Monday, April 20, 2015

Ethiopia's Economic Miracle Is Running Out of Steam

Foreign Policy published on 16 April 2015 an article titled "Ethiopia's Economic Miracle Is Running Out of Steam" by Robert Looney.  The author concludes that economic growth can only be sustained if the government allows and encourages a transition to a more dynamic model driven by the private sector. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Kenya's Garissa University Tragedy

The Institute for Defense Analyses Africa Watch published on 16 April 2015 a short article titled "Another Kenyan Tragedy--A Pattern Too Familiar" by George W. Ward.  It concludes the attack demonstrates both al-Shabaab's resilience and its evolution from a  popular resistance movement to a full-blown international terrorist organization.  It also points out that al-Shabaab is becoming more deeply rooted in Kenya itself and the Kenyan government's response to the attack is following a policy that only exacerbates the problem. 

Election in Sudan

The Institute for Security Studies published on 16 April 2015 a commentary titled "Now the Election Is Over, Will Sudanese Get Back to the Real Business?" by Peter Fabricius, Independent Newspapers, South Africa.

President Omar al-Bashir, leader of Sudan since 1989, was reelected in a low turnout election boycotted by most major opposition parties and candidates.  Now the question is whether Sudan can return to the interrupted process of national dialogue. 

Chinese-financed Hydropower Projects in Africa

The SAIS China-Africa Research Initiative published in April 2015 a study titled "Chinese-financed Hydropower Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa" by Deborah Brautigam, Jyhjong Hwang, and Lu Wang, all at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. 

The policy brief provides an analysis of Chinese practice in financing large hydropower projects in Africa between 2000 and 2013.  While the projects provide renewable power, they also have significant social and environmental risks. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ethiopia: Cost-Effectiveness of Medical Interventions

The Lancet published in its May 2015 edition an article titled "Health Gains and Financial Risk Protection Afforded by Public Financing of Selected Interventions in Ethiopia: An Extended Cost-effectiveness Analysis."

The researchers looked at health gains (deaths averted) and financial risk protection afforded (cases of poverty averted) by nine interventions that the government of Ethiopia intends to make universally available. 

On a cost-effective basis, the interventions that avert the most deaths, in order, are measles vaccination, pneumococcal conjugate vaccination, and caesarean section surgery.  The interventions that avert the most cases of poverty are caesarean section surgery, tuberculosis treatment, and hypertension treatment.

The authors also included in the study rotavirus vaccination, diarrhoea treatment, malaria treatment, and pneumonia treatment. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Alex de Waal Asseses Meltdown in South Sudan

Al Jazeera published on 12 April 2015 an article titled "Sudan Expert: International Community Enabled South Sudanese Corruption" by Sudan expert Alex de Waal, World Peace Foundation at Tufts University.

This is a solid analysis that takes direct aim at U.S. policy towards Sudan before and during the run up to South Sudan's independence.  The title of the article is unfortunate in that it implies the international community is responsible for corruption in South Sudan.  Corruption was a major problem in southern Sudan dating back to the 1960s and had little to do with the international community. 

Nairobi's Little Mogadishu under Siege

Foreign Policy published on 14 April 2015 an article titled "Little Mogadishu, Under Siege" by Amanda Sperber.  The author argues that in the wake of the Garissa University attack, Somalis living in the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi are caught between an increasingly indiscriminate al-Shabaab and a heavy-handed Kenyan police force. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ethiopia: Africa's Next Hegemon

Foreign Affairs published on 12 April 2015 an article titled "Africa's Next Hegemon: Behind Ethiopia's Power Plays" by Harry Verhoeven.

The author praises Ethiopia's economic development, although emphasizes the government is following a statist model that looks a lot like China's policies.  He says Ethiopia operates on the basis that what is good for Ethiopia is good for the Horn of Africa.  The EPRDF's vision for regional integration is one of interdependence, but on Ethiopia's terms.  The author concludes that "never have so many Ethiopians had so much reason to be optimistic and confident about the future."

