Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ethiopia: Scientists Recover First Genome of Ancient Human from Africa

The New York Times published on 8 October 2015 an article titled "Scientists Recover First Genome of Ancient Human from Africa" by Carl Zimmer.  The article reports the recovery from a 4,500 year old human skeleton in Ethiopia of the first complete assemblage of DNA retrieved from an ancient human in Africa. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

2015 Mo Ibrahim African Governance Index

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance was announced on 5 October 2015.  It ranked 54 African governments on the basis of safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development.

The top three ranked countries in overall governance were Mauritius (1), Cape Verde (2), and Botswana (3).  East African countries performed reasonably well: Kenya (14), Tanzania (18), and Uganda (19). 

The six countries in the Horn of Africa all ranked below the mid-point and four of the six ranked in the bottom five.  Ethiopia scored highest at 31, Djibouti at 36, Eritrea at 50, Sudan at 51, South Sudan at 53, and Somalia at 54.  Since its point score in 2011, Ethiopia improved modestly while Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia improved marginally.  South Sudan dropped dramatically while Eritrea dropped marginally. 

China, Africa, Commodities, and Economic Slowdown

The Financial Times published on 5 October 2015 an article titled "Africa Ties with China Are About More Than Raw Materials" by David Pilling.  This is a generally optimistic account suggesting that China's economic slowdown, lower commodity prices, and decreasing Chinese demand for commodities will not harm African countries that used the boom era in commodity exports to diversify their economies. 

The article points repeatedly to Ethiopia, which exports few commodities anyway, as the country which prepared for this eventuality.  The problem is that few, if any, major African commodity exporting countries prepared for a sharp drop in commodity prices and decreased demand from China.  Of Africa's 54 countries, you can probably count the Ethiopias on one hand.  More troubling, Ethiopia's trade relationship with China is far from ideal.  In  2013, Ethiopia imported more than $2 billion in products from China and exported less than $300 million worth of goods to China.  This is not a recipe for a sustainable trade relationship. 

Reduced Chinese Copper Imports Impact Africa published on 6 October 2015 an article titled "China vs Copper: That Sinking Feeling" by Nastassia Arendse. 

The slowdown in industrial activity in China has had an important impact on copper producers since China consumes 45 percent of all copper output.  Copper prices have been falling steadily.  Glencore, the world's biggest copper supplier, plans to reduce output by about 20 percent over the next 18 months by shutting two of its flagship operations in Africa.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia will be the most affected. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

India-Africa Relations: The Role of the Private Sector

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria published in October 2015 a paper titled "India-Africa Relations: The Role of the Private Sector" by Amanda Lucey, senior researcher at ISS, Mark Schoeman, development economist, and Catherine Grant Makokera, research associate at the Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa.

The Third India-Africa Forum Summit will take place in New Delhi in October 2015.  This paper examines ways in which various stakeholders can enhance private sector relations between India and Africa. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Impact of Chinese and Western Economic Crises on Africa

The Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University published on 23 September 2015 a commentary titled "Stability through Crisis: Chinese Neoliberal Development Practices Promote Sustainability and Security for Africa?" by Liam O'Brien, a PhD candidate at St. Andrews in the UK.

The author argues that the recent economic downturn in China will not reduce China's support for African nations, rather it will continue.  The author may be right; time will tell.  Certainly the dollar value of China-Africa trade has decreased because of lower commodity prices and possibly due to lower Chinese demand for African commodities.

The author goes on to argue that the impact of the economic problems in China contrast with those of Africa's traditional partners (Europe and the United States), which took to withdrawing their commitments following the economic crisis of 2008.  His evidence for this conclusion is confined to the situation in South Africa and, seemingly, only the withdrawal of UK development finance to South Africa.

South Africa does not represent all of Africa and the UK does not represent the entire West. While there may have been a brief interruption in Western investment in and financial support for Africa, the evidence suggests the relationship has largely returned to normal.  For example, cumulative Western investment and annual investment flows far exceed China's cumulative and annual FDI flows in Africa.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

China-Africa Investment Cooperation

The South African Institute of International Affairs published in August 2015 a study titled "China-Africa Co-operation: Capacity Building and Social Responsibility of Investments" by Wail Benjelloun, Mohammed V University in Rabat. 

