Saturday, July 14, 2018

Eritrean President Visits Ethiopia

The BBC World Service ran on 14 July 2018 a program titled "Eritrea President in Landmark Visit to Ethiopia."

The program contains about five minutes of my comments on the background to the conflict.

Normalization of Ethiopia-Eritrea Relations Brings Joy--And Challenges

The Washington Post published on 13 July 2018 an article titled "'Like a Dream': Families Separated for Decades by Ethiopia-Eritrea Conflict Celebrate Peace Deal" by Paul Schemm.

The article highlights the joy experienced on both sides of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border following the Ethiopian initiative to end the two decade old border conflict. At the same time, it points to challenges ahead, especially the future of more than 160,000 Eritreans registered as refugees in Ethiopia, most of whom escaped military conscription in Eritrea.

The Washington Post also ran an editorial on 13 July 2018 titled "After 20 Years Eritrea and Ethiopia Are Making Peace. We Should All Celebrate."

Friday, July 13, 2018

China's Consumption-led Growth and Impact on Africa

The New African published on 4 July 2018 an article titled "What Impact in Africa as China Shifts To Consumption-led Growth?" by Regina Jane Jere.

Based on a recent Moody's report, the author says China's shift from consumption-led growth will have mixed credit implications for African states, flattening the trade volumes of oil and iron ore exporters while benefiting the exporters of non-ferrous metals (copper, cobalt and aluminum) and tourist destinations in Africa.

U.S. Role in Ending the Ethiopia-Eritrea Conflict

Foreign Policy published on 12 July 2018 a commentary titled "Trump Needs to Close the Deal in the Horn of Africa," by Daniel Runde, Center for Strategic and International Studies.


The author argues that the United States has an outsized role in the Horn of Africa and this is an historic opportunity to ensure that peace and normalization of relations take place between Ethiopia and Eritrea. While I agree that the United States should do everything appropriately possible to encourage this development, I believe the author has an exaggerated view of U.S. influence in the region. So long as Ethiopia and Eritrea themselves are sincerely trying to end this dispute, it may be more appropriate for outside powers to remain on the sidelines unless assistance is requested by both parties.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Refugees in South Sudan's Peace Process

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published on 9 July 2018 a commentary titled "Role of Refugees in South Sudan's Peace Process" by Tsion Tadesse Abebe and Selam Tadesse, both with ISS.

South Sudanese represent the largest refugee population in Africa and the third largest in the world. Most are hosted by neighboring Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan and most are women and children. The authors argue that these refugees can contribute positively to the ongoing search for peace mainly due to their experiences in exile, living alongside different ethnic groups. Their experiences often make them accommodating of people's differences.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Atrocity Prevention and US Policy toward South Sudan

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum published in July 2018 a detailed assessment titled "From Independence to Civil War: Atrocity Prevention and US Policy toward South Sudan" by Jon Temin.

The author identified four pivotal periods when the United States could have acted with greater conviction to prevent violence in South Sudan, but did not. For Each period, the author seeks to identify alternative policies that could have been considered and to assess whether those policies may have been able to prevent or limit violence.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Eastern African Seaboard: The Heroin Coast

ENACT published in June 2018 a detailed report titled "The Heroin Coast: A Political Economy along the Eastern African Seaboard" by Simone Haysom, Peter Gastrow, and Mark Shaw.

Africa is experiencing the sharpest increase in heroin use worldwide and a spectrum of criminal networks and political elites in East and southern Africa are substantially enmeshed in the trade. The report focuses on the characteristics of the heroin trade in the region and how it has become embedded in the societies along this route. It also highlights the features of the criminal governance systems that facilitate drug trafficking along this coastal route, particularly in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa.

China-Africa Military Ties

The Washington Post Monkey Cage posted on 6 July 2018 a commentary titled "China-Africa Military Ties Have Deepened. Here Are 4 Things To Know" by Lina Benabdallah, Wake Forest University.

The first China-Africa Defense and Security Forum organized by China's Ministry of National Defense is a sign of China's growing military ties with Africa. The author comments that the forum is an effort to solidify Beijing's role as provider of expertise and technical know-how in a wide variety of areas, including the defense and military arenas. She contrasts China's security approach to Africa with that of the United States and identifies four factors that help explain Beijing's defense strategy in Africa.

