Friday, May 22, 2015

Somaliland's House of Elders Creates Political Crisis

The International Crisis Group published on 21 May 2015 an analysis titled "Somaliland's Guurti Sparks a Crisis" by Cedric Barnes and Claire Elder.  The Guurti or House of Elders announced a two-year extension of the current government's term, including further postponement of the presidential and parliamentary elections due this June.  The announcement prompted widespread protests.

Sudan Is Major Transit Country for Migrants Going to Europe

Foreign Policy published on 22 May 2015 an article titled "Stranded at the Headwaters of Europe's Migrant Crisis" by Simona Foltyn.  It describes the movement of people from the Horn of Africa, especially Eritrea, across Sudan to Libya and then to Europe.  The Sudanese government has only recently started to acknowledge the extent of the problem. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Djibouti's Principal Regional and International Partners

The World Politics Review published on 20 May 2015 an interview titled "Djibouti Cultivating Diverse Economic, Military Partnerships" with David Styan, University of London.  He discusses Djibouti's main regional and international partners and especially its relationship with China.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Projected Growth of Major Religions in Sub-Saharan Africa

The Pew Research Center published on 2 April 2015 a report on the projected growth of major religions in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).  In 2010, almost 63 percent of SSA's population was Christian; it is projected to decrease to 58.5 percent by 2050.  In 2010, the Muslim population of SSA was just over 30 percent and is projected to increase to just over 35 percent by 2050. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Enhancing US Support for Peace Operations in Africa

The Council on Foreign Relations published in May 2015 a report titled "Enhancing U.S. Support for Peace Operations in Africa" by Paul D. Williams, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University.

The report identifies four main areas that would benefit from changes in U.S. policy; they deal with personnel, finance, assistance, and policy.  Rather than working with individual African countries, the author suggests increasing the number of U.S. personnel deployed to the U.S. Mission to the African Union, which would strengthen its ability to assess, plan, manage, and evaluate peacekeeping missions. 

Chinese Investment in Zimbabwe Diamonds and Impact on Labor

The University of the Witwatersrand Global Labour Column published in May 2015 a report titled "Chinese Investments, Marange Diamonds and 'Militarized Capitalism' in Zimbabwe" by Crispen Chinguno, Taurai Mereki, and Nunurayi Mutyanda, all at University of Witwatersrand.

The report examines the experience of workers at the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe.  Key management of the companies is drawn primarily from serving or retired Chinese and Zimbabwean military personnel. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Issues Shaping Africa's Economic Future

The World Bank published in April 2015 its most recent edition of "Africa's Pulse: An Analysis of Issues Shaping Africa's Economic Future."  It looks at 2015 and 2016 with an emphasis on the impact of commodity prices and terms of trade. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

South Sudan: Inflation Compounds Cost of War

This is Africa published on 12 May 2015 an article titled "Inflation Compounds the Costs of War in South Sudan" by Mohammed Qazilbash, Mercy Corps country director for South Sudan. 

He notes that from December 2014 to March 2015, the South Sudanese pound lost about 26 percent of its value.  The official rate for the pound remains 3.1 to the US$1.  The informal rate of the pound rose in mid-April to 8.5 to the US$1.  This imposes additional costs on most South Sudanese who rely heavily on imported goods. 

More on Chinese Military Access in Djibouti

Breaking Defense published on 12 May 2015 commentary titled "China Seeks Djibouti Access; Who's a Hegemon Now?" by Colin Clark. 

The author emphasizes it is still unclear whether China is seeking to establish a military base or a port where civilian and military vessels can replenish food and fuel.  If it is a military base, it will be instructive how China characterizes the facility in light of its long-standing opposition to  military bases outside China.

The Diplomat published on 13 May 2015 a piece on this topic titled "A Naval Base in the Horn of Africa for China?" by Ankit Panda.

Defense News published on 16 May 2015 a commentary titled "Analyst: China's Djibouti Ambitions a Sign of the Future" by Joe Gould.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

China-South Africa Cultural Diplomacy

The South African Institute for International Affairs (SAIIA) published on 13 April 2015 a brief account titled "Cultural Diplomacy through 'China's Year in South Africa'" by Yu-Shan Wu, a researcher at SAIIA.

The author notes that the growing emphasis on cultural relations between China and South Africa requires coming to terms with some realities.  The first and most important is the need for more people-to-people exchanges as a basis for creating trust. 

