John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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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 »

Burundi: What Went Wrong?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A protester who is against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term shouts in Bujumbura, Burundi, June 4, 2015. (Courtesy of Reuters/Goran Tomasevic) A protester who is against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term shouts in Bujumbura, Burundi, June 4, 2015. (Courtesy of Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

This is a guest post by Claire Wilmot, an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Program. She is a master of global affairs candidate at the University of Toronto.

Over the weekend, 170 opposition fighters were captured and thirty-one killed by Burundian armed forces in the Chibitoke region (near the borders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo). This is the latest in a series of violent incidents following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to run for a third term in office in violation of Burundi’s constitution. Last week Nkurunziza’s party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), announced victory in the parliamentary elections, despite an opposition boycott and the UN proclamation that the vote was not free, fair, or credible. Once a post-conflict success story, Burundi now threatens to relapse into violence, raising questions about what went wrong in the peacebuilding process. 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 »

Gulu and Detroit: Bicycles to the Rescue

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A gold miner uses a bicycle to transport a sack of sandy soil from a small scale mine in Bugiri, 348 km (216 miles) east of Kampala, Uganda's capital February 5, 2013. (Edward Echwalu/Courtesy Reuters) A gold miner uses a bicycle to transport a sack of sandy soil from a small scale mine in Bugiri, 348 km (216 miles) east of Kampala, Uganda's capital February 5, 2013. (Edward Echwalu/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. Read more »

Black and White Income Inequality in South Africa and the United States

by John Campbell
A fruit vendor waits for customers at an informal settlement in Thokoza, south of Johannesburg, July 18, 2014. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters) A fruit vendor waits for customers at an informal settlement in Thokoza, south of Johannesburg, July 18, 2014. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

South Africa is notorious for having gross income inequality. Its GINI coefficient–a standard for measuring income inequality–is one of the highest in the world. The World Bank computed it at 63.1 in 2009, with zero being absolute equality and one hundred absolute inequality. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the GINI coefficient for the United States in 2012 was 47.7. When analyzing these two GINI coefficients, there is a danger of comparing apples with oranges. The GINI coefficients here cited were developed by two different institutions, no doubt with different methodologies. What GINI coefficients actually show is also a matter of debate. Still, they indicate income inequality was greater in South Africa than in the U.S. in recent years. Read more »

Africa’s Youth Bulge a Big Burden

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
People crowd on a road near Balogun market to shop, a day before Christmas in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, December 24, 2012. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters) People crowd on a road near Balogun market to shop, a day before Christmas in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, December 24, 2012. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Diptesh Soni. Diptesh is currently a consultant in UNICEF’s public advocacy section and a recent graduate of the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). The views expressed below are his personal views and do not reflect those of his employer. You can follow him on twitter at @dipteshpsoni. Read more »

South Africa: What Does “Service Delivery” Really Mean?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Protesters take part in a service delivery protest in Sebokeng, south of Johannesburg, February 5, 2014. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters) Protesters take part in a service delivery protest in Sebokeng, south of Johannesburg, February 5, 2014. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Le Chen, Janice Dean, Jesper Frant, and Rachana Kumar. They are Master of Public Administration students at Columbia University’s School of International Public Affairs. They are working with Ambassador John Campbell on a graduate practicum project, which was made possible by faculty adviser Professor Anne Nelson. A version of this post appeared on the World Policy Blog. Read more »

Tapping into Africa’s Potential: Why the Marginalized Matter

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A woman sets up her shop at the Konyo Konyo market in Juba, South Sudan, May 12, 2012. (Adriane Ohanesian/Courtesy Reuters) A woman sets up her shop at the Konyo Konyo market in Juba, South Sudan, May 12, 2012. (Adriane Ohanesian/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Lynn ElHarake, research associate for the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Africa is now the world’s youngest continent,” writes Makhtar Diop, vice president for Africa at the World Bank. “These young people have high expectations, and African policy makers are increasingly concerned about how to meet them.” Read more »

Unpacking Africa’s Growth Forecasts: Potentials and Risks

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Workers are seen in front the construction site of Eskom's Medupi power station, a new dry-cooled coal fired power station, in Limpopo province, June 8, 2012. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters) Workers are seen in front the construction site of Eskom's Medupi power station, a new dry-cooled coal fired power station, in Limpopo province, June 8, 2012. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Diptesh Soni. Diptesh is a master’s degree candidate at the Columbia University School of International Public Affairs (SIPA) studying economic and political development. You can read more by him at: https://dipteshsoni.contently.com/. Read more »