I would argue that the forum is also intended to improve security for China's personnel and interests in Africa and enhance the sale of its arms to Africa.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

China and Africa: Whither the Belt and Road?

Bridges Africa posted on 5 July 2018 an article titled "China and Africa: Wither the Belt and Road?" by Wenjie Chen and Roger Nord, both at the International Monetary Fund.

The authors conclude that if the Belt and Road Initiative is limited to more official lending for infrastructure development, it is unlikely to solve Africa's development challenges, given the shrinking borrowing space in many African countries.

Russia Struggling to Expand in Africa

The Ghana News Agency posted on 5 July 2018 an article titled "Russia To deepen Trade and Investment Cooperation with Africa" by Kester Kenn Klomegah, Moscow Bureau Chief.

Although Russia's trade with the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa has increased modestly in the past three years, it remained at a minuscule $3.6 billion in 2017. In spite of a recent visit to Africa by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, one analyst who follows Russia's engagement on the continent described its influence as marginal. Based on my own five-country trip to Sub-Saharan Africa in June, I would agree with this conclusion.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Is China Imposing Its Information Society Model on Africa?

Bridges Africa published in July 2018 an article titled "Is China Changing Information Societies in Africa?" by Iginio Gagliadone, University of Witswatersrand.

The author notes that some have accused China of trying to export its ICT model overseas, resulting in a more authoritarian version of the internet. He concludes that the analysis of China's ICT engagement in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Ghana offers little support for this hypothesis. On the other hand, the fact that African states are being helped by China in asserting their own controls over those of other actors may bring this accusation closer to the truth in the longer run.

Chinese Companies Building Gas and Oil Infrastructure in Ethiopia

East African Business Week published on 4 July 2018 an article titled "Ethiopia Starts Oil Production from Ogaden Basin" by Ruari Phillips.

China's state-owned Poly Group and Golden Concord Group began extracting from Ethiopia's Ogaden basin in May. A 550 kilometer long gas pipeline to the port of Djibouti is under construction.

Somalia: The Limits of the AMISOM Model

The summer 2018 edition of The Washington Quarterly published an article titled "Subduing al-Shabaab: The Somalia Model of Counterterrorism and Its Limits" by Paul D. Williams, George Washington University.

The author argues that while AMISOM delivered some notable achievements, the model could not and should not be replicated elsewhere. It generated several problems that permitted AMISOM to degrade and displace al-Shabaab forces but not to defeat them, and unable to turn its military success into sustainable political gains.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Can Africa's Young Population Take Advantage of China's Aging Population?

Bridges Africa published on 5 July 2018 an analysis titled "Harvesting from 'Poor Old' China to Harness 'Poor Young' Africa's Demographic Dividend?" by Lauren A. Johnston, Global Labour Organisation.

As China's four-decade long demographic dividend is coming to an end, the country is actively seeking to seize new economic opportunities in higher-value-added productive activities. The question is whether Africa can be a big winner of this economic restructuring. The FOCAC 2018 summit presents an opportunity for African and Chinese leaders to discuss the case for mutually beneficial trade, investment, and aid.

China's Foreign Direct Investment in Africa is Modest and Declining

Bridges Africa published on 5 July 2018 an analysis titled "China in Africa: Goods Supplier, Service Provider Rather than Investor" by Thierry Pairault, research director at France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

Although is it difficult to track China's foreign direct investment because some of it goes through tax havens and is not accounted for, Ministry of Commerce statistics demonstrate that Chinese investment in Africa is modest and falling. FDI flows to Africa in 2016 totaled $2.4 billion, a decrease of 19 percent compared to 2015 ($2.9 billion), which was a decline of 7 percent compared to 2014 ($3.2 billion).

The author concludes that China is primarily a service provider (builder of infrastructure based on loans from a variety of sources and a major source of imports). Africa is more a customer than a partner. China rarely invests in infrastructure in Africa, but builds and finances African investments in infrastructure. This is a critical distinction that is poorly understood by some who write about China-Africa relations.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Commentary on Ethiopia's New Leader

The Ethiopia Observer published on 4 July 2018 a commentary titled "Ethiopia's Charismatic Leader: Riding the Wave of Populism or Reforming Ethnic Federalism?" by Alemayehu Weldemariam, a PhD candidate at Georgetown University.