China and the Import of Crude Oil from Africa

The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies published in February 2015 a study titled "China: The 'New Normal'" by Michel Meidan, Amrita Sen, and Robert Campbell.  While most of the study focuses on China's evolving economy and slower growth rate, it contains a section relevant to the import of crude oil from Africa.

Between 2007 and 2014, China almost doubled its import of crude oil from all sources.  Imports from Africa, however, increased only modestly from 1,003,000 b/d in 2007 to 1,342,000 b/d in 2014.  In 2014, well over half of China's imports of crude from Africa came from one country: Angola.  As a supplier of China's imported crude, Africa dropped from 31 percent in 2007 to 22 percent in 2014.

During the same 2007 to 2014 period, China's import of crude oil from the Middle East more than doubled and from South America more than tripled.  The study concludes that a structural shift in the Chinese economy suggests slower oil demand growth than in recent years, especially after China completes its strategic petroleum reserve program.

While China's imports of crude oil continue to rise, the rate of growth is decreasing and the percentage of imports originating from Africa is declining.  This could have important implications for China-Africa trade relations. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Chinese Military Base Likely Prospect in Djibouti

Michel Arseneault of Radio France Internationale did a four minute interview with me on 11 May 2015 titled "Chinese Military Base on Cards in Horn of Africa."  The request for the interview stemmed from the interview with Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh that China is in the process of negotiating with Djibouti for a military base there.  Spokespersons in China have neither confirmed nor denied the discussions.  The United States, France and Japan already have military bases in Djibouti. 

Arseneault also published a piece on this subject titled "'Historic' Chinese Military Base to Open in Horn of Africa."  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Kenya: China and US as Development Partner

Ipsos Kenya announced on 4 May 2015 the results of a national survey it recently completed dealing with the perceived impact on Kenya's development by countries outside East Africa

The survey asked two questions.  The first was "Which foreign country outside of East Africa do you think is most important to have good relations with in order to achieve our development goals?"  The US at 35 percent was selected by most respondents.  China was second (23 percent), UK third (7 percent), and Japan fourth (6 percent).  Supporters of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) were much more supportive of the US than China while Jubilee supporters were more favorable towards China than the US.

The second question was: "Outside of East Africa, which country, if any, constitutes the biggest threat to Kenya's economic and political development?"  China was first at 28 percent, followed by the US (21 percent), UK (5 percent), and Germany and Japan tied (3 percent). In this case CORD supporters voted at a much higher rate for China than the US and Jubilee supporters voted at a higher rate for the US than for China.

The survey offers an insightful view of CORD and Jubilee supporter foreign policy views. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Chinese Fishing Practices under Fire in West Africa

Greenpeace published in May 2015 a report titled "Scam on the African Coast: The Hidden Face of Chinese and Joint-venture Vessels Tonnage Fraud in Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Guinea." 

The report exposes how China's biggest distant water fishing company, the China National Fisheries Corporation, and other Chinese companies, under-declare the gross tonnage of their fishing vessels, whether Chinese flagged or owned and operated under other flags through joint ventures, and jeopardize the sustainable and equitable exploitation of West African marine resources.  The report is based mainly on data collected in Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Guinea.

A French-language copy of the  report is also available.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

China, Zimbabwe, and the Tobacco Crop

Business Day in South Africa published on 7 May 2015 an article titled "China Sows Seeds of African Stability" by Kai Xue, DeHeng Law Offices in Beijing.  The author offers a positive account of China's investment in the tobacco sector.

Ethiopia: Senior State Department Official Draws Washington Post Criticism

The Washington Post published on 30 April 2015 an editorial titled "The United States' Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia's Regime" that took direct aim at comments made during a visit to Ethiopia by the State Department's Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman. 

In a letter to the editor dated 6 May 2015 titled "The U.S. Relationship with Ethiopia," Wendy Sherman replied that Ethiopia is a valuable partner in a critical region, from peacekeeping to fighting al-Shabaab to pursuing peace in South Sudan.  At the same time, she said she expressed during her visit to Ethiopia concerns about restrictions on political space, arrests and imprisonments of independent journalists, and use of antiterrorism legislation to stifle political dissent.