China and Africa's Informal Economy

In a 31 March 2015 blog post titled "China-Africa Trade and Investment: Benefiting Africa's Rural Informal Economy?" Xiaoxue Weng makes an important point about the significance of Africa's informal economy, which is estimated to include 50 percent of Africa's total economy.  The author then relates the informal economy to Chinese trade and investment.  

It is critical for Africans and outsiders alike to understand the working of Africa's informal economy.  It performs many useful functions.  But it also has downsides.  It is well known for ignoring even reasonable government regulations. 

I found one quote from a Cameroonian villager especially insightful and worrying: "The government could take away our land and trees any moment, so we'd rather sell all the trees to the Chinese as soon as we can."  It takes hundreds of years to grow some tropical hardwoods to maturity.  This approach by the Cameroonian villager will only devastate the environment for short-term monetary advantage of a few people.  This kind of practice is exactly what African governments and foreign importers need to avoid. 

Upcoming Sudan Elections Lack Credibility

Chatham House published on 10 April 2015 a commentary titled "Sudan Elections Undermined by Boycotts and Lacking Credibility" by Dame Rosalind Marsden. 

The author comments that it is a certainty President Omar al-Bashir will win the 13-15 April election.  Opposition political parties are boycotting the election.  Most other presidential candidates are virtually unknown and the process is overseen by the ruling National Congress Party national security apparatus. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Educational Challenges in Somalia

The Mogadishu-based Heritage Institute for Policy Studies just published a study titled "Educational Challenges in Post-transitional Somalia: Case Study Mogadishu" by Abdullahi Sh. Adam Hussein, Qatar National Research Fund.

The study is based on information collected in Benadir region and focused entirely on formal basic schooling or the K-12 education system.  It identified the following as the major challenges: too much variation in curriculum, differences in language of instruction, and teachers with inadequate training. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Somalia, Al-Shabaab, the Region and U.S. Policy

William and Mary invited me to address the situation in Somalia on 8 April 2015.  My remarks titled "Somalia, Al-Shabaab, the Region and U.S. Policy" addressed the background to the crisis in Somalia and the current political, security, economic, and humanitarian situation.  The remarks concluded with a discussion of U.S. policy towards Somalia.

Education's Role in the Garissa University Terrorist Attack

The GW Hatchett, the student paper at George Washington University, asked me to comment on the al-Shabaab terrorist attack against Garissa University in Kenya.  The paper ran my commentary on 9 April 2015 as "Education's Role in the Garissa School Attack."

Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam: Agreement among Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan

Pambazuka News published on 8 April 2015 a commentary titled "Beyond the Politics of the Nile: Perspectives on the Declaration of Principles Regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam" by Minga Negash, University of Witwatersrand, Seid Hassan, Murray State University, Mammo Muchie, Tshwane University of Technology, and Abu Girma, Oxford.

The authors argue the Agreement reached between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the use of Nile waters is lopsided in favor of Egypt and is unlikely to resolve once and for all the fierce competition for water. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Somaliland and Press Freedom

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published on 8 April 2015 a commentary titled "Think Again: Somaliland and the Trouble with a Free Press" by Simon Allison, ISS consultant.  The author concluded that Somaliland enjoys a level of press freedom better than elsewhere in the region.  Nevertheless, there is room for improvement in how the government treats journalists and how journalists do their job.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Al Shabaab: Terrorist Turf Wars

Foreign Affairs published on 7 April 2015 a summary of a longer article titled "Terrorist Turf Wars" by Joshua Meservey.  It discusses the decline of al-Shabaab and its new focus on terrorist attacks against soft targets.   The full article is only available by subscription. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Increased Chinese Engagement in South Africa's Economy

The Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University published in March 2015 a policy briefing titled "Increased Chinese Engagement in South Africa's Economy -- Strategies, Opportunities and Future Implications."