The author urges Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to prove that is the reformist, not the populist, that Ethiopians have long been waiting for. Abiy has to take care that the hopes he has raised are not replaced by despair.

Righting Past Wrongs in Ethiopia

The Ethiopia Observer published on 22 June 2018 a commentary titled "Admitting Guilt in Ethiopia: Towards a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?' by Kjetil Tronvoll, a professor at Bjorknes University College in Norway.

The author commented favorably on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's acknowledgement of widespread human rights violations by previous Ethiopian governments and wonders if this will result in a historic change of culture in Ethiopia.

Impact of US Sanctions on Sudan

Foreign Policy published on 3 July 2018 an article titled "Sanctions Against Sudan Didn't Harm an Oppressive Government--They Helped It" by Nesrine Malik, a Sudanese feature writer based in London.

After 20 years of comprehensive sanctions against Sudan, the United States removed most punitive measures in October 2017. It was a time of great hope in Sudan. But the author argues that nine months later, thanks to a toxic mix of state profligacy, corruption, and lack of foreign investment or aid, Sudan is on the verge of collapse.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

China Scales Down Investment in Democratic Republic of Congo

Foreign Policy published on 27 June 2018 an article titled "The Belt and Road Bubble Is Starting to Burst" by David G. Landry, international development consultant.

In 2007, the DRC signed a resource-for-infrastructure deal originally valued at $9 billion with a consortium of Chinese companies. The Chinese consortium misjudged the market it was entering and the project has been scaled back significantly. The author suggests the project is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), although it predates announcement of the BRI.

Monday, July 2, 2018

China Invites African Military Leaders to Beijing

Deutsche Welle posted on 29 June 2018 a report titled "Why Has China Invited African Army Chiefs to Beijing?"

China's Ministry of National Defense invited high-ranking military representatives from 50 African countries to the first China-Africa Defense and Security Forum in Beijing in early July. The article speculates on the reasons for this event.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

China Rosewood Purchases Providing Little Benefit to Zambia

The Conversation posted on 25 June 2018 a commentary titled "Why Zambia Has Not Benefitted from Its Rosewood Trade with China" by Paolo Omar Cerutti and Davison Gumbo, both with the Centre for International Forestry Research.

There is a huge demand in China for rosewood logs to make antique furniture. Africa, and particularly Zambia, has become a key exporter of rosewood to China. But Zambia's forests are being decimated causing serious environmental degradation. Zambian officials have little incentive to ensure the trade is properly regulated and corruption is rampant.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Dispute and the Irob People

The Irob Global Diaspora, which speaks for the Irob people who live along the Ethiopia-Eritrea border, recently posted a statement titled "The Right to Exist."

While the Irob disapora supports the recent initiative by Ethiopia to resolve the border dispute with Eritrea, it urges that both governments take into account the concerns of the Irob people who live along the border and would be most directly affected by any transfer of land from one country to another.

China, Africa and Industrial Parks (in French)

Thierry Pairault recently posted an analysis titled "La Chine en Afrique et la question des parc industriels" that draws on research in Chinese by Chinese authors.

The study describes five different types of industrial parks, the different ways they operate, and the challenges they face.

Push from AU Needed to End Conflict in South Sudan

The International Crisis Group published on 30 June 2018 a statement titled "Improving Prospects for Peace in South Sudan at the African Union Summit."

The 27 June Khartoum Declaration signed by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and former First Vice President Riek Machar does not resolve major points of contention between the two leaders, deferring them to talks which are ongoing in Khartoum. African leaders at the upcoming AU Summit need to push both sides to resolve outstanding differences. The choice is not between this process and a better one, but between it and none at all.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Gulf States Destabilize Somalia

World Politics Review published on 29 June 2018 a commentary titled "Gulf Rivalries Extend into the Horn of Africa, Further Destabilizing Somalia" by Ilya Gridneff, a Somalia analyst based in Kenya.

As Western influence wanes in the Horn of Africa, clashing visions of how to engage with the region, from rival Gulf states to Turkey, will only intensify, threatening the unity of Somalia most of all.