Sunday, January 20, 2019

Rationale for Al-Shabaab Attack in Kenya

Foreign Policy posted on 19 January 2019 a story titled "Al-Shabab Wants You To Know It's Alive and Well" by Amanda Sperber.

The recent al-Shabaab attack on the commercial complex in Nairobi, Kenya was intended to remind the world that the terrorist group is alive and well and a far more important organization than its rival Islamic State in Somalia.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Ghanaian Rosewood Exports to China Threaten Species

Ghanabusiness.com recently posted a detailed account titled "China's Lust for Rosewood Fuels Logging in Ghana's Poorest Region" by Emmanuel K. Dogbevi.

Demand for rosewood in China has grown exponentially over the past 15 years. Ghana is the second largest source, after Nigeria, of rosewood exported to China from West Africa. Ghana has put a ban on cutting down rosewood trees but not on collecting and exporting wood that has fallen on its own. This has not prevented, however, the massive cutting of trees by local Ghanaians who are protected by local politicians. Nearly all of the wood is exported to China by local Chinese companies.

At the current rate of harvesting, it is estimated rosewood will disappear from this part of Ghana in three years. The unrestrained harvesting is having a negative impact on the fragile ecology of the savannah regions of Ghana and other West African countries where it is found.

African Economic Outlook 2019

The African Development Bank has just released its African Economic Outlook 2019 in English, French and Portuguese.

After tepid real GDP growth of only 2.1 percent in 2016, Africa's economy recovered with 3.6 percent growth in 2017 and 3.5 percent growth in 2018. Growth is expected to accelerate to 4 percent in 2019 and 4.1 percent in 2020. In 2019, 40 percent of African economies are projected to see growth of at least 5 percent.

Five trade policy actions could potentially bring Africa's total gains in 2019 to 4.5 percent of its GDP:

--eliminating all applied bilateral tariffs in Africa;
--keeping rules of origin simple, flexible, and transparent;
--removing all nontariff barriers on goods and services;
--implementing the World Trade Organizations's Trade Facilitation Agreement to reduce cross border time and transaction costs tied to nontariff measures; and
--negotiating with other developing countries to reduce their tariffs and nontariff barriers by 50 percent.

Africa faces an urgent need to create jobs in higher productivity sectors by developing a strong manufacturing sector. This will not be achieved, however, if constraints to doing business such as poor governance, low institutional quality, and inadequate infrastructure continue to limit firm survival and dynamism. At the current rate of labor force growth, Africa needs to create about 12 million new jobs every year to prevent unemployment from rising.

Ethiopia: Whither the Oromo Liberation Front?

Ethiopia Insight posted on 19 January 2019 a commentary titled "The OLF Is Dead, But Its Oromo Struggle Lives" by Abdurazak Kedir Abdu, US-based human rights specialist.

The author concludes that while the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has disintegrated, what it stands for still captures the essence of the Oromo struggle, and this contradiction is convulsing Oromo politics.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Background of Al-Shabaab

The Council on Foreign Relations posted on 16 January 2019 a background piece on al-Shabaab by Claire Felter, Jonathan Masters, and Mohammed Aly Sergie.

U.S. Ramps Up Airstrikes in Somalia

The Washington Post published on 17 January 2019 an article titled "Deadly Nairobi Attack Comes as U.S. Ramps Up Airstrikes against Al-Shabaab in Somalia" by Max Bearak.

The United States launched 47 strikes in Somalia against the al-Shabaab terrorist organization by unmanned drones in 2018, up from 31 in 2017. The United States has also stationed about 500 troops in Somalia, most of whom are special forces. This effort did not interrupt al-Shabaab's terrorist attack this week in Nairobi.

Why Burkina Faso Switched Recognition from Taiwan to China

The Diplomat published on 16 January 2019 an article titled "Explaining China's Latest Catch in Africa" by Oana Burcu, University of Nottingham, and Eloise Bertrand, University of Warwick.

In May 2018, Taiwan lost one of its last allies in Africa when Burkina Faso switched its diplomatic recognition to China. While bilateral dollar diplomacy played a role, so did regional dollar diplomacy. Burkina Faso received an attractive financial package from Beijing. China also said it would not support the regional security G5 Sahel Joint Force (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad) so long as Ouagadougou continued to recognize Taiwan. Once Burkina Faso recognized Beijing, it allowed China to fund the regional organization.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Tigray and Abiy Ahmed's Ethiopia

Ethiopia Insight posted on 17 January 2019 a commentary titled "Is Tigray Really a Drop in the Bucket for Abiy's Administration?" by Nebiyu Sihul Mikael, Mekelle University.

The author comments on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's growing hostility to the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and argues that his current trajectory damages hopes of political reconciliation.

