John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

Guest Post: Nigeria: Cleaning Up Procurement

by John Campbell Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director of the World Bank and former Nigerian finance minister, Nigeria's Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi (C) and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan (R) exchange greetings during a session at the 15th edition of the Nigerian economic summit in Abuja December 15, 2009. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jim Sanders, a career, now retired, West Africa watcher for various federal agencies. The views expressed below are his personal views and do not reflect those of his former employers.

Reportedly, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has invited World Bank officials to vet all federal government contracts. “Very soon we will get people from the World Bank to be at my office. For every contract we want to award, irrespective of the structures we have on the ground, they will assess it so that if a job is supposed to cost N10,000 and it’s awarded for N10,000, the likelihood that the contractor bribing anybody will be reduced,” Jonathan was quoted as saying. Read more »

Senegal Elections: A First Take

by John Campbell Tuesday, February 28, 2012
A bottle of ink used to mark voters' fingers is seen on a table during presidential elections in the capital Dakar February 26, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Preliminary reports from Senegal are that Sunday’s polling and subsequent ballot counting has gone well, though Western media concentrates on Dakar and other large cities. Nevertheless, an important, domestic NGO, RESOCIT, deployed more than two thousand local observers and concluded that there was an “astonishingly” low number of incidents of violence and fraud. Read more »

Sudan and South Sudan: Some Hopeful Movement on Border Issues

by John Campbell Monday, February 27, 2012
UN agencies listen during a news conference and presentation by Sudan Social Welfare Minister Amira al-Fadel Mohamed and UN Humanitarian Coordinator on the findings of a joint rapid assessment report on the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan, in Khartoum February 23, 2012. (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Courtesy Reuters)

Delegations from South Sudan (Juba) and Sudan (Khartoum) have announced they will meet immediately to demarcate the border between the two countries. The goal is for the talks to be completed within three months. However, this round of negotiations will not address five disputed areas, about which talks will continue. In another border issue, the Khartoum press reports that the two countries have signed an agreement to monitor border areas and to open ten crossing points along the 2200km border. Read more »

Senegal’s Wade Struggles to Hold Power

by John Campbell Friday, February 24, 2012
Senegal's incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade attends an election campaign rally in the capital Dakar February 22, 2012. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

Normally placid, elegant Dakar is roiled by pre-election demonstrations. The issue is President Abdoulaye Wade’s apparently desperate attempt to hang on to presidential power via a third term bid this weekend. Wade claims his re-election would be legal under the frequently revised (by Wade) constitution. The Constitutional Council has ruled that his first term does not count because the two-term limit law was introduced after his first term began. His opponents have objected to the decision. Former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo, as head of an African Union observer mission, has gone to Dakar, apparently to try to persuade Wade to step down. Thus far, Wade has refused. So, the stage appears to be set for a contested election this weekend – Wade (like Gbagbo in Ivory Coast) almost certainly has more popular support than outsiders estimate. If he does win, extensive court challenges seem inevitable. Read more »

Thabo Mbeki on Sovereignty and Democracy in Africa

by John Campbell Thursday, February 23, 2012
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, head of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel, delivers his public lecture at the Nyakuron cultural centre in Juba, Southern Sudan, January 7, 2011. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, in a February 16 lecture (PDF), reflects on the threat of Western re-colonization of Africa in the context of enduring racism as a way to encourage greater African unity. Read more »

Guest Post: Corruption’s Impact on Voting in Nigeria and Mexico

by John Campbell Wednesday, February 22, 2012
A policeman stands near a polling booth during the local government election in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos October 22, 2011. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Asch Harwood, the Council on Foreign Relations Africa program research associate. Follow him on Twitter at @aschlfod.

John Campbell has regularly made the point that from 1999 to 2007  increasingly bad elections led Nigerians to withdraw from the political process. Despite official proclamations, the 2007 elections were thought to have had an extremely low turnout.

A recent paper (PDF) by the National Bureau of Economic Research (h/t to Chris Blattman), “Looking Beyond the Incumbent: The Effects of Exposing Corruption on Electoral Outcomes,” provides what could be some empirical evidence from their randomized experiment in Mexico to support this observation. Read more »

Babangida and Boko Haram

by John Campbell Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Nigeria's former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida waves to the crowd during a rally marking his official declaration for the presidential bid in the federal capital Abuja September 15, 2010. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

The bad relations between former strongman, military general, and head of state Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) and President Goodluck Jonathan are yet another sign of the breakdown of elite bargaining, which has been the traditional way elites have ruled Nigeria. If the chief of state is by definition the head of the largest patron-client network, IBB’s would be nearly as strong. Read more »

Food Insecurity: West Africa’s Turn

by John Campbell Friday, February 17, 2012
A dried up river filled with sand winds its way across the desert near Gos Beida in eastern Chad June 5, 2008. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Courtesy Reuters)

Last year, international attention was riveted by the near humanitarian disaster in the Horn and East Africa caused by prolonged drought. Relevant UN agencies and NGOs were able to mobilize the necessary resources, and a famine of biblical proportions was forestalled, though there were high casualties among children and the elderly. Read more »

Guest Post: New Figures on Facebook and Twitter in Africa

by John Campbell Thursday, February 16, 2012
Nairobi University students study with computers during the launch of Facebook in Nairobi March 27, 2008. (Antony Njuguna/Courtesy Reuters )

This is a guest post by Asch Harwood and Melissa Bukuru. Asch is the CFR Africa program research associate. Follow him on Twitter at @aschlfod. Melissa is the CFR Africa program intern.

Like mobile statistics (which Asch wrote about yesterday), information on social media use can also be thin. A communications firm, Portland, has set out to address this deficit and measure just how prevalent Twitter and how it is being used across Africa. They analyzed about 11.5 million geolocated tweets across the continent (including North Africa). Read more »

Guest Post: Defining Mobile Phone Usage in Africa

by John Campbell Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Nokia mobile phone chargers are seen at Abubakr Ali's (C) market stall in Abu Shouk Camp, Darfur, February 11, 2010. (Andrew Heavens/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Asch Harwood, CFR Africa program research associate. Follow him on Twitter at @aschlfod.

A comment was recently made to me citing the huge number of mobile phones in Nigeria—over 90 million—as an indicator of that country’s budding middle class. However, in this conversation, my interlocutor failed to make the distinction between mobile phones and mobile phones subscriptions, which turns out to be important. Read more »