Thursday, October 17, 2019

Sudan: The Fall of a Dictator

The Journal of Democracy published in October 2019 an article titled "Sudan's Uprising: The Fall of a Dictator" by Mai Hassan, University of Michigan, and Ahmed Kodouda, George Washington University.

The article traces the reign and downfall of Omar al-Bashir. The authors suggest that the security forces continue to threaten the nascent democratization process ushered in by the popular uprising.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Russia's Return to Africa

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace posted in October 2019 a study titled "Late to the Party: Russia's Return to Africa" by Paul Stronski, a fellow at Carnegie.

The author states that an honest accounting of Russia's successes in Africa suggests a mere handful of client states with limited strategic significance that are isolated from the West and get little attention from the international community.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Praise and Caution for Ethiopia's Nobel Prize Winner

Brookings posted on 15 October 2019 a commentary titled "Alfred Nobel Catches 'Abiy-mania'" by Zach Vertin.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Abiy has taken the lid off Ethiopia, initiating one of the world's most important political transitions, but also its most fragile. The author argues that the success or failure of Abiy's high wire act will shape not only his country, but the entire region, for a generation to come.

Ghana: Chinese-bauxite Mine and Environmental Damage

The South China Morning Post published an article on 13 October 2019 titled "Activists in Ghana Lead Fight against China-backed Bauxite Mine in Pristine Rainforest" by Nosmot Gbadamosi.

The article describes the conflict between those who support the development in a Ghanaian rainforest of a Chinese bauxite mine and environmental activists and local residents who oppose the project because of the environmental damage it causes.

Monday, October 14, 2019

China Seeks African Support on Policy in Xinjiang Region

Kenya's Daily Nation published on 13 October 2019 an article titled "China Seeks Support from Africa on Uighur Policy" by Aggrey Mutambo.

The article notes that for the first time China has circulated to media houses in Africa documents that lay out China's position on the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang region. This follows a letter orchestrated by China and signed by 22 African UN ambassadors in New York defending China's policy. The Kenyan ambassador did not sign the letter.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Ethiopia: Unity Park

The Washington Post published on 13 October 2019 an article titled "'A Place of Ghosts:' Ethiopia Opens Controversial Palace to a Divided Public" by Max Bearak.

The article describes the remaking of the palace of Emperor Menelik II into a museum and a park designed to encourage ethnic unity.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Russia-Africa Summit Getting Attention in West

The Hill published on 10 October 2019 a commentary titled "The Russian Offensive in Africa and America's Feeble Response" by K. Riva Levinson, president and CEO of a Washington-based consultancy.

The first ever Russia-Africa summit in Sochi later this month is resulting in an increase in Western interest in Russia-Africa relations and especially the activities of shadowy Russian organizations such as the Wagner Group. While this topic deserves closer attention, it is equally important to look at actual results after the Sochi summit to determine if Russia is really returning to Africa in a major way.

For useful background on Russia-Africa relations, see pages 62-75 and 117-122 of the May 2019 white paper published by the US Department of Defense titled "Russian Strategic Intentions."

Whither South Sudan?

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) posted on 7 October 2019 a commentary titled "South Sudan: Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst" by David Deng, South Sudanese-American human rights lawyer, and Aly Verjee, USIP.

The authors do not predict that failure of the peace process in South Sudan is inevitable nor necessarily imminent. But there are signs the hopeful outcome they desire may not come to pass. They suggest two possible negative scenarios and what mignt be done to ameliorate them.

Who Is Africa's Largest Investor: the United States or China?

Ernst and Young published in September 2019 its "EY Attractiveness Program Africa."

One section of the report discusses Africa's 10 largest investors during the years 2014-2018. In terms of number of projects, it ranks the US first at 463 projects, France second at 329 projects, the UK third at 286 projects, and China fourth at 259 projects. It concludes that the US and France remain Africa's single largest investors, adding that China is increasingly becoming a force to be reckoned with.

In terms of the amount of capital invested, however, Ernst and Young report that the US invested during 2014-2018 $31 billion, France $34 billion, the UK $18 billion, and China an astounding $72 billion. The capital figure for China is many times higher than any number cited by the Government of China or any other source that I have seen recently. It raises a serious question as to its accuracy but, if accurate, why China is not considered Africa's largest investor during this period.

