About this Class
Useful LinksNews Resources Reuters Africa BBC News Africa AllAfrica.com Financial Times – Africa The Economist – Africa AfricaNews.com The New African Other Useful Links Chris Blattman’s Blog Development Drums Africa Can – a World Bank blog Africa Unchained Africa South of the Sahara William Easterly’s “Aid Watch” African Arguments South African Institute of International Affairs Wesleyan’s African Studies Cluster Michael Nelson’s Blog Country Resources ISS Country Files BBC News Country Profiles CIA World Factbook Africa South of the Sahara Country Page
Direct and anonymous feedback to the professor
Category Archives: Country Post
“Le Gabon Emergent que je vous propose sera un pays bien gouverné, respectueux des droits de tous: un pays pleinement inséré dans les réseaux mondiaux d’échanges d’idées, des biens et des capitaux…” Président Ali Bongo Ondimba
Ali Bongo Ondimba’s presidential campaign in both 2009 and 2016 focused on his goals to make Gabon an emerging power on the continent. The quote above is taken from the beginning of his strategic plans to mold Gabon into an emerging power in the region, but also outside of the continent. After reading his vision and strategies, many of them are important and if realize would help Gabon move forward. Among the most important goals Bongo Ondimba has set for Gabon in the international arena include, but are not limited to Gabon becoming “un acteur important de la paix, ainsi qu’un pionnier et un modèle de l’économie verte, assumant un role primordial dans la lutte contre le changement climatique et la promotion de l’economie verte.” These goals are valid and desirable. However, Gabon is not able to successfully accomplish these goals, nor to maintain them in the future if they were ever to occur. I would advise the leaders of Gabon, primarily the president, to put their international relations dreams on hold, and focus their energy and resources to address domestic issues such as education and combating corruption among others for Gabon to even have the chance to be consider as an emerging power house on the continent and globally.
Corruption in Gabon is not mainly defined by ethnic divisions nor simply a neo-patrimonial state. It can best be defined as a dynasty. Whether it is in government offices, businesses, and even as seen with the president of the country itself, familial ties determine the position that one will hold and their success in the country. As the recent political unrest after the first and second election of Ali Bongo Ondimba showed, the Gabonese people are tired of being ruled by a system that has privileged family ties over the well-being of its citizens. Gabonese citizens do not trust the government nor the other institutions that are supposed to help them because it is assumed that they will be most helpful only if they have a family member in the government or in these institutions. As William Sumner hypothesizes in his in-group or out-group theory, a state will not be successful internationally and citizens will not have allegiance to their government if there exist distress within the in-group. Similarly, Gabon cannot be successful internationally because of the political conflicts and high distrust of the government. Furthermore, a divided country makes Ali Bongo Ondimba less credible in the international arena because he will not be taken seriously diplomatically by other leaders since he does not have stable institutions to keep him publically accountably to his words. It is important that before Ali Bongo Ondimba even attempt to adventure Gabon into the international arena, that he first stabilize the country and actively take steps towards eradicating corruption – starting with his own family.
Gabon should prioritize paying its instructors from elementary school to the university level. When the words “Année Blanche” are put into google, Gabon is the second country that appears. An “Année Blanche” occurs when the school year is rendered void because there have not been enough classes for students to successfully finish the semester. It is a term that is often heard in Gabon because instructors strike every school year and often several times during the year because sometimes they are not paid and others they are not paid adequately. Given the corrupt system of the country, it can be predicted that among the students who have not received an adequate education, many of them will still hold high position in business companies or even in the government because of their familial ties. In the long run, the entire system will collapse because of the lack of experience diplomatically and the lack of knowledge or experience to address internal problems as well. Furthermore, each year students do not go to school nor have been employed exacerbate the countries resources because crime rates rise since there are no older alternative, but also an uneducated population cannot adequately hold the government accountable nor help the country move forward socially and economically.