China-Zambia Relations

Zambia Reports published on 10 April 2015 an analysis titled "What Lies Ahead for China-Zambia Relations?" by Beyongo Dynamic, a political economist and PhD candidate at the Australian Centre on China in the World.  The author concludes that while some Chinese companies in Zambia have benefited the economy and local Zambians, the practices of other Chinese companies cast doubt that they benefit Zambia. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The African Century

Politico Magazine published on 5 May 2015 a commentary titled "The African Century" by Noah Millman, journalist and filmmaker.  The author notes that Africa is growing faster than any other region of the world and will reach 2.4 billion people by 2050 and be as populous as all of Asia by the end of the century.  The question is whether this demographic surge will result in triumph or tragedy for Africa. 

Why Kenyan Forces Should Stay in Somalia

The African Executive published in its 6-13 May 2015 edition a commentary titled "Terror: Why KDF Should Not Pull Out of Somalia" by Okwaro Oscar Plato, analyst with Gravio Consulting.  It makes the case that Kenyan Defense Force troops should remain in Somalia as part of AMISOM.  Recalling the force means that Kenya has lost the battle.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Predatory Investment in Africa by Hong Kong-based Company

The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, published in May 2015 a major report titled "The Anatomy of the Resource Curse: Predatory Investment in Africa's Extractive Industries" by J.R. Mailey, a research associate at the Center. 

The report tracks the practices of the Hong Kong-based consortium known as the 88 Queensway Group.  Cultivating relationships with high-level government officials in politically isolated resource-rich states through infusions of cash, promises of billions of dollars in infrastructure development, and support of the security sector, Queensway has been able to gain access to major oil and mining concessions across Africa.

Queensway's collaborations with the governments of Africa's resource-rich states have often failed to improve citizens' living standards.  Promised high-profile infrastructure construction projects regularly fail to materialize.  Allegations of corruption among senior government officials who control natural resource contracts are widespread.  Unaccountable governments remain propped up by the infusion of financial and material support to the regimes in power.  Yet Queensway continues to thrive and remain active across Africa.  The Group is able to access multibillion dollar loans from mainstream financial institutions, control a company listed  on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and own high-end real estate around the world. 

African governments lack the necessary political will to hold their citizens and companies accountable for such activities even where appropriate laws exist.  The cases profiled in the study are located in Angola, Tanzania, Guinea, and Zimbabwe.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Kenya's Wrongheaded Approach to Terrorism

Hussein Khalid, executive director of the Kenyan nongovernmental organization  Haki Africa, wrote an oped for the Washington Post on 1 May 2015 titled "Kenya's Wrongheaded Approach to Terrorism."  He argues that Kenya's counterterrorism tactics are only making the situation in the country worse. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Air Traffic Control Dangers at US Base in Djibouti

The Washington Post published on 30 April 2015 an article titled "Chaos in Tower, Danger in Skies at Base in Africa" by Craig Whitlock.  The article details the dangers faced by U.S. personnel flying aircraft and drones in and out of the military base in Djibouti known as Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.  

Evolution of Al-Shabaab

The Council on Foreign Relations blog posted on 30 April 2015 a piece titled "The Danger of Al-Shabaab's Evolution" by Alex Dick-Godfrey.  The author comments on how al-Shabaab has moved from an effort to rule Somalia to asymmetric warfare aimed at spoiling the political process in Somalia.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Predicting Food Shortages in the Horn of Africa

Smithsonian magazine published in its May 2015 edition a long article titled "The Sheltering Sky" by Ariel Sabar.     

While the article discusses the role of satellite imagery in the Horn of Africa to detect unusual spikes in land temperature, the main focus is Ethiopia and Gabriel Senay, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey.  He designed a system that uses NASA satellites to identify anomalies that can signal crop failure.  Senay's algorithms plot these hot zones along a strip of the Rift Valley normally thought of as a breadbasket. 

Responses to Insecurity in Kenya

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published in April 2015 a report titled "Responses to Insecurity in Kenya: Too much, Too Little, Too Late?" by Andrews Atta-Asamoah, ISS Pretoria.

Many of the threats to Kenya's security come from criminal groups and armed civilians operating as bandits.  However, since Kenya deployed troops in Somalia to combat incursions by armed groups from that country, chiefly al-Shabaab, attacks on soft civilian targets have increased significantly.  The Kenyan government has announced several initiatives to counter the growing security threats, but none of them has yet been put fully into practice. This report examines the nature and potential effects of these initiatives.