John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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U.S. Shoots Itself in the Foot over Visas for Africans

by John Campbell
Abdul Giwa holds a copy of his passport during an interview with Reuters on the recent pronouncements of the Kaduna State government on the activity of the Shi'ite group in Kaduna, Nigeria, November 2, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Each year the University of Southern California hosts the African Global Economic and Development Summit. It is intended to bring together business, government, and others interested in U.S.-African trade and investment. This year, according to the Voice of America (VOA) there were no African participants. All Africans that had been invited or applied to attend were denied U.S. visas, including speakers and African government officials. This included citizens of U.S. partners such as Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa. Nigeria and South Africa have the continent’s largest economies and both are on a democratic trajectory. In addition, Ethiopia is an important U.S. strategic partner in the war on terror, while Ghana has notable growing economic and cultural ties with the United States. Read more »

Digital Jobs in Africa: The Way Forward

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Entrepreneurs work on their projects at Nailab, a Kenyan firm that supports technology startups, behind the latest initiative, which targets entrepreneurs for their ideas on providing sex education through technology and social media in Nairobi, Kenya, July 4, 2016. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

This is a guest post by Diptesh Soni, a consultant in the Johannesburg office of Dalberg Global Development Advisors. Diptesh is a former CFR Africa program intern.

Across the world, there is an inescapable sense that the machines are coming, and they’re going to take our jobs. This fear is not new. From the cotton gin, to the tractor, to the assembly line and beyond, jobs have, and will continue to face threats from technological advances. Read more »

Mobile Phones, the Internet, and South Africa

by John Campbell
A worker walks past cell phone accessories at a Vodacom shop in Johannesburg February 4, 2015. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

The Institute of Race Relations’ (IRR) Centre for Risk Analysis has published a study that shows the dramatic increase in mobile phone usage in South Africa and its importance as a portal to internet usage. During the 2000-2014 period, fixed line subscriptions per one hundred people dropped by 38 percent while mobile phone subscriptions increased by 702 percent. The increase affected all races, but the growth is especially striking among ‘Coloured’ and ‘Indian’ South Africans. For Black South Africans it was 405.3 percent; for ‘Coloureds’ it was 763.6 percent; for ‘Indians’ it was 708.3 percent; for Whites it was 470.6 percent. The lower rate of increase among Blacks may reflect the higher levels of poverty among that demographic. Among whites, the lower level may reflect that many of them have long had access to land lines and to cell phones, resulting in a lower rate of usage growth. Read more »

Reduced Airline Service to Nigeria?

by John Campbell
Emirates Airlines aircrafts are seen at Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates, May 10, 2016. (Reuters/Ashraf Mohammad)

Quartz is reporting that Emirates airlines is considering pulling out of Nigeria. It is already cutting its twice-daily flights to Lagos and Abuja from Dubai to once a day to Lagos only, starting at the end of October. United Airlines ended its service from the United States to Nigeria in May. Domestic airlines are also facing difficulty. Quartz reports that Aero Contractors, Nigeria’s oldest airline and long regarded as its most reliable, has suspended operations. Quartz also reports that many domestic passengers have been stranded because local airlines have not been able to refuel their planes because of a shortage of jet fuel. Read more »

Recovery of Nigeria’s Oil Production Under Threat

by John Campbell
A man works at an illegal oil refinery site near river Nun in Nigeria's oil state of Bayelsa, November 27, 2012. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

According to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (the state-owned oil company) Nigeria has the capacity to produce 2.5 million barrels of oil per day (bpd). At the beginning of the year, production stood at 2.2 million bpd. Under insurgent attacks on oil production infrastructure, it fell to 1.3 million bpd. With a pause in delta insurgent attacks on oil infrastructure, the administration now claims that oil production has recovered to 1.9 million bpd. Read more »

‘Bling’ and the Nigerian Political Class

by John Campbell
A Nigerian man looks at a vehicle by German car maker Porsche in Lagos, March 14, 2012. (Reuters/Monica Mark)

Nigeria is famous for the delight in display taken by the governing class and the rich. Hence, native dress for women and men is made of rich fabrics and bedecked with jewelry, residences often have gold-plated taps, and, at one point, the Hummer appeared to be the vehicle of choice. Read more »

Illegal Mining and the Role of “Zama Zamas” in South Africa

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A miner is seen underground at Lonmin Plc's Karee mine in Marikana, Rustenburg 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, March 5, 2013. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

Nathan Birhanu is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program. He is a graduate of Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

In recent years, the mining industry has struggled to turn a profit due to a slowdown in demand from China’s economy and an oversupply from producers. South Africa’s mining companies, who export primarily platinum, iron ore, gold, coal, and manganese, have been heavily affected by the downturn. Read more »

Africans in China: The Pivot Back

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
African traders buy clothing at a shopping mall in Guangzhou July 31, 2009. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

This piece has been co-authored by Nathan Birhanu and Bochen Han. Nathan is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program and is a graduate of Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development. Bochen is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Asia Studies program and is an undergraduate majoring in political science at Duke University. Read more »

South Africa’s Currency Falls Again on Rumors of Finance Minister’s Arrest

by John Campbell
South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan gestures during a media briefing in Sandton near Johannesburg, March 14, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

On May 15, the Sunday Times (English, Johannesburg) published rumors of the impending arrest of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan over alleged revenue service irregularities. However, on May 16, Beeld (Afrikaans, Johannesburg) reported that President Zuma denied the Sunday Times report. Nevertheless, the South African national currency, the rand (ZAR), fell the following two days, reaching its weakest level in two months; it has fallen 2.1 percent against the U.S. dollar since March 15. Read more »

Attacks Accelerate on Nigeria’s Oil Infrastructure

by John Campbell
Villagers stand near jerrycans containing crude oil collected at the shore of the Atlantic ocean near Orobiri village, days after Royal Dutch Shell's Bonga off-shore oil spill, in Nigeria's delta state December 31, 2011. Amnesty International called into question Royal Dutch Shell's accounting in Nigeria for oil spill amounts and causes, saying the oil major was seeking to avoid compensation payments and damage to its reputation. Picture taken December 31, 2011. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

According to Bloomberg, militant attacks on the oil infrastructure in the Niger delta have resulted in the lowest level of production in Nigeria in twenty years, falling below 1.7 million barrels a day. As such, Nigeria is no longer Africa’s largest oil producer; Angola is. Bloomberg, citing the International Energy Agency, estimates that the Nigerian government could lose $1 billion in revenue by the end of May. It appears that some of the oil companies are withdrawing “non-essential” workers out of concern for their safety. Read more »