Somalia Shoots Itself in the Foot

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) posted on 11 January 2019 a commentary titled "Somalia Shoots Itself in the Foot" by Peter Fabricius, ISS consultant.

The Somali government declared Nicholas Haysom, a South African lawyer and seasoned diplomat, persona non grata on 1 January, thereby forcing UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to replace him as the UN Special Envoy to Somalia. Haysom criticized the Somali government's decision to arrest Muktar Robow, a candidate in the presidential elections last December in Somalia's South West State. Robow had earler defected from al-Shabaab where he once was the deputy leader.

Fabricius argues that this is not how to deal with al-Shabaab or to manage Somali federalism. What has been lost is a prime opportunity to demonstrate that former al-Shabaab members can be accepted into mainstream Somali society.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Kenya Railway Loan Terms with China under Fire

Kenya's Daily Nation published on 13 January 2013 a story titled "SGR Pact with China a Risk to Kenyan Sovereignty, Assets" by Edwin Okoth.

The 2014 contract between Kenya and China's state-owned Export-Import Bank for funding construction of the Nairobi to Mombasa railway has become public and contains worrisome terms for Kenya. Failure to repay the loan could result in China taking control of the port of Mombasa or other Kenyan properties from airports to natural resources. The contract also states that its terms are governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of China. The goal was to keep the contract secret. China has strongly denied that the contract is an example of debt-trap diplomacy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Red Sea Rivalries

Foreign Affairs posted on 15 January 2019 an analysis titled "Red Sea Rivalries: The Gulf States Are Playing a Dangerous Game in the Horn of Africa" by Zach Vertin, Brookings Institution's Doha Center.

As the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey seek to expand their influence in the Horn of Africa, they are exporting Middle Eastern rivalries to a region that has plenty of its own. The increasingly militarized Red Sea region is likely to remain a dangerous battleground.

Brookings published in January 2019 a linked piece by Zach Vertin titled "Red Sea Rivalries: The Gulf, the Horn & the New Geopolitics of the Red Sea."

Can Bashir Survive Continuing Protests?

World Politics Review published on 15 January 2019 a commentary titled "Can Bashir, a Brutal Survivor, ride Out the Growing Wave of Protests in Sudan?" by Richard Downie, Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The author concludes that street protests alone are unlikely to topple the regime of Omar al-Bashir. But if the protests continue, military figures close to Bashir might conclude he has become a liability and act to remove him before it becomes too late to save themselves.

Africa: Ten Best Countries for Investment

Ventures Africa posted on 14 January 2019 an article titled "10 Best African Countries To Invest in 2019" by Muhaimin Olowoporoku. The article is based on a study by Rand Merchant Bank, a South African diversified financial services holding company.

The ten countries listed in order are Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, and Ivory Coast.

Eritreans Continue to Flee to Ethiopia and Sudan

African Arguments published on 15 January 2019 an article titled "With Ethiopia's Border Now Open, Why Are Eritreans Still Fleeing to Sudan?" by Michael Emile Kynaston Jones, Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies.

The border between Ethiopia and Eritrea reopened in September 2018. Between 12 September and 2 October 2018 more than 10,000 Eritreans entered UNHCR reception camps in Ethiopia. There have also been steady movements of Eritreans into Sudan, although numbers are elusive. Continued Eritrean National Service conscription and economic hardship account for most of the departures. The durability of Sudan's smuggling networks also play an important role.

Don't Let Ethiopia Become the Next Yugoslavia

Foreign Policy posted on 15 January 2019 a commentary titled "Don't Let Ethiopia Become the Next Yugoslavia" by Florian Bieber, University of Graz in Austria, and Wondemagegn Tadesse Goshu, Addis Ababa University.

Similar to the former Yugoslavia, Ethiopia is a federal state with nine units organized along ethnic lines. Empowering ethnic groups through territorial autonomy has been a double-edged sword. While allowing self-government has reduced tensions stemming from the dominance of a particular group, it places ethnic belonging at the center of politics, links it to territory, and therefore risks an eventual increase in ethnic tensions. The Yugoslav scenario offers a cautionary tale.

Monday, January 14, 2019

China's Special Economic Zones in Africa: Who Are They For?

HAL archives-ouvertes published in December 2018 a paper titled "China in Africa: Phoenix Nests versus Special Economic Zones" by Thierry Pairault, emeritus director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research.

The paper focuses on the question of whether the Overseas Economic and Commercial Cooperation Zones (OECCZ) model that China is proposing in African countries and those along the Silk Road matches the definition of a SEZ as understood by Chinese researchers and commentators themselves. The author tentatively concludes that the OECCZ is above all "building a nest to accommodate the Phoenix [China]" without much consideration for the host countries' needs.

