A weekly bulletin on democracy, development, and daily life in Africa
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This Week in Africa
Democracy. Development. Daily Life


“This is a great loss to the ANC, the broader liberation movement and South Africa as a whole.”

-- Neeshan Balton on the death of anti-Apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada


I love these paintings of Trump as a Nigerian dictator. Here is the week in Africa:
South Sudan’s violence is getting worse
Six aid workers are killed in an ambush in South Sudan. It is the biggest attack on aid workers in the country since the war began in 2013. Government forces are accused of torching thousands of homes. Meanwhile, South Sudanese refugees are placing pressure on Uganda as more than 3,000 people enter the country daily.
Famines across the continent
The impending famines in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen make up one of the biggest humanitarian crises since World War II. These photos show the massive scale of the problem. South Sudan rejects claims that its famine is an outcome of its political crisis. This interactive feature about Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram and searching for food, water, and shelter is amazing. Trump’s new executive order threatens to worsen hunger in Africa.
Land struggles in Lagos
The battle between the Lagos State government and residents of Otodo Gbame continues. Government officials allegedly told a community activist, “We don’t care about court orders in Lagos.” Lagos State even unilaterally withdrew from court-ordered mediation. There does not seem to be a place for the urban poor in Governor Ambode’s vision of the city. Is it only the rich who have a right to the city? Evictions do not make the city safer. Now, a judge has ordered the governor to appear before him regarding the demolition. Stay tuned. This is a fantastic post about the development of the city from pre-colonial times to today. I can’t wait to read more of Ademide Adelusi-Adeluyi’s work!

Governance challenges in Somalia
The East African bloc has agreed to let Somali refugees work, a step in the right direction toward improving Somalia’s long humanitarian crisis. Mogadishu seems to be rebuilding, and Somali lawmakers have approved its new cabinet. But things are not easy across the country. It is facing an impending famine (see above), as well as a significant cholera outbreak. Al Shabab is now claiming that it has distributed food aid to needy families. Kenya has said it has killed 31 extremists in Somalia. Meanwhile, Trump has loosened restrictions on combat rules in Somalia that were meant to protect civilians.
Combating rebels
The Pentagon will scale back its mission to hunt down Joseph Kony. Clearly, the Facebook world didn’t catch him. To really understand the conflict, read Chris Day’s new article about rebel resilience and the LRA. This post outlines what is behind the renewed fighting in Central African Republic. In an important International Criminal Court judgment, the Court has ordered $1 million be paid to victims of a Congolese warlord.
Escalation of violence in Democratic Republic of Congo
More than 300-400 people have been killed and 200,000 displaced in renewed fighting in the Kasai region of DRC. Last week, a militia ambushed a police convoy and beheaded about 40 officers. The UN has identified 10 mass graves in the area. The bodies of UN experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan were found in a shallow grave. This is a nice remembrance to these two human rights experts. RIP.
Africa’s rapid urbanization
Nairobi politics is about the “front-row kids” versus the “back-row kids.” These photos show the changing skyline of Nairobi. Congrats to new Accra mayor Adjei Sowah. Innovative urban communities confront climate change. Check out these stories from Kibera. Does Africa need vertical farms to feeds its growing cities? Why is Nairobi thirsty? This great new feature examines urbanization in Zimbabwe, and finds that its peri-urban areas are growing rapidly. Check out Jennifer Hart’s awesome study abroad program on African cities, and Accra in particular. Hope to see you all at the African Centre for Cities International Urban Conference next year!
Struggle for rights and freedom
This is a good collection of old newspapers and magazines documenting the rise of some of Africa's longest standing leaders. Beware of the rising authoritarianism in Tanzania. Ethiopia has extended its state of emergency another four months. Jacob Zuma has fired his finance minister. This is a good piece about the history of migration in Central Africa. This is what wealthy nations could learn from Djibouti’s refugee policyEbenezer Obadare argues that pastors are becoming the center of the erotic economy. Land invasions are on the rise in Laikipia, Kenya. This is one argument for why Kenya’s collective land tenure needs to be protected. And a must read: the hell-raisers of Nairobi.
The week in development
The Gates Foundation opens up a new open access research platform to share results from its projects. The World Development Report 2018 will examine the promise of education for development. Miners found a huge diamond in Sierra Leone: who should get the profit? US-China-Africa cooperation could really help the continent. Citizens think unemployment is Africa’s largest development challenge. What happened to Kenya and Tanzania’s bureaucratic bourgeoisie? Check out the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s forum report “Africa at a Tipping Point” (haven’t people been saying that for years?) Ivory Coast may be one of the fastest growing African economies, but social discontent is rising.
Debating development
The debate about fighting global poverty is back and kicking (though it never went away). Giving cash might be the best way to alleviate absolute poverty. Bill Gates likes giving chickens. These “micro-interventions” aren’t so small. But there is more to development than giving cash or chickens, like fixing the systemic failures and promoting job creation. Both strategies might be needed to fight global poverty. One thing is clear: Market access is not enough.
Africa and the environment
Cape Town only has about 100 days of water left. This is how the Republic of Congo can use forest resources for sustainable development. Renewable energy has a robust future in Africa. Take a trip to the heart of Mozambique’s hidden forest. Food insecurity continues to threaten progress in development across the continent. South Africa is ready for low-carbon energy production.
Research corner
There is so much exciting new research on Africa these days. Shelby Grossman and Dan Honig’s new article examines class and ethnic discrimination in informal trade in Nigeria. Oumar Ba’s article about narratives, justice, and violence in Kenya looks awesome. Kweku-Opolu-Agyemang’s new paper explores what preferences motivate terrorist attacks. Barry Driscoll argues that political competition can increase patronage. This exciting new IDS Bulletin examines decentralization on the continent. In this series, this piece explores electoral promises and performance in Nigeria’s local governments.
If you read all of these papers on economics research in Africa you will learn so much (I did not read them all). Here is a good analysis about struggles to reach neutrality in foreign aid, using South Sudan as a case study. This article examines African histories of the Internet. What are the possibilities for state building in Niger and Namibia? Coming soon: Memory and Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda. And check out this new book about South Africa’s women anthropologists.
Daily life
Wow: Nigerian artist Arinze Stanley’s pencil drawing’s look like photographs. Uganda’s LGBTQ activist Frank Mugisha is one of the world’s greatest leaders. I love South Sudan Abul Oyay’s artwork. Mali’s Tinariwen band and mixtape is awesome. Check out Afrikanist in Motion, a public transport story.
RIP Anti-Apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada.
All the best,
Jeff and Phil
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