John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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South Africa’s Education Woes

by John Campbell
DATE IMPORTED:June 24, 2012Children write notes from a makeshift black board at a school in Mwezeni village in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province in this picture taken June 5, 2012.  (Reuters/Ryan Gray) DATE IMPORTED:June 24, 2012Children write notes from a makeshift black board at a school in Mwezeni village in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province in this picture taken June 5, 2012. (Reuters/Ryan Gray)

On January 7, The Economist published a short analysis of the poor state of education for most – not all – South Africans. On various league tables, South Africans are near the bottom in educational achievement. However, there is a huge gap between the educational opportunities for white South Africans and everybody else. The Economist notes that of two-hundred black students starting school only one will do well enough to study engineering. The equivalent figure among white students is ten. Read more »

Nigeria’s Demographic Challenge

by John Campbell
People crowd a street at the central business district in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, ahead of Christmas on December 23, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) People crowd a street at the central business district in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, ahead of Christmas on December 23, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

Nigeria’s large population and rapid urbanization has been celebrated among those in the U.S. business community optimistic about the country’s prospects. The country’s natural wealth, it was argued, provides the means to construct an education system and other infrastructure for a modern future. With a population projected to be the third largest in the world by mid-century, there are dramatic investment opportunities, so the story goes. Read more »

Outlook for South Africa’s Governing Party

by John Campbell
South African President Jacob Zuma greets supporters at a rally to commemorate the 105th birthday of his ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Soweto, South Africa, January 8, 2017. (Reuters/James Oatway) South African President Jacob Zuma greets supporters at a rally to commemorate the 105th birthday of his ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Soweto, South Africa, January 8, 2017. (Reuters/James Oatway)

The African National Congress (ANC) celebrated the 105th anniversary of its founding on January 8 in Johannesburg. (The ANC is one of the older of the democratic world’s governing parties.) Last year was a bad year for the party. National president and ANC leader Jacob Zuma was tarred by credible accusations of personal corruption and that of close associates. He met judicial and political reversals. The economy grew very slowly. In a party that values unity, factionalism increased, centered mostly on Zuma himself. In the August local government elections, the ANC faced its most severe reversal since it came to power in 1994. Accordingly, at the anniversary celebrations the emphasis was on party unity and the acknowledgement (even by Zuma himself) that the party had made mistakes that threatened to isolate it from its core constituencies. Read more »

MSF Delivering Emergency Food in Northeast Nigeria

by John Campbell
A doctor examines a malnourished baby at the Save the Children stabilisation ward in Maiduguri, Nigeria, November 30, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) A doctor examines a malnourished baby at the Save the Children stabilisation ward in Maiduguri, Nigeria, November 30, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF) has issued a press release that it has just delivered 810 metric tons of food to Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria. The organization estimates that it will feed 26,000 families for two weeks. MSF is primarily a medical organization. But, according to its press announcement, it is now delivering food because “there are people in desperate need. Other organizations were not stepping up until now, and MSF was obliged to fill the gap.” Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: December 31 – January 6

by John Campbell
The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau) The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau)

Below is a visualization and description of some of the most significant incidents of political violence in Nigeria from December 31, 2016 to January 6, 2016. This update also represents violence related to Boko Haram in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. These incidents will be included in the Nigeria Security Tracker. Read more »

Affordable Housing Crisis in Johannesburg

by John Campbell
General view of Alexandra township, commonly known as Alex, a slum
overlooking the Sandton skyscrapers in Johannesburg, March 26, 2002.
(Reuters/Juda Ngwenya) General view of Alexandra township, commonly known as Alex, a slum overlooking the Sandton skyscrapers in Johannesburg, March 26, 2002. (Reuters/Juda Ngwenya)

In general, the economies of the United States and South Africa are based on the “Washington Consensus” of free markets to encourage economic growth. Both countries are characterized by growing inequality, with South Africa’s GINI coefficient (a measure of inequality) the worst of any large country in the world. Similarly, in some ways, social problems in South Africa resemble those in the United States. However, because South Africa is smaller and poorer than the United States, the issues are clearer. Johannesburg’s affordable housing crisis recalls similar phenomenon in high-cost American cities like New York, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C. But in Johannesburg the housing crisis is starker and more visible. Read more »

Delta Militant Group Turns Against Buhari

by John Campbell
A militant of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) guards hostages of the Philippines at an undisclosed location on the creeks of Niger Delta, January 31, 2007. (Reuters/George Esiri) A militant of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) guards hostages of the Philippines at an undisclosed location on the creeks of Niger Delta, January 31, 2007. (Reuters/George Esiri)

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) announced New Year’s Day that it had passed a vote of no confidence in President Buhari. Prior to the 2015 election, MEND had endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari, rather than Goodluck Jonathan. Read more »

The looming showdown in the Gambia

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh receives a delegation of West African leaders including President John Mahama of Ghana and Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari for a meeting on election crisis in Banjul, Gambia, December 13, 2016. (Reuters/Stringer) Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh receives a delegation of West African leaders including President John Mahama of Ghana and Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari for a meeting on election crisis in Banjul, Gambia, December 13, 2016. (Reuters/Stringer)

This is a guest post by Mohamed Jallow, an Africa watcher, following politics and economic currents across the continent. He works at RTI International in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

The Gambia is in a political crisis. The country’s longtime strongman, President Yahya Jammeh lost his bid for re-election to a fifth term earlier this month. After initially conceding defeat, he is refusing to step down. Citing irregularities on the part of the Electoral Commission, Jammeh has rejected the results, and is calling for fresh elections. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: December 24 – December 30

by John Campbell
The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau) The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau)

Below is a visualization and description of some of the most significant incidents of political violence in Nigeria from December 24, 2016 to December 30, 2016. This update also represents violence related to Boko Haram in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. These incidents will be included in the Nigeria Security Tracker. Read more »

The Truth About Boko Haram in Nigeria’s Sambisa Forest

by John Campbell
Writings describing Boko Haram are seen along a street in Bama, in Borno, Nigeria, August 31, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Writings describing Boko Haram are seen along a street in Bama, in Borno, Nigeria, August 31, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

On Christmas Eve, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the Nigerian army had driven the remnants of Boko Haram out of its last stronghold, the Sambisa Forest. A Nigerian army spokesman said that it had recovered Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau’s personal copy of the Koran and his flag from “Camp Zero,” apparently the Boko Haram headquarters. An army spokesman said that the chief of Army Staff would present the holy book to President Buhari. The army also said that it had arrested 1,240 suspected Boko Haram terrorists. Read more »