A Peaceful Transition in Sudan?

The International Crisis Group (ICG) published on 14 January 2019 an analysis titled "Improving Prospects for a Peaceful Transition in Sudan."

The ICG concludes that President Omar al-Bashir is running out of time. Unable to reverse the economic deterioration, he must rely on repression to contain a population increasingly enraged at worsening living conditions. But the harsher his repression, the more probable his relations with the West deteriorate again and the farther the funds necessary to turn around the economy slip from his reach. Bashir may well survive this round of protests. But if he does, it will almost certainly be at the cost of further economic decline, greater popular anger, more protests and even tougher crackdowns. At some point, his departure appears inevitable. Outside powers should do everything possible to prevent violence in the meantime, work for as smooth a transition as possible and find him an exit.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Chinese Financing Is Big Advantage in Winning African Contracts

The New York Times published on 13 January 2019 an article titled "Competing against Chinese Loans, U.S. Companies Face Long Odds" by Edward Wong.

Using competition in Uganda between an American consortium and Chinese companies to build a new oil refinery, the author documents the difficulty competitors face when they go up against Chinese companies that have access to much greater Chinese government financing.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Sudan Shuts Down Social Media Sites

Ventures Africa posted on 9 January 2019 an article titled "Al-Bashir Blocks Internet Access in Sudan as He Subscribes to the Trend of Repression" by Oreoluwa Runsewe.

Sudan has blocked social media sites in an effort to make it more difficult for protesters to organize. Many Sudanese have reportedly been able to bypass the internet shutdown through the use of the Virtual Private Network (VPN).

African Passports and Global Mobility

Each Year Henley and Partners issues its Passport Index and Global Mobility Report. The 2019 Passport Index includes 199 different passports and 227 different travel destinations. For each travel destination, if no visa is required for passport holders from a country or territory, then a score with value = 1 is created for that passport. A score with value = 1 is also applied if passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor's permit, or an electronic travel authority when entering the destination. When a visa is required, or where a passport holder has to obtain a government-approved electronic visa before departure, a score with value = 0 is assigned. A score with value = 0 is also assigned if passport holders need pre-departure government approval for a visa on arrival.

In the 2019 ranking, African countries with passports having the greatest mobility were Seychelles (tied for number 27) and Mauritius (tied for number 31). These two African countries were followed by many non-African countries until reaching South Africa (tied for number 53), Botswana (number 62), and Namibia (tied for number 68). African countries were concentrated below the global median. African countries having passports with the least mobility were Somalia (tied for number 103), Eritrea (number 100), Sudan (tied for number 99) and South Sudan and Libya (tied for number 97).

The Henley Passport Index and Global Mobility Report contains a section on Sub-Saharan Africa and on North Africa.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

China-Africa Bibliography

This is my bibliography of China-Africa relations updated as of 9 January 2019. Begun in 2006, it now runs 275 pages.

Another Voice on Ethiopia Federalism

Ethiopia Insight published on 10 January 2019 a commentary titled "Ethiopia's Federation Needs Reviving, Not Reconfiguring" by Alemayehu Weldemariam, PhD candidate at Georgetown University.

The author argues that the problem with Ethiopia's federalism is not its ethnic character but the need to democratize the federation.

Sudan's Popular Protest

Foreign Policy published on 9 January 2019 a commentary titled "This Is the Uprising Sudan's Genocidal Dictator Always Feared" by Nesrine Malik, a Sudanese columnist based in London.

The author concludes that while there is no obvious alternative to the continued rule of President Omar al-Bashir, the regime is also out of options.

South Sudan: Armed Groups and Mediation

The Institute for Security Studies published in December 2018 a report titled "Compound Fractures: Political Formations, Armed Groups and Regional Mediation in South Sudan" by David Deng, South Sudanese/US human rights lawyer.

The author concludes that although IGAD was ultimately successful in brokering an agreement among the conflicting parties, the mediation has struggled with major challenges throughout the conflict, including the zero-sum thinking of the warring parties, which remain committed to military solutions and unwillingness to compromise. This has led to the rise of various armed opposition groups in recent years.

South Sudan: What Is Impact of Peace Agreement on Refugees and IDPs?

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) posted on 9 January 2019 a commentary titled "South Sudan: 'Whose Power Are They Sharing Anyway?'" by Omar Mahmood, ISS Addis Ababa, and Thijs Van Laer, International Refugee Rights Initiative in Uganda.

South Sudan's 2.5 million refugees and 1.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) are frustrated about the IGAD peace process and feel left behind. The authors argue that refugees and IDPs must be properly informed about the peace deal and more closely connected to its implementation and monitoring.