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This Week in Africa
August 12, 2022
Quote of the week
“Democracy has become hollowed out into the performative act of voting, and not the hard and boring work of building societies that make sense for the people who live within them.” – Nanjala Nyabola
Kenya’s presidential election is a dead heat, and the IEBC should announce final results soon. Many “bigwigs” lost their seats. Meanwhile, read my overview of the elections, which curates some of the great analysis written about the races. Also check out Jane (Mango) Angar and Kathleen Klaus’ summary of the elections, ISPI’s election overview, Kujenga Amani’s Special Issue, and The Elephant’s election analysis.
Watch these interviews with the two major candidates. Sarah Elderkin explains how William Ruto’s name keeps cropping up in cases of violence. Samira Sawlani discusses why some young people did not vote. James Long writes that institutional safeguards are still a work in progress. Maureen Kasuku argues that Martha Karua used the politics of representation to capture power, while not advancing a feminist agenda. Nonetheless, Karua’s candidacy is meaningful for women candidates. This book examines how women experienced the 2017 election. Is change coming?
U.S. Africa policy
The US is unveiling a new Africa strategy that focuses on engagement with African partners to compete with China and Russia, without treating African countries as geopolitical pawns. Read the new strategy here. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently touring the continent. Sam Wilkins explains what it takes to build a solid strategy towards the continent. Howard French explains that a little Great Power competition could be good. The new plan could signal a paradigm shift in US-Africa relations, while it could also fail. W. Gyude Moore notes that the new policy recognizes the continent’s promise but faces a credibility gap.
Senegal’s legislative elections
Senegal’s ruling party lost its majority in recent legislative elections. The party fell one seat short. The results have important implications for the 2024 election, and whether Sall will try to run for a third term.
Sierra Leone’s land rights law
Anti-government protests in Sierra Leone
Anti-government protesters in Sierra Leone clashed with police in Freetown this week. Protesters are angry with rising fuel and food prices and demand the government’s resignation. The country announced a nationwide curfew.
African international relations
Ukraine’s foreign minister will tour Africa. UN has evidence that Rwanda has intervened militarily in eastern DR Congo. East DR Congo hospitals overflow amidst rebel fighting. Elizabeth Schmidt explains how US interference in Somalia has been a disaster for Somalis. Joe Asunka explains public perceptions of the US and China in Africa. Militarizing the Sahel won’t make Europe more secure.
Struggle for rights and freedom
Cote d’Ivoire’s Alassane Ouattara pardons former president Gbagbo to boost social cohesion. Uganda suspends operation of charity championing LGBTQ rights. Learn more about Angolan president Eduardo dos Santos. Museveni continues to co-opt his opposition. Isaac Samuel discusses centralizing power in an African pastoral society. The government dissolves the opposition coalition in Guinea. Human Rights Watch reports on army killings and disappearances in North-West Cameroon. South Africa needs to build a society that’s decent and doesn’t humiliate people. Has QAnon fueled South Africa’s divisions? Is Fake News a threat to Nigeria’s 2023 elections?
Africa’s rapid urbanization
Tanya Zack and Loren Landau discuss how Chinese trade and immigration interact to reshape Johannesburg. Dakar floods. This is an informative post on the role of inter-governmental transfers in financing African cities. Check out this multi-scalar reading of informality in a Cape Town township. Lagos traffic is a drag. Learn more about Nairobi’s rise as a digital platform hub. This is a cool article on enclave urbanism in Greater Accra. Gabriella Carolini explains the importance of proximate peers in development in her new book. Where are Africa’s startup cities?
Check out Rachael McLellan’s excellent GLD Working Paper “Local Control: How Opposition Support Constrains Electoral Autocrats,” with evidence from Tanzania. Check out Safia Farole’s article “Local Electoral Institutions and the Dynamic Motivations of Ethnic Party Candidate Nominations in South Africa.” This new data set explores mass expulsions across the world. K. René Odanga provides these interesting reflections on African studies. Kenya needs more than campaigns to end vote-buying. This article examines the dilemma of diasporic Africans. Martha Wilfahrt’s excellent article explains citizen responses to local service provision in decentralized West Africa. This article shows how land formalization in Tanzania led to land dispossession. Take a look at this meta-study of populism. These tools can help make your research presentations more interactive.
Batman didn’t save the Congo. Some good books I look forward to reading: Fiona Shen-Bayh’s Undue Process: Persecution and Punishment in Autocratic Courts and Keith Weghorst’s Activist Origins of Political Ambition: Opposition Candidacy in Africa's Electoral Authoritarian Regimes. Kudakwashe Vanyoro’s Migration, Crisis and Temporality at the Zimbabwe-South Africa Border looks great. Check out Indigenous Peoples and Climate Justice by Giada Giacomini.
And Lina Benabdallah highlights some great new books in this thread.
The week in development
ID Insight explains how giving cash transfers to refugees in Uganda improved their lives. Putting dignity in practice. A universal basic income helped Kenyans fight COVID. Ghana’s economy is successful, but always in crisis. A Gates-backed think tank seeks $50 billion for Africa debt. Artisanal mining is out of control in South Africa. China will focus on trade to deepen its ties to Africa. Learn more about the $2b Nigeria-Niger railway line. Check out this new podcast on Nigeria’s political economy. Ghana doubles its IMF funding goal to $3 billion over three years. China backs a $640 million railway in Sudan.
Africa and the environment
Somalia’s quest for charcoal is leading to deforestation. Madagascar’s famine is an alarm bell for the world. The US and DR Congo will work together to protect peatlands and rainforests. Climate activists are enraged that African leaders want to invest in fossil fuels. The UN officially recognized the right to a healthy environment. Half of South Africa’s sewage waste treatment plants are failing. Does wildfire smoke cause lung cancer?
RIP Biyi Bándélé.
All the best,
Jeff and Phil