The paper reviews Chinese FDI in Africa with the aim of addressing capacity building and social responsibility of investments raised by China's engagement. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

China's Security Diplomacy in Africa (in French)

Le Monde published on 5 October 2015 an article titled "La Chine etrenne sa nouvelle diplomatie en Afrique" by Sebastien Le Belzic.  It describes China's most recent commitments for the support of peacekeeping in Africa and protection of Chinese nationals living in Africa. 

Somaliland: The Strains of Success

The International Crisis Group published on 5 October 2015 an analysis titled "Somaliland: The Strains of Success." 

The study concludes that Somaliland's hybrid system of tri-party democracy and traditional clan-based governance has enabled the consolidation of state-like authority, social and economic recovery and, above all, relative peace and security but now needs reform.  While Somaliland has remained largely committed to democratic government, elections are increasingly fraught.  Now that elections are postponed, the government and its international supporters must find ways to support greater dialogue between political parties and key interest groups, particularly parliament's upper House of Elders (the Guurti) and the business community, or risk further fragmentation of authority. 

Mission to Evacuate Americans from Bor, South Sudan, Nearly Kills Rescuers

Air Force Magazine published in October 2015 a harrowing account titled "Blood over Bor" by Aaron M. U. Church.  It relates the unsuccessful effort using tilt-rotor CV-22 aircraft in December 2013 to evacuate Americans from the UN compound in Bor, South Sudan.  The aircraft came under intense fire, presumably from rebel forces opposed to the government in South Sudan.  Some 300 US personnel in Bor were evacuated the following day to Juba. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Turkey's Africa Policy

Chatham House published on 1 October 2015 a commentary titled "Challenged Ambitions: Turkey's Africa Policy and the G20" by Alex Vines, head of the Africa program at Chatham House. 

Vines concludes that even if Turkey does not develop into a major bilateral player in Africa, it seems certain that it will continue to grow as a major international hub for Africans and also a launch pad for further Turkish commercial engagement in Africa. 

China, Africa and Think Tanks

Brookings published on 1 October 2015 a commentary titled "China-Africa Think Tanks Forum: China Broadens Soft Power Campaigns in Africa" by Yun Sun, nonresident fellow at the Africa Growth Initiative. 

The author comments on the Fourth China-Africa Think Tanks Forum that was held in South Africa in September 2015.  She commented that the forum is aimed at shaping African elites' perceptions and understanding of China through direct bilateral communication without the filter of Western values. 

Infrastructure Projects Move Forward in Ethiopia and Djibouti; LAPSSET Stalled in Kenya

The Mail and Guardian Africa published on 30 September 2015 an article titled "Bullish Ethiopia and Djibouti Agree on $1.55Bn Pipeline; Kenya's LAPSSET Has Reason to Worry."  Ethiopia and Djibouti signed an agreement to construct a 340-mile pipeline to transport diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel from the port of Djibouti to central Ethiopia.  This followed the recent completion of track laying for the 481-mile Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway.  In the meantime, the Lamu Port South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor has been delayed due to security concerns near Kenya's border with Somalia. 

China Gets Good Press for Dam in Guinea

Bloomberg Business published on 29 September 2015 an article titled "China Wins Africa Friends by Building Dam in Ebola Outbreak" by Franz Wild and Ougna Camara. 

The article reports the completion of a Chinese-financed hydropower dam built by the China International Water and Electric Corporation.  Reportedly finished on budget and a year ahead of schedule, the Chinese workers remained on the job throughout the Ebola crisis while two Western companies stopped work on their projects in Guinea. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Interview on Somalia published on 28 September 2015 an interview with me by freelance writer Ahmed Hirsi.  It dealt primarily with the situation in Somalia but also touched on Ethiopia's economy. 

Ethiopia's Commodity Exchange

Good Governance Africa published on 30 September 2015 an article titled "Inside Ethiopia's Commodities Pit" by Simon Allison, Africa correspondent for the Daily Maverick in Johannesburg.  The article describes Ethiopia's successful commodity exchange operation. 

