John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Putin’s Russia and Africa

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (C) arrives at the airport in Abuja, Nigeria May 28, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (C) arrives at the airport in Abuja, Nigeria May 28, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

This is a guest post by Eugene Steinberg, an assistant editor at the Council on Foreign Relations.

From 1961 to 1992, one of Moscow’s most prestigious schools bore the name of Patrice Lumumba, the Soviet-supported Congolese independence leader brutally executed in 1961. Patrice Lumumba University recruited and educated generations of foreign leaders, especially African leaders, and was just one of the many ways in which the Soviet Union cultivated ties with Africa. Then with the fall of the Soviet Union, after years of pouring money, arms, and manpower into left-leaning anticolonial movements, Russia’s presence in Africa, and Lumumba University, nearly disappeared overnight. But today, two decades later, Russia is once again working to establish a foothold on the continent. Read more »

A Primer on Nigeria’s Oil Bunkering

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Smoke rises as an illegal oil refinary burns after a military chase in a windy creek near river Nun in Nigeria's oil state of Bayelsa December 6, 2012. Despite billions of dollars worth of oil flowing out of Nigeria South East, life for the majority of Niger Delta's inhabitants remains unchanged. Most people live in modest iron-roofed shacks, and rely on farming or fishing, their only interaction with the oil industry being when they step over pipelines in the swamps – or when a spill blights their landscape. (Courtesy Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) Smoke rises as an illegal oil refinary burns after a military chase in a windy creek near river Nun in Nigeria's oil state of Bayelsa December 6, 2012. Despite billions of dollars worth of oil flowing out of Nigeria South East, life for the majority of Niger Delta's inhabitants remains unchanged. Most people live in modest iron-roofed shacks, and rely on farming or fishing, their only interaction with the oil industry being when they step over pipelines in the swamps – or when a spill blights their landscape. (Courtesy Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

This is a guest post by Emily Mangan, an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Energy and Environment Program. She studies environmental policy at Skidmore College.

After resuming from recess, the Nigerian Senate pledged to increase the country’s oil revenue by reducing oil theft. Doing so would greatly increase Nigeria’s total oil exports and reduce oil spills that cause severe environmental damage in the Niger Delta. Read more »

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 »

Tracking the Traffickers: Stopping the Wildlife Trade at its Source

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A worker uses a forklift to arrange a section of elephant tusks recovered from a container on transit, at the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, January 15, 2013. (Joseph Okanga/Courtesy Reuters) A worker uses a forklift to arrange a section of elephant tusks recovered from a container on transit, at the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, January 15, 2013. (Joseph Okanga/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Allen Grane, research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program.

On December 8, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, announced the creation of the United for Wildlife Task Force at the World Bank in Washington, DC (you can see the full speech below). The task force aims to work with the private sector to reduce illegal wildlife trafficking globally, it hopes to “identify ways that the sector can break the chain between suppliers and consumers.” Read more »

Elephant Population Tipping Points and Domestic American Ivory Markets

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Orphaned baby elephants run for bottle-feeding at the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage within the Nairobi National Park, near Kenya's capital Nairobi, August 6, 2014. (Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters) Orphaned baby elephants run for bottle-feeding at the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage within the Nairobi National Park, near Kenya's capital Nairobi, August 6, 2014. (Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Emily Mellgard. Emily is a researcher at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in London, England, and former research associate for the CFR Africa program.

The BBC reported on August 18 that in the past four years, approximately thirty-five thousand elephants have been poached for their ivory annually. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that a tipping point has been reached in elephant populations: more elephants are dying than being born. The population is in decline due to the international demand for ivory. Read more »

Central African Republic: “It’s the Economy, Stupid!”

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Seleka fighters take a break as they sit on a pick-up truck in the town of Goya, June 11, 2014. 
(Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters) Seleka fighters take a break as they sit on a pick-up truck in the town of Goya, June 11, 2014. (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Emily Mellgard, research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program.

The devastating yet disorganized fury and violence over the past eighteen months in the Central African Republic (CAR) has caused the collapse of the state and defied traditional conflict labels and international quick-fixes. Read more »

Really, Really Rich People in Africa

by John Campbell
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (back L) looks on as Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote points to the site of a new cement plant branch during a commissioning ceremony at the Dangote cement factory in Obajana, Kogi state, June 11, 2012. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters) Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (back L) looks on as Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote points to the site of a new cement plant branch during a commissioning ceremony at the Dangote cement factory in Obajana, Kogi state, June 11, 2012. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

According to Forbes, the first African ever has entered into the “top 25” of the world’s billionaires. He is Aliko Dangote, number 23. Forbes says that his net worth is now U.S. $25 billion up from $3.3 billion in 2007. His wealth is based on cement, but he is also investing in agriculture. Read more »

Guest Post: Investment in Nigeria Remains Strong Despite Insecurity

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Traders and shoppers crowd a market in Nigeria's main commercial city Lagos March 19, 2006. (George Esiri/Courtesy Reuters) Traders and shoppers crowd a market in Nigeria's main commercial city Lagos March 19, 2006. (George Esiri/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 July 1 Reuters piece, Tim Cocks states that despite “bomb blasts, gun attacks airline crashes, kidnappings, industrial-scale oil theft, armed robberies and fraud costing billions of dollars…investors just keep coming.”  While acknowledging that violence and political instability have damaged PZ Cussons’ profit margin, for example, Cocks cites sources who believe “the demographic dividend is colossal.”  That is, in the long term, “Nigeria’s big population will turn into a massive consumer market.” Read more »

Guest Post: Nigeria Hit by Domestic, Regional, and Global Headwinds

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A view of the trading floor at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) at the end of trading hours in Lagos April 24, 2012. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters) A view of the trading floor at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) at the end of trading hours in Lagos April 24, 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.

Last month at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Africa Progress Panel’s 2012 Africa Progress Report highlighted the threat to Africa of “rising inequality and the marginalization of whole sections of societies.”  Experts warned that “inequality in sub-Saharan Africa could threaten political stability and growth after a decade of rapid economic expansion.” Read more »