John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Response to Africa Glass Half Full or Half Empty

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, November 30, 2012
An Ethiopian man carries a stack of hay near Korem in the mountainous region.. 14/12/2004. (Radu Sigheti/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Owen Cylke. Mr. Cylke is a development professional and a retired senior foreign service officer with USAID.

The discussion over whether Africa’s glass is half full or half empty simply allows each side to argue their case–over and over again.  McKinsey will argue that Africa’s long-term prospects are strong while the African Development Bank will counter that, in fifty years, one-third of Africa’s population will still be living with an income below $1.25 a day. Read more »

The Geopolitical Quagmire of the Eastern Congo

by John Campbell Thursday, November 29, 2012
UN peacekeepers hold a position outside the eastern Congolese city of Goma 23/07/2012. (James Akena/Courtesy Reuters)

The situation in the eastern Congo is no less obscure than before the regional leaders met for negotiations over the weekend. M23 stated they would leave the city of Goma, captured on November 20, by November 27. They are still there. Now they claim they will hold a handover ceremony and pull back to Rutshuru, their original stronghold, on Friday, November 30; but only so long as M23 troops remain at the Goma airport. And possibly, that their political wing remain in Goma itself. Read more »

International Crisis Group Warns on the Ivory Coast

by John Campbell Wednesday, November 28, 2012
A man pushes a bicycle past FRCI on patrol on a road near Sacre village, in the western Tai area near Ivory Coast's border with Liberia 17/06/2012. (Luc Gnago/Courtesy Reuters)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague recently unsealed an arrest warrant against former first lady Simone Gbagbo. In effect, she is charged with being a full accomplice in the crimes of which her husband, former President Laurent Gbagbo, is accused. But the Ivory Coast’s troubles go beyond the personalities of the former regime. The International Crisis Group (ICG), a highly respected non-governmental organization that has a special focus on governance and security issues, issued on November 26, a sobering analysis that concludes that political and security issues continue to threaten the Ivory Coast’s recovery following more than a decade of civil war. Read more »

Is the Africa Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

by John Campbell Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Early morning smog hangs over Cape Town, the product of smoke and fumes from fires, factories and automobiles 03/08/2003. (Mike Hutchings/Courtesy Reuters)

Simon Fremantle has written a thoughtful analysis on whether the Africa glass is half full or half empty. He argues persuasively that this is the wrong question. A binary discussion between the “Afro-optimists” (he counts himself as one) and the “Afro-pessimists” can obscure more than it illuminates. Instead he asks for deeper analysis of Africa’s “clear merits and persistent challenges” with the goal of “understanding how the continent can reach the next level of growth. He goes on briefly to consider such issues as the need for greater economic diversification, better infrastructure and education. He notes that while Africa potentially has two-thirds of the world’s cropland, only 10 percent is under formal land tenure, which inhibits agricultural investment. Read more »

The Changing Repertoire of Protest

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Monday, November 26, 2012
A soldier guards a road during an operation to disperse people protesting against the removal of fuel subsidies in Lagos 16/01/2012. (Akintunde Akinleye/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.

In his later years, American journalist Lincoln Steffens looked back with skepticism on his work. His muckraking essays in McClure’s magazine exposed government corruption, but he doubted that they contributed to enduring change. Revolutions in Mexico and the Soviet Union impressed him and seemed more effective than reform in advancing society. With respect to them he famously commented, “I have seen the future, and it works.” Read more »

Goma Falls to Rebels in the Eastern Congo

by John Campbell Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Congolese Revolution Army rebels drive in trucks as they patrol a street in Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, soon after the rebels captured the city from the government army 20/11/2012. (James Akena/Courtesy Reuters)

Since I blogged yesterday about the fighting around the city of Goma between the army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) supported by UN forces and the M23 rebels, the situation has deteriorated.

Yesterday, the rebels had pulled back to await a response from Kinshasa to its demands that Goma be de-militarized and that a border post with Uganda be reopened. Kinshasa did not accept the M23 ultimatum, and the rebels have now occupied the city and its international and military airports for the first time since 2003. In the general melee, DRC soldiers shelled a neighboring Rwanda district, killing two, according to Rwanda sources. That same Rwanda source says, however, that Kinshasa has apologized. If so, Kinshasa and Kigali may be trying to avoid any cross border escalation, a positive development. Read more »

International Hand-Wringing over the Eastern Congo

by John Campbell Monday, November 19, 2012
Displaced families walk past M23 rebels at Rumangabo 28/07/2012. (James Akena/Courtesy Reuters)

M23, a rebel group active in the eastern Congo, advanced on the provincial capital of Goma over the weekend, but has subsequently pulled back. Instead of an attack on Goma, the rebels presented a list of demands to the Kinshasa government that include de-militarization of the city and its airport. It is also demanding the opening of a border post with Uganda, in the town of Bunagana. Read more »

Mauritania’s Uncertain Position in Face of President’s Extended Recuperation

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, November 16, 2012
Supporters carry a poster of coup-leader Abdelaziz in Mauritania's capital Nouakchott 07/08/2008. (Irakli Gedenidze/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Geoff Porter, an analyst with North Africa Risk Consulting, Inc. (NARCO). He is a specialist in North Africa and the Sahel.

One month ago, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz was shot and evacuated to Paris. He has not returned. Read more »

Costas Vaxevanis and Nuhu Ribadu—Birds of a Feather

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Thursday, November 15, 2012
Greek editor Costas Vaxevanis waits outside a courthouse in Athens. 11/01/2012 Greek editor Costas Vaxevanis waits outside a courthouse in Athens. 11/01/2012 (Yorgos Karahalis/Courtesy Reuteres)

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.

Greek journalist Costas Vaxevanis recently escaped judicial sanction when the judge in an Athens court “found that Mr. Vaxevanis had acted in the public interest when he published the ‘Lagarde’ list—a document containing the names of two thousand Greeks with Swiss bank accounts—in Hot Doc, the magazine he edits.” Read more »

Two Perspectives on Falling Foreign Direct Investment in South Africa

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Wednesday, November 14, 2012
South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordham delivers his annual budget speech to Parliament in Cape Town 23/02/2011. (Nic Bothma/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by John Causey, an independent private equity consultant based in Cape Town, South Africa.  He specializes in sub-Saharan Africa transactions, with investors mainly from the EU and US.

South Africa’s foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows have dropped by 43.6  percent in the first half of 2012. The decline is the largest among all developing countries. Read more »