The policy brief discusses the role of finance, telecoms, infrastructure, energy, mining, manufacturing, and tourism in order to better understand China-South Africa economic engagement and identify ways in which these investments can benefit local development. 

The Limits of U.S.-China Cooperation in Africa

Brookings published on 6 April 2015 an analysis titled "The Limits of U.S.-China Cooperation in Africa" by Yun Sun, Africa Growth Initiative in Washington.

I have long advocated that the United States and China should work to identify projects in Africa where they can cooperate to the mutual benefit of the Africans.  I still believe that.  Yun Sun rightly points out, however, that the reality of successful cooperation between Washington and Beijing has been disappointing so far.  The United States and China do not yet see each other as genuine cooperation partners and differences in approach to Africa, especially on human rights and democratization, have limited the degree of cooperation so far.

Al-Shabaab: Killing on the Cheap

The New York Times published on 6 April 2015 an article titled "Shabab Militants Learning to Kill on a Shoestring" by Jeffrey Gettleman.  The article explains how al-Shabaab has adapted to significant losses by picking soft targets and killing on the cheap. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Lessons from Garissa University in Kenya

The Center for Strategic and International Affairs in Washington published on 5 April 2015 a commentary titled "Lessons from Garissa" by William Bellamy, a former U.S. ambassador to Kenya.

Ambassador Bellamy suggests that Kenyan security forces have responded to past al-Shabaab attacks in Kenya in a manner that further alienates the Muslim community.  He argues that reforms of Kenya's entire security sector are long overdue. 

Al-Shabaab Crosses the Rubicon

Foreign Policy published on 3 April 2015 an analysis titled "Al-Shabab Crosses the Rubicon" by Bronwyn Bruton, Atlantic Council in Washington.  You can access the article by registering for free.

The author aruges that the recent attack by al-Shabaab on Garissa University in Kenya represents a final point in al-Shabaab's long evolution from a populist resistance movement into a full-blown, international terrorist organization that may be trying to emulate Boko Haram and even establishing links with the Islamic State.

While I agree there have been factions within al-Shabaab from the beginning, to consider it once a "populist resistance movement" gives it a credibility that it never deserved.  It has always relied on draconian measures and terrorist tactics; the tactics have just become more draconian and offensive with the passage of time. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Background Piece on Al-Shabaab

The Council on Foreign Relations published on 13 March 2015 a backgrounder on "Al-Shabab" by Jonathan Masters and Mohammed Aly Sergie.  It appeared before the recent attack on Garissa University in Kenya.  It covers the origins, objectives, leaders, funding, areas of control, and recruitment by al-Shabaab in addition to U.S. policy on Somalia.

The Environmental Impact of China's Investment in Africa

The Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies hosted a conference on 4 April 2015 on Chinese Overseas Investment and Its Environmental and Social Impacts.  I was asked to give a presentation on "The Environmental Impact of China's Investment in Africa."  The remarks are a summary of a much longer paper still under revision that will be published early in 2016 in the Cornell International Law Journal

On 8 April 2015 the International Policy Digest published a shortened version of my remarks at Yale.

Shifting Manufacturing in China to Africa?

The Diplomat published on 17 March 2015 a commentary titled "From 'Made in China' to 'Made in Africa'?" by Tang Xiaoyang, Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.  Tang says that many labor intensive and low value-added products will move away from China as labor and production costs rise.  While some will move to Africa, poor infrastructure on the continent will limit the number of factories making the move.

Death of Don Levine, Scholar on Ethiopia

Donald N. Levine, one of the world's leading scholars on Ethiopia and long affiliated with the University of Chicago, died on 4 April 2015 at the age of 84.  In 1965 he published a seminal work titled "Wax and Gold: Tradition and Innovation in Ethiopian Culture" that soon became a classic in the field of Ethiopian studies.  It was my privilege to call Don a friend.  The Ethiopia Observer carried an obituary.