Violent Islamist Extremism and Terror in Africa

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published in October 2015 a study titled "Violent Islamist Extremism and Terror in Africa" by Jakkie Cilliers, executive director of ISS in Pretoria.  The paper presents on overview of large-scale violence by Islamist extremists in key African countries, especially Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, and Somalia. 

ISS published in October 2015 a companion piece by Cilliers titled "Future (Im)perfect? Mapping Conflict, Violence and Extremism in Africa."  It examines the high levels of non-state conflict in the Middle East and Africa compared to the rest of the world and the systemic imbalances that drive instability.

South Africans View US and China

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published on 1 October 2015 an analysis titled "Take Your Cue from Pew" by Peter Fabricius, ISS consultant.  He writes that while the South African government increasingly demonstrates its preference for China over the United States, South African public opinion has a different view.  Some 74 percent of South Africans view the US favorably while only 52 percent are as well disposed towards China, according to a poll taken by the Pew Research Center in May 2015. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

2015 World Press Freedom Index and Horn of Africa

The 2015 World Press Freedom Index prepared by Reporters without Borders looked at 180 countries.  Of the six countries in the Horn of Africa, South Sudan scored best at number 125, although it dropped 6 positions from 2014.  Ethiopia was next best at 142, an improvement of one position.  Djibouti was at 170, a drop of one position.  Somalia ranked 172, an improvement of 4 positions.  Sudan was 174,  a drop of 2 positions.  Eritrea was dead last at 180, unchanged from 2014. 

China's Stereotypes of Africa

Foreign Policy published on 30 September 2015 an interesting piece titled "Map: China's Stereotypes of Africa, from 'Chaotic' Somalia to 'Awesome' Gambia" by Warner Brown.  The article is based on plotting and translating the most common Chinese-language Baidu query associated with each African country.  Chinese netizens, like their Western counterparts, tend to associate Africa with violence, poverty, disease, and exotic dining habits. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

China Increases Support for Peacekeeping

The South China Morning Post published on 29 September 2015 an article titled "Chinese President Xi Jinping Pledges 8,000 UN Peacekeeping Troops, US$1 Billion to Peace Fund" by Keira Lu Huang.   The article includes my analysis of this development. 

Regular News on China's One Belt, One Road Initiative

The Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations publishes a weekly compilation of information about China's "One Belt, One Road" also known as the Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road initiative.  You can sign up for the weekly collection of stories.

One recent posting included The Diplomat's 24 September 2015 "China's 'Silk Road' Initiative Is at Risk of Failure" by Moritz Rudolf, research associate at the Mercator Institute for China Studies.    

Micro-Finance Study of Migrants in Hawassa, Ethiopia

Columbia University held a conference on sustainable development in September 2014.  It subsequently posted the best papers from the conference, including one titled "Social Impact Assessment of Micro-Finance: The Case of Migrants in Hawassa, Ethiopia" by Feven Tsehaye. 

The paper investigates why the case of migrants is central to reaching developmental goals, and why micro-finance institutions are capable of tapping into the potential to serve poor migrant communities in urban areas. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Optimistic Assessment of Situation in Somalia

Pambazuka News published on 25 September 2015 a commentary titled "Somalia's Strategic Depth and Investment Opportunities" by Bashir Goth.  While this assessment is excessively optimistic, it serves as a useful counterpoint to some of the excessively negative accounts about Somalia. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

China's Ambassador to Eritrea Calls for Deeper China-Africa Cooperation

Xinhua published on 22 September 2015 a commentary reprinted by Fahamu and titled "Africa: Now It's the Right Time to Deepen China-Africa Cooperation!" by Qiu Xuejun, China's ambassador to Eritrea.  The commentary reads like talking points prepared in Beijing for Chinese ambassadors in Africa.  Ambassador Qiu added a section at the end dealing specifically with China-Eritrea relations.

The article has some useful updated statistics.  It states that China-Africa trade in 2014 totaled $222 billion.  (This compares with $203 billion using International Monetary Fund statistics for 2014).  China's cumulative FDI in Africa has reached $30 billion, which almost certainly understates the actual figure.  Chinese commercial loans to Africa have exceeded $50 billion.  In 2013, almost 2 million Chinese nationals visited Africa and more than a half million Africans visited China.