Discover more from This Week in Africa
This Week in Africa
August 4, 2023
Quote of the week
“If Tsitsi Dangarembga and Nervous Conditions opened the door, now it’s fully open, and we have been let into the Zimbabwean imagination – for the first time encountering the real Zimbabwean novel.” -- Dr Tinashe Mushakavanhu, a research fellow in African and comparative literature at the University of Oxford
Coup d’état in Niger
Niger’s junta takeover is the latest in a wave of coups across the Sahel. The junta leader cites insecurity as the reason, though there are conflicting rationales. The international community is following the developments closely, as it is central to the war on terror, global geopolitics, and the fight for democracy. Sebastian Elischer provides this excellent overview of the political situation. Leonardo Villalon explains that it is a setback for democracy and US interests in the region. James Barnett calls it a West African disaster in the making, while Alex Thurston calls for creative thinking in strategies of counterterrorism.
Coup leader Abdourahamane Tiani led Niger’s presidential guard before leading the government takeover. The junta condemns what it calls “inhumane” sanctions against its government, and blame them for power blackouts in the country. Thousands of people are marching in the capital in support of the coup, led by the prominent anti-French group M62.
The coup has major implications for international relations. The situation has the potential of turning into a regional battle, as Mali and Burkina Faso have expressed support for the junta while ECOWAS (who has support from France and the US) maintains a firm grip against it. ECOWAS demands that the junta return Mohamed Bazoum to power, and threatens military action. France and the US suspended aid. Analysts also worry of an alliance between Niger’s coup leaders and the Wagner Group. Barnett explains the interests and incentives of individual states and leaders. The US has partially evacuated its Embassy. Howard French suggests that the West has not done the hard work to support stability in the region.
Ken Opalo places the recent coups in the Sahel in a longer context of state building failures. Similarly, Ope Adetayo emphasizes that coups do not happen in a vacuum. Thurston explains what it means at the domestic level. In an earlier essay, Yusuf Serunkuma argues that African coups have nothing to do with democracy.
Senegal’s political battle
The political battle in Senegal continues. The government dissolved the country’s main opposition party and detained leader Ousmane Sonko, charging him with fomenting insurrection. Senegal suspends Tik Tok after protests.
Governing South Africa
The ANC controls eight of nine provinces in South Africa, while the Western Cape remains elusive. The song “Kill the Boer” fuels backlash in South Africa and the US. This piece outlines the choreographed rise of Julius Malema. This article finds that populism only goes so far in South African elections. The country is in need of a welfare revolution.
Violence in Sudan
Nearly 4 million people are displaced in the fighting in Sudan. Civilians bear the brunt of the war. The number of dead in Khartoum is double official figures. Hemetti has offered peace in exchange for Sudanese army leadership change. Stay tuned.
Struggle for rights and freedom
Countering misinformation is a crucial part of the success of Sierra Leone’s democracy. State armed forces pose the biggest risk of violence in Mali and Burkina Faso. Lessons from Kenya provide insights into how Trump could use the politics of grievance to stay out of jail. The first English slave fort in Africa is uncovered on Ghana’s coast. Paul Biya’s ghostly legacy hangs over Cameroon.
Six African countries restricted Internet access due to protests or political crisis in 2023. This is how Europe outsourced border enforcement to Africa. Learn more about this integrated approach to former child soldiers in northern Uganda. The M23 conflict is creating a humanitarian disaster in eastern DR Congo. Kenya has offered to lead a police force to help bring stability to Haiti. When should electoral observers stay home?
Africa’s rapid urbanization
Check out our article “Urbanization and political change in Africa” in African Affairs. Kristian Hoelscher, Nick Dorward, Sean Fox, Taibat Lawanson, Melanie Phillips and I draw attention to the mechanisms linking urbanization to political change, and advocate a place-based approach. More to come!
Global demand for coal is bringing challenges to South African towns. This piece outlines the commodification of public goods in Somalia. This article examines the urban vote in Zambia’s 2021 election. This article traces Kumasi’s path from Ghana’s garden city to a city of urban crises. This is cool: claims of authority along Accra’s drainage infrastructure. Patrick Cobbinah explains the oddity of desiring informality. And how to strengthen service delivery processes in Kampala.
On the rebellious scholarship of Mike Davis.
Madina Thiam writes “The Caliphate, the Black Writer, and a World in Revolution, 1957–69.” This article outlines autocratisation, electoral politics and the limits of incumbency in African democracies. Sishuwa Sishuwa explains the failure of incumbency advantage in Zambia’s 2021 election. Read these recent books on Africa.
Do you work on governance and local development? Submit a GLD Working Paper.
The week in development
Electric motorbike startups jostle for position in the emerging EV sector. Nigerian union suspend strikes over cost of living as leaders dialogue with President Tinubu. South Africa has a lot of informal innovators. This is a cool interactive map of copper and cobalt production in the DR Congo. Tinubu orders a probe into Nigeria’s Central Bank. These six companies are making it easier to send money globally. Ghana has no time to lose in its mineral transition. Nigeria’s sachet economy. Africa faces a new dawn for local vaccine manufacturing. Africa’s Lithium production to boom in the coming years. Tom Wein discusses dignity in development on this podcast.
Africa and the environment
Ian Scoones explains how embracing local knowledge is the key to resilience in northern Kenya. Cholera cases are on the rise with climate change. Oil drilling threatens the Okavango River Basin. Learn more about climate change and gender in Jordan and Morocco. 81% of the global population sweltered under climate change-fueled heat in July. This is what the astonishing ocean heat means for the planet.
Ousmane Sembene is still the father of African cinema. Freetown should be on your bucket list. Watch this: Women Writing Zimbabwe. These women tell the country’s story. Nigeria and South Africa rise in the Women’s World Cup. Nairobi has great bookstores. Bam Adebayo teaches basketball in Jo-burg. Giannis in Lagos!
Love Chale Wote.
All the best,
Jeff and Phil