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This Week in Africa
Democracy, Development, Daily Life
We are trying a new platform. We plan to keep Friday’s newsletter simple and “old school.” We will be experimenting with new features in other posts throughout the week. Feel free to send along your feedback. Stay tuned.
~Jeff and Phil
Quote of the week
“The most exciting sporting event in the world is happening right now.” – Sean Jacobs
Coup d’état in Burkina Faso
Soldiers staged a coup in Burkina Faso this week. The government tried to downplay early rumors, but they could only hang on so long. The Internet was cut off and a curfew put into place. President Roch Kabore eventually resigned. ECOWAS condemned the coup. Captain Sidsore Kaber Ouedraogo said the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration “has decided to assume its responsibilities before history.” Hundreds of Burkinabe took to the streets in support of the change (though many did not). Meet Paul-Henri Damiba, the leader of the coup.
What’s behind Burkina Faso’s latest coup? Are coups becoming normalized in the region? There have been six successful coups in Africa since 2020. Alex Thurston draws attention to the failure of the international community: “The international community's (lack of) reaction to the Mali coup in August 2020 led us directly here. And if (when) this coup stands, it will lead directly to something else very bad, such as a coup in Niger.”
The UN is failing in responding to coups. External actors play an important role, but diplomacy is limited. West African leaders will hold a summit. Others point to the government’s inability to fight terrorism. Jihadis could be a major victor in the political unrest. Jonathan Powell provides his thoughts on the rising number of coups in the region. For background, ACLED provides this visualization of protests and riots in the country between 2011-2021.
An oldie but goodie: Can there ever be a “good coup”?
Mining truck explosion in Ghana
A mining truck exploded in southwestern Ghana, killing many people and injuring dozens more. A motorcycle crashed into a truck, causing the explosion. Here is an account of the event. This is a very important open data response to the explosion.
Ethiopia’s civil war
Somali troops are accused of committing atrocities in Tigray. New evidence from civilian bombing points to the use of a Turkish drone. The security forces are also allegedly hosting Iranian drones. Twitter suspends several Ethiopian accounts for spreading misinformation. The deputy leader of Sudan visited Ethiopia on a rare visit. Learn about Ethiopia’s military plans to root out Tigray “extremists” in Mekelle. This piece argues that Abiy Ahmed has betrayed the Oromo people, endangering the country. The US’s foreign policy is failing Ethiopia.
Local elections in Senegal
The opposition came up big in local Senegalese elections, setting the stage for the 2024 Presidential election. The government lost big in Dakar, and other cities across the country. Catherine Lena Kelly provides helpful analysis on these local results.
What to look for in Africa in 2022
CSIS provides this helpful “What to watch in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2022.” Take a look at ACLED’s Early Warning Research Hub. Nic Cheeseman provides these prospects for economic and political development in 2022. Don’t forget these key issues to track on the continent. In Tuesday’s newsletter, I outline five trends that will shape urban Africa in 2022.
Elections in Kenya
Xenophobia in South Africa
Sean Jacobs is right: AFCON is the most exciting sporting event in the world. Hosting AFCON is very politically important for Cameroon. The Anglophone Crisis deserves more attention at AFCON, especially as more than 100 detainees continue to languish in jail for speaking out. In a tragic episode, a stampede killed eight people at one of the matches this week. This is an important personal account of the disaster.
Security and instability
This is an interesting report: Northwestern Nigeria: A Jihadization of Banditry, or a “Banditization” of Jihad? Learn more about militant violence in Africa. Nigerians imagine the end of Nigeria’s Boko Haram war. Mali’s junta is winning the battle of public opinion. Mali asks Denmark to immediately withdraw troops. This is an important story about the Lekki Massacre and the unsolved case of police brutality.
Struggle for rights and freedom
Angolans in the diaspora will vote in upcoming election for first time. Make sure to read Elizabeth Wellman’s excellent work on diaspora voting in Africa, especially her APSR article on emigrant exclusion in home country elections. These are the key decisions that are making Nana Akufo-Addo unpopular. Malawi’s president fires his cabinet over corruption allegations. Check out this visualization of protests and riots in South Africa. Detained Ethiopians are still suffering in Saudi Arabia and plead for the government to intervene. There is a need to restore the dignity of the Khoi-San descendants. Jessica Moody discusses the role of fake news in Cote d’Ivoire. Media freedom is hanging in the balance in Zimbabwe. International democracy promotion can help promote term limits. This is how autocratic elites cycle in and out of power. The Godfather of Lagos wants to be Nigeria’s next president.
What is the future of South Africa’s labor movement? Is Africa lost in transitions? Why do we still use the term “sub-Saharan Africa”? Get all your Sahel news here. Ufahamu Africa talks to Yang-Yang Zhou, who examines the effects of migrants on host communities. Jimi Adesina reflects on Senghor, Nyerere, and Nkrumah.