To its credit, Ernst and Young does explain how it arrived at its numbers. An investment in a company is normally included in FDI data if the foreign investor acquires more than 10 percent of the company's equity. FDI includes equity capital, reinvested earnings, and intra-company loans. Ernst and Young says its figures also include investments in physical assets. All of its FDI numbers are sourced from FDI Intelligence 2019.

As someone who has tried to follow China's FDI in Africa for more than a decade, I am as confused as I was a decade ago.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Zimbabwe Likely to Use Chinese Technology to Control Social Media

Quartz Africa posted on 9 October 2019 a story titled "Zimbabwe Is Clamping Down on Social Media Use with a Cyber Crime Bill Set to Become Law" by Tawanda Karombo.

Zimbabwe's Parliament is debating a cyber security bill that, if passed, may be used to crack down on social media. Human rights activists in Zimbabwe believe Chinese technology will be used to implement any law that is passed.

Russia to the Rescue in Africa?

The Institute for Security Studies posted on 4 October 2019 a commentary titled "From Russia with Love - Or Perhaps Not?" by Peter Fabricius.

As Russia gets ready to host later this month its first Africa summit, there has been much commentary whether this signals a major return to Africa by Russia. The author concludes that for at least as long as Vladimir Putin is in the Kremlin and perhaps longer, Russia will probably keep trying to expand its African footprint.

AMISOM's Future in Somalia

The Institute for Security Studies published in October 2019 an analysis titled "Deadline or Deadlock? AMISOM's Future in Somalia" by Jide Martyns Okeke, governance, peace, and security expert.

The author argues that Somalia's transition plan, which provides for a phased, condition-based transfer of security responsibility from AMISOM to the Federal Government of Somalia by 2021, is unrealistic. AMISOM is the most consistent provider of primary security in Somalia, but it is an interim force. Its political and operational reconfiguration is more likely to accelerate the conditions for an effective transition in Somalia than the focus on its withdrawal that preoccupies donor countries.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Evacuation of US Embassy Mogadishu in 1991

The Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training just posted, on the reopening of the US Embassy in Mogadishu, an oral history titled "Evacuating Somalia" in 1991 by Ambassador James K. Bishop.

Ambassador Bishop provided this oral history in November 1991. He describes the evacuation of the US embassy in Mogadishu in January 1991 by US military assets after the fall of Somali President Siad Barre and as the embassy compound was being overrun.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Beyond Counterterrorism: Defeating the Salafi-Jihadi Movement

The American Enterprise Institute published in October 2019 a study titled "Beyond Counterterrorism: Defeating the Salafi-Jihadi Movement" by Katherine Zimmerman.

This detailed study includes two especially useful maps on pages 47-48 that identify the global networks across Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia of both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Rise and Fall of a Russian Mercenary Army

Foreign Policy published on 6 October 2019 an article titled "The Rise and Fall of a Russian Mercenary Army" by Neil Hauer, a Canadian journalist.

The Russian private firm, Wagner Group, is a shadowy mercenary outfit hired to fight on the Kremlin's behalf from Ukraine to Syria to the Central African Republic. Following blunders in Syria, it has fallen out of favor in Moscow but is surprising by the fact that it ever existed and it still functions in a much reduced capacity. For example, Wagner is playing a supporting role in Russian operations in Libya where it is aiding the forces of Libyan General Khalifa Haftar on the outskirts of Tripoli.

China, Zambia, and Debt

The China-Africa Project published on 7 October 2019 an interview with Solange Chatelard, Free University of Brussels, titled "Are We Heading for a China-Zambia Break-up over Debt? Probably Not."

Chatelard blames bad debt management by Zambia for the problem and concludes that China will probably restructure part of Zambia's debt because Beijing has geopolitical strategic interests that it needs to protect with Zambia.

Africa and Hong Kong: A New Battleground for Supporting China?

Africa Times published on 6 October 2019 an article titled "Hong Kong, Africa and the One China Policy."

The Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement last week on the situation in Hong Kong that included the statement: "Hong Kong's affairs are China's domestic affairs." Ministerial level personnel from Liberia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe have also gone out of their way in recent weeks to reaffirm their support for the One China policy. The Ugandan statement is surprising in its support of Beijing's approach to Hong Kong and may portend a campaign to encourage additional statements from African governments.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

China Seeks Peace Dividend in South Sudan

The South China Morning Post published on 5 October 2019 an article titled "Why China Is Hoping for a Peace Dividend in South Sudan" by Jevans Nyabiage.

