Building a Country from Scratch--The South Sudanese Transition to Independence (2005-2011)." This is an interview with Gerald Hyman in 2016 based on his experience as a USAID officer in South Sudan until 2007. He signaled concerns that South Sudan was not ready for independence.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

China's Military Presence in the Red Sea Region

The Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington published in January 2020 a study titled "The PLA Beyond Asia: China's Growing Military Presence in the Red Sea Region" by Joel Wuthnow, National Defense University.

The key finding is that China's People's Liberation Army presence in the Red Sea area, while currently modest, creates several challenges that U.S. officials will have to address. This includes questions of operational safety as U.S. and Chinese forces come into contact, risks of exposing the PLA to sensitive U.S. operations and capabilities, and the possibility that the attractiveness of the United States as a regional security partner could wane as China takes on increasing roles in the area.

Impact of China's Slowdown on African Economies

The Diplomat published on 19 March 2020 an analysis titled "China's Coronavirus Slowdown: Which African Economies Will Be Hit Hardest?" by Hannah Ryder and Angela Benefo, Development Reimagined.

COVID-19 could lead to a sharp increase in African poverty due to a drop in commodity prices and a shortage of cheap consumer goods produced in China. There will be both demand-side and supply-side shocks to African economies as a result of the economic slowdown in China.

Somalia: Al-Shabaab's Psychological Operations

The March 2020 edition of the CTC Sentinel contains a study titled "Addressing the Enemy: Al-Shabaab's PSYOPS Media Warfare" by Christopher Anzalone, George Mason University.

The Somali-based jihadi insurgent group, al-Shabaab, conducts an impressive psychological messaging operation that targets rank-and-file opposing soldiers as well as the domestic audience in neighboring countries as well as the United States.

Russia-Africa Media and NGO Engagement Continues to Lag

The Southern Times published on 24 March 2020 an article titled "Russia-Africa NGOs and Media Cooperation: Still Several Steps Away from Reality" by Kester Kenn Klomegah.

In spite of efforts to revive relations with Africa following the Russia-Africa summit last October, media cooperation has been given a low priority and there is still not a single African non-governmental organization operating in Russia.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Al-Shabaab Seen as Growing Threat to Americans

The New York Times published on 21 March 2020 an article titled "Al-Qaeda Branch in Somalia Threatens Americans in East Africa--And Even the U.S." by Eric Schmitt and Abdi Latif Dahir.

The article details increasing efforts by Somali-based al-Shabaab to attack Americans in East Africa and conceivably beyond.