Africa’s rapid urbanization
Check out the new volume New Developments in Urban Governance, as well as Managing Cities at Night. This is a very interesting article on fear and fainting in Luanda. Diana Mitlin explores the challenges and opportunities in African cities. Boda boda drivers in Kampala are organizing on WhatsApp against new efforts to remove hawkers and drivers from the streets. Opibus launches the first Africa-designed electric bus in Nairobi. Emmanuel Quartey explains how he designed a 100-year home in Accra. This article examines global urban sprawl containment strategies. Learn more about Tangiers at the Charter Cities Atlas. The new Dialogues in Urban Research provides a cool new model for academic dialogue and discussion. Kigali is one of Africa’s leading cities for startups. This is cool: Reparative Urbanism. Make sure to check out Ope Adetayo’s piece on the scramble for Lagos. And the challenges of coastal Senegal.
The importance of #jacarandapropaganda.
Check out Why Democracies Develop and Decline. Citizenship in Hard Times: How Ordinary People Respond to Democratic Threat looks great. The Gulf States and the Horn of Africa: Interests, Influences and Instability is out. I look forward to reading Moses Khisa and Christopher Day’s Rethinking Civil-Military Relations in Africa: Beyond the Coup d’État. Make sure to check out Donghyun Danny Choi, Mathias Poertner, and Nicholas Sambanis’s Native Bias: Overcoming Discrimination Against Immigrants. Adam Day’s States of Disorder, Ecosystems of Governance: Complexity Theory Applied to UN Statebuilding in the DRC and South Sudan looks interesting. This looks great: Léonce Ndikumana and James K. Boyce’s On the Trail of Capital Flight from Africa: The Takers and the Enablers. Idayat Hassan and Jamie Hitchen edit this excellent volume on WhatsApp and Everyday Life in Africa: Beyond Fake News. I want this: Toward a Political Economy of the Commons: Simple Rules for Sustainability. Also this: Roadblock Politics: The Origins of Violence in Central Africa (thread here).
Make sure to read Martha Wilfahrt’s excellent post on studying precolonial legacies in the present, which emphasizes the importance of fieldwork (and make sure to check out her book which is on our list of 17 books to read from 2021). Joan Ricart-Huguet explains why colonial investments persist more in Francophone than Anglophone countries. Check out this paper on a cross border trade reporting experiment in Kenya.
The latest issue of Africa has a series of articles discusses the lasting legacy of Achille Mbembe’s On the Postcolony. This paper maps the mobile money ecosystem in Ghana. This article examines popular tales of pastors, luxury, fraud and corruption in Nigeria. I am very excited to see Josef Woldense’s article “What Happens When Coups Fail? The Problem of Identifying and Weakening the Enemy Within,” which draws from a fascinating dataset of ministerial appointments over 34 years in Ethiopia. Make sure to read this important article on “spiritual security.” What’s fair in international politics?
The week in development
Learn more about how to prioritize dignity in development practice. Africa’s electric vehicle revolution will roll on two wheels, not four. China’s engagement with Africa has a Cold War parallel. Anabela Lemos argues that Mozambique needs a people-centered energy policy. Uganda’s tripling of salaries for STEM teachers delights and divides. Fighting corruption is key to unlocking land rights. Make sure to check out Africa is a Country’s excellent series on Capital and Labor. This is a new course on African history through the lens of economics.
Polo Leteka is making a push for more female African entrepreneurs. Howard French argues that Africa’s economic impasse is the central challenge of the 21st century. Ken Opalo argues that African countries should try public participation in the budget process. China-Africa trade reached an all-time high in 2021. The EU should build skills in Africa, not just promote mobility.
Tech in Africa
Africa faces a severe digital gender divide. Africa’s Startup Hub founders are now its funders. Netflix commits more money to its creative equity scholarship fund in Africa. Why are African diplomats working with Chinese influencers? Landry Signe discusses the technological innovations that can help harness the “Africa we want.”
Africa and the environment
Africa has contributed only 2.73% of cumulative global carbon emissions. Africa’s climate change diplomacy must step up a gear. People are losing goats, sheep, and livelihoods to floods and cold in northern Kenya. Floods are causing destruction in South Africa too. Storm Ana kills at least three in Mozambique and Malawi. Is Ethiopia’s enset the wondercrop for climate change? How will Africa’s first heat officer confront climate change? How do hippos communicate?
And Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò: “Justice at the necessary scale.”
Rachid Koraïchi opened an exhibit and a cemetery: The Garden of Africa. Lagos from above—and Freetown too. Lamu Island has beautiful architecture. Sally Hayden has a great profile of photojournalist Tom Saater, who provides unique insights into Nigeria’s biggest city. I wish I were here in Mogadishu. Msaki sings Platinum Heart. The Humans of New York visit the Harvard Africa Business Conference.
And a new Guinness World Record: The largest Ugandan rolex.
All the best,
Jeff and Phil