China is the primary investor in South Sudan's oil fields and makes a significant contribution to the UN peacekeeping operation in the country. It hopes that permanent peace will return to the country so that it can maximize its oil investment.

Economic Recovery in Sudan

Chatham House published in October 2019 a report titled "Sudan Stakeholder Dialogues: Options for Economic Stabilization, Recovery and Inclusive Growth" by Ahmed Soliman.

The paper draws together the key themes and findings from three roundtables, ranging from broad structural issues to sector-specific priority interventions. It presents options and recommendations for Sudanese leaders, including the transitional government, in support of building a more economically prosperous, peaceful and inclusive nation.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Ethiopia and Egypt Can't Agree on Nile Water Usage

Nature published on 4 October 2019 an article titled "Gigantic Nile Dam Prompts Clash between Egypt and Ethiopia" by Antoaneta Roussi.

The water ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan met in Khartoum on 4-5 October in an effort to agree on the timetable for filling the reservoir on the Blue Nile behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is 60 percent finished. The meeting apparently ended without any agreement. The main sticking point is the amount of time that it will take to fill the reservoir behind the hydropower dam as this will interrupt the flow of water that eventually reaches Egypt. There must also be agreement on how much water is released during the fill period. Egypt wants a longer fill period, Ethiopia a shorter period. Once the reservoir is filled, the river should flow normally, providing Ethiopia with power and Egypt with about the same amount of water that it has received over the ages, depending on annual rainfall in the Blue Nile catchment basin.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Illegal Fishing Off Ghana and Sierra Leone: A China Connection

Chinadialogue posted on 3 October 2019 an investigative report titled "How Ghana's Weak Penalties Are Letting Trawlers off the Hook" by Mona Samari, West Africa Fisheries Journalism Training Project.

This investigation explores the secretive networks committing fishery offences in Ghana and Sierra Leone. Ostensible ownership of the vessels is local, but China is implicated as a beneficial owner of the vessels even though it is not the flag state.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Safety in the Red Sea Corridor

The Institute for Security Studies published on 2 October 2019 a short piece titled "Safety in the Red Sea Corridor Can't Be Taken for Granted" by Omar S. Mahmood.

The principal argument is that as geopolitical interest in the Red Sea region increases, lessons from other maritime regions will be key to its stability.

China and Africa: Huawei's Cybersecurity Risks

The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) published on 3 October 2019 a study titled "A Concise Guide to Huawei's Cybersecurity Risks and the Global Responses" by Jonathan Marek and Ashley Dutta, both at NBR.

The analysis examines criticisms leveled against Huawei and how governments have responded. It provides a framework and key examples through which readers can better understand the policy challenges surrounding the company.

It notes that Africa is likely the region outside Asia where Huawei has achieved and can achieve its greatest success. Huawei operates in 40 countries in Africa and is heavily involved in both 4G and 5G network development. Even after a reported network breach, the African Union signed an agreement reinforcing its cooperation with Huawei.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Russia Looking to Fill In Behind West in Africa

The Daily Maverick published on 2 October 2019 a commentary titled "From Liberation to Authoritarianism? From Russia to Africa with Love" by Greg Mills, head of the Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation.

As Russia prepares to host later this month in Sochi its first ever summit with African leaders, the author warns that it is not just China, but also Russia, that is planning to replace Western influence in Africa in countries where the West is pulling back. Changing this situation, he argues, demands engagement, not neglect.

Africa: Pew Survey of Opinion about China

Facttank published on 30 September 2019 a summary of a Pew public opinion survey titled "People around the Globe Are Divided in Their Opinions of China" by Laura Silver, Kat Devlin, and Christine Huang.

The Pew Research Center surveyed between 13 May and 29 August 2019 almost 35,000 people in 32 countries, including four (Tunisia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya) in Africa. A median of 41 percent across the 32 countries had a favorable opinion of China, compared with a median of 37 percent who had an unfavorable opinion. The four African countries all viewed China more favorably. In Tunisia, China had a 63 percent favorable rating and 16 percent unfavorable. In Nigeria it was 70 percent favorable and 17 percent unfavorable. In Kenya it was 58 percent favorable and 25 percent unfavorable. In South Africa it was 46 percent favorable and 35 percent unfavorable.