In these conditions, I would advise Ali Bongo Ondimba to cultivate the positive relationships that he has harness with other countries worldwide, but to focus his strategic interests into addressing the problems of corruption and of the lack of proper education in the country, as well as diversifying natural resources for trade long term. Without addressing these issues, Gabon will not be successful in emerging internationally, but to also grow and function as a country.
This Bloomberg piece explores Nigeria’s plan for action after its uninspiring performance as the oil boom fades. Since various countries such as the United States are beginning to find cheaper or domestic extraction points for oil, the economy of these oil dependent states are being negatively affected. I think it can be smart for the government to lend to farming projects since it would cost less and promote community efforts to fixing the problem. I also think that the government should diversify its plan for more than just subsidized rice mills. If cocoa is responsible for a quarter of the economy and employs seventy percent of the working population then that market should be targeted for expansion of some sort first. Nigeria should also think about the long-term future and if there is any way they could combat imminent climate change.
Kenya should create a functional ambiance within the country as it starts to prepare to engage with the world. I was surprised when I learned about the stagnant economic growth in Kenya despite being the biggest economy in East Africa. I attribute this to the massive corruption in the country and the soaring inequality. Thus, for Kenya to aspire for the title of a regional power and hence maintain some global relevance, its leaders need to work on becoming an economic powerhouse as Kenya already boasts of a relatively stable government. This would require the establishment of independent institutions to mitigate corruption. I would also urge the Kenyan government to promote civic education in order to cultivate a sense of national pride.
Kenya has a great potential for growth but corruption and poverty traps that contribute to inequality for majority of the population obstruct the development of the economy. For the world to take Kenya seriously and invest in its economy, Kenya needs to show that its economy’s potential can be relied on. How? By showing that it cares about the present inequality and that it can address the problem of corruption, which has dissuaded several potential private investors time and time again. Corruption also prevents the upward mobility of those who lack the extra funds to spare for a bribe. It is also discouraging for innovative Kenyans who feel that their diligence means nothing if they still have to pay their patron leaders or public offices in order to grow or market their inventions. Kenyan leaders should therefore stop waiting for foreign actors to solve these problems through NGOs such as Transparency International, and instead take charge, and establish reliable institutions that are above the control of the president or any other political leader. If something is not done to reduce corruption in Kenya, Kenya will remain a mediocre economy. No amount of ODA or humanitarian foreign aid is going to lift Kenyans out of their poverty, if it all goes into “Big Men” pockets and bellies. So, my advice to President Uhuru is, please do something about corruption, that way, the world can start to take us seriously.
This course also taught me the importance of African agency. In order for Kenya to be respected as it engages with the world, it needs Kenyans who are willing to stand up for Kenya and not themselves or the West or the East. When Kenyan leaders engage with the world, some of the deals they sign up for do not necessarily benefit Kenyans. Kenya needs people who have been educated to be patriotic and nationalistic in order to represent Kenyan interests. In addition, I believe that if Kenyans in the diaspora had the national pride to go back and develop Kenya or represent Kenyan issues abroad, we would see an immense change in leadership, technology, and our place in the global economy. Kenyans abroad can vouch for the motherland through various projects, but if they lack the sense of national pride, that wouldn’t be the case. Let’s therefore model Kenyan education in a way that produces Kenyans who are representatives of Kenya regardless of the platform.
There are many recommendations that can be made to the government but it has to be willing to listen and adopt them. The government itself is full of corrupt and unqualified leaders who cannot even stand and demand respect on global platforms. There are needs to be a complete reevaluation of the nation’s representatives.
Herbst, Jeffrey and Greg Mills. Africa in 2020: Three Scenarios for the Future. Brenthurst Discussion Papers, 2/2006.
Maintaining Domestic Focus in the Central African Republic with a Strategic Pursuit of International Support
Unfortunately, the Central African Republic is not one of the dozens of nations on the African continent that inspire afro-optimism in the international community. In fact, the opposite is true. Because of sustained violence, social conflict, religious tensions, and tumultuous, frequent changes in the political sphere, the C.A.R cannot afford to focus on building a more formidable regional role, much less one in multilateral international organizations and initiatives. Given the building evidence proving a lack of infrastructure to ensure responsible and effective implementation of foreign aid, I would advise President Touadéra, Prime Minister Simplice Sarandaji, their council of ministers, and the legislative branch to focus on internal development—perhaps aided by international monetary investments from powers of the global South—and abstain from classical forms of post-colonial engagement.
The sustained internal strife ravaging the C.A.R is visible just in this week’s news cycle. On Monday, December 5th, Human Rights Watch confirmed that intra-Seleka fighting during November of this year “left 14 civilians dead and 76 wounded.”On the same day, a United Nations commission finished an investigation, confirming long-held allegations that during 2014 and 2015, “ 25 peacekeepers from Burundi and 16 from Gabon [partook in] sexual abuse and exploitation in the Central African Republic” since the deployment of a UN taskforce to mitigate the Seleka/anti-Balaka conflict. As detailed in my previous writing on conflict in the C.A.R, a variety of long and short-term factors have led to this state of affairs: colonial drawing of non-indigenous borders, neo-patrimonial relationships between the C.A.R government and its former colonizer, France, a lack of resources, and bilateral relationships with neighboring countries with more power that use the C.A.R as a multiplier of their own power. 
Due to the prolonged nature of the C.A.R’s conflicts and struggles, one might think that working internally to solve those problems has failed and that it would be wise to look past national borders for solutions. That line of logic rests on the assumption that the C.A.R has failed due to problems born of sovereignty, an entirely false assumption. All of the above phenomena are results of a continued dependence on the international community—in the economic (see blog post 6, on the CFA Franc), political (the case of Catherine Samba-Panza’s rise to power in blog post 2), and military (France’s dangerous engagement is illustrated in post 5) spheres. The C.A.R’s industrial development remains primarily dependent on outside finances, and much of that development doesn’t even happen in the first place because of the resource-driven economy, buttressed by the saturation of the manufactured-goods market by foreign products. At least humanitarian foreign aid, one might argue, surely tends to be helpful? But as Dambisa Moyo argues, foreign aid can be both a crutch and an active handicap. This seems to be true for the C.A.R, illustrated by not only the most recent findings of Human Rights Watch but also by the consistently slow growth of major industries, exports, and GDP in the last ten years. It is safe to say that expanded relationships of any kind with the international community—particularly comparatively powerful regional neighbors and classic Western powers—will not yield much of a change from the status quo.
But no sovereign nation can operate in a vacuum in today’s globalized world, so what minimal external relations would be genuinely helpful for positive change in the C.A.R? The main bilateral relationships that might prove advantageous are those with powers in the Global South who are willing and able to invest in the building of physical infrastructure, particularly projects that will create sustainable manufacturing or higher-level jobs for the community. Hospitals, schools, science research centers, tech manufacturing, and other such initiatives all have a precedent of Chinese investment in other African nations, like Ghana. Though China is surely seeking influence and resources across the continent, the C.A.R government might guarantee agency and gain by mandating that the workforce for public projects be local, by consulting the communities in which building will proceed, and by commissioning specific projects that will have long-term, positive social effects rather than accepting proposed projects by the Chinese.Beyond economic partnerships, Touadéra might consider building bilateral partnerships with African nations that have overcome ethnic and religious conflict. In particular, South African leadership, always looking to build international clout, could offer support and consultancy in a much-needed serious attempt to heal tensions between Christians and Muslims, and between supports of the Seleka and the anti-Balaka.
 A variable which, according to some political scientists, might actually be better than an abundance of a sought-after natural resource, like diamonds or oil (called a resource curse).
 Borders: Harbeson. “The Heritage of Colonialism.” By Crawford Young.
 2008. “Political culture, state elites and regional security in West Africa.” Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 26(2), 137–149.
 Leonard, David and Scott Strauss. Africa’s Stalled Development.
 Corkin, Lucy. 2015. Forum: African agency in the context of china-africa relations. African East-Asian Affairs
Today, Guinea is one of the least known/talