John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Showing posts for "Economy"

Better Economic News from South Africa

by John Campbell
Mineworkers walk to the Wonderkop stadium near Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine for check-ins before returning to work, June 25, 2014. Tens of thousands of South African platinum miners returned to work on Wednesday after wage deals ended the longest and most damaging strike in the country's history. (Reuters/Skyler Reid) Mineworkers walk to the Wonderkop stadium near Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine for check-ins before returning to work, June 25, 2014. Tens of thousands of South African platinum miners returned to work on Wednesday after wage deals ended the longest and most damaging strike in the country's history. (Reuters/Skyler Reid)

South Africa’s general malaise owes much to its very slow recovery from the international economic crisis that began in the United States in 2008. The country’s gross domestic product growth rate has declined from a usual 3 percent to 1.5 percent in 2014. Weaker commodities prices have also slowed an economy that still includes a large mineral export sector. Read more »

President Obama Visits Kenya and Ethiopia

by John Campbell
A security guard walks past a wall mural depicting U.S. President Barack Obama outside the Go-Down Art Centre in Kenya's capital Nairobi, July 17, 2015. Kenya is preparing itself for a visit by U.S. President Obama in the coming week. Seen as a son of the East African nation owing to his father being Kenyan, many see this visit as a long overdue homecoming, while others question how long authorities can keep up the upgrades after Obama is gone. (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Mukoya) A security guard walks past a wall mural depicting U.S. President Barack Obama outside the Go-Down Art Centre in Kenya's capital Nairobi, July 17, 2015. Kenya is preparing itself for a visit by U.S. President Obama in the coming week. Seen as a son of the East African nation owing to his father being Kenyan, many see this visit as a long overdue homecoming, while others question how long authorities can keep up the upgrades after Obama is gone. (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

Whatever decision the White House makes in selecting the countries included on a presidential visit to Africa, it is bound to draw critical scrutiny. On July 24, President Obama departs for a trip to Kenya and Ethiopia. Two reasons for these two countries seem immediately clear. An important focus of the trip will be the African Union (AU), which has its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held this year in Nairobi, Kenya. The AU is the lodestar of the “African solutions to African problems” policy, while the Entrepreneurship Summit demonstrates a focus on economic development. Both are policy goals keenly supported by the United States. However, there is also a symbolic significance to this decision. Many in Africa have questioned why President Obama, with a Kenyan father, has not yet visited Nairobi during his presidency. This absence has contributed to disappointment in Africa that the Obama presidency has not been particularly African in its focus. Read more »

Buhari Visit to Reset the Bilateral Relationship

by John Campbell
U.S Secretary of State John Kerry (L) sits beside Nigeria's former military ruler and opposition party All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari at the U.S. consulate house in Lagos January 25, 2015. Kerry was in Nigeria to urge its rival political camps to respect the outcome of a Feb. 14 presidential election. Washington is concerned that post-poll violence could undermine the stability of Africa's top oil producer and hamper efforts to tackle the Islamist militants of Boko Haram. "Given the stakes it's absolutely critical that these elections are conducted peacefully," Kerry told reporters in the commercial capital Lagos after meeting President Goodluck Jonathan and main opposition rival Buhari. (Courtesy Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) U.S Secretary of State John Kerry (L) sits beside Nigeria's former military ruler and opposition party All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari at the U.S. consulate house in Lagos January 25, 2015. Kerry was in Nigeria to urge its rival political camps to respect the outcome of a Feb. 14 presidential election. Washington is concerned that post-poll violence could undermine the stability of Africa's top oil producer and hamper efforts to tackle the Islamist militants of Boko Haram. "Given the stakes it's absolutely critical that these elections are conducted peacefully," Kerry told reporters in the commercial capital Lagos after meeting President Goodluck Jonathan and main opposition rival Buhari. (Courtesy Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

At the invitation of the Obama administration, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is making an official visit to Washington, D.C. from July 20 to July 24. The visit is an opportunity to reset a bilateral relationship that had chilled under former President Goodluck Jonathan, in part because of the Nigerian security service’s human rights violations in the fight against the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram, and in part because of vocal criticism from the Jonathan administration that the United States was not doing enough to help in the struggle against Boko Haram. Now, an indication of the importance of the visit to the Obama administration is that President Buhari will be staying at Blair House, the official guest house, even though this is not a state visit, which are usually arranged long in advance and more ceremonial than substantive. Read more »

The Resurgence of Nigeria’s Boko Haram

by John Campbell
President Muhammadu Buhari addresses members of the National Working Committee during the meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party at the headquarters of the party in Abuja, Nigeria July 3, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) President Muhammadu Buhari addresses members of the National Working Committee during the meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party at the headquarters of the party in Abuja, Nigeria July 3, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Boko Haram is back, with a vengeance. In the two weeks from June 27 to July 10, Boko Haram killed 434, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa program. Starting July 11, Boko Haram has already killed an additional thirty-five. On July 14, a report surfaced that on July 10 Boko Haram killed at least forty. Its operations appear to be expanding geographically. Not only have there been attacks in the Borno capital of Maiduguri, there has been violence in Kano, Kaduna, and Jos. It is a truism in military circles that with respect to asymmetric warfare, if a government is not winning, it is losing. Read more »

Nigeria’s President Moves to Pay Civil Service Salaries

by John Campbell
President Muhammadu Buhari addresses members of the National Working Committee during the meeting of the All progressives Congress (APC) party at the headquarters of the party in Abuja, Nigeria, July 3, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) President Muhammadu Buhari addresses members of the National Working Committee during the meeting of the All progressives Congress (APC) party at the headquarters of the party in Abuja, Nigeria, July 3, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Reflecting a drop in government revenue caused by the fall in international petroleum prices, many Nigerian federal and state civil servants have not been paid their salaries, in some cases for up to ten months. To alleviate the hardship, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved what the Nigerian media calls a three-pronged relief package. Read more »

Nigeria’s Cupboard is Bare

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) 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 the media, President Muhammadu Buhari said on June 23 that Nigeria’s treasury is “virtually empty.” In order to document this he has promised to release a report on the size of Nigeria’s revenue and debt in about four weeks. He also says that he will recover billions of dollars that have been stolen under previous administrations, and that the United States and other countries will assist Nigeria in the recovery of the stolen money. Read more »

The Conflicting Messages of Jacob Zuma

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
South African President Jacob Zuma attends the summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), called to discuss industrialisation in southern Africa, in Harare, April 29, 2015.  (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters) South African President Jacob Zuma attends the summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), called to discuss industrialisation in southern Africa, in Harare, April 29, 2015. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Cheryl Strauss Einhorn, a journalist and adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has denounced the anti-immigrant violence racking his country while also promising to step up a crackdown on illegal immigration. It’s a tricky and dangerous high stakes game to play, one that does not address the nation’s underlying problems of unemployment and poverty, and that sadly puts South Africa’s stability at stake. Read more »

Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidential Victory in Nigeria

by John Campbell
Opposition presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), speaks during the Nigeria Labour Congress in Abuja, February 9, 2015. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Opposition presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), speaks during the Nigeria Labour Congress in Abuja, February 9, 2015. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

In a country where elections have routinely been rigged in favor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential incumbent or his designee, opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress have won an astonishing victory. Buhari’s support was nationwide, and his vote total was the largest in four of Nigeria’s six geo-political zones. Unlike 2011, the electorate did not starkly bifurcate along north/south, Muslim/Christian lines. Read more »

Council on Foreign Relations Publishes a Contingency Planning Memorandum on Zimbabwe

by John Campbell
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe stands during celebrations to mark his country's 34th Independence Day in Harare, April 18, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo) Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe stands during celebrations to mark his country's 34th Independence Day in Harare, April 18, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

Zimbabwe, once an African garden spot, is now characterized by bad governance, ubiquitous human rights abuses, abrogation of the rule of law, and poverty. These negatives are closely associated with Robert Mugabe, 91, who rules the country with an iron hand and with no apparent succession plan in place. Mugabe’s policies have resulted in humanitarian disaster and waves of refugees, mostly to South Africa. Read more »

Chicken Tax Strains U.S.-South Africa Relationship

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Representatives from various African nations gather at the opening session at the AGOA Forum during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington on August 4, 2014. ( Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters) Representatives from various African nations gather at the opening session at the AGOA Forum during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington on August 4, 2014. ( Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Nathaniel Glidden, intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in International Affairs with concentrations in Development and Cities & Social Justice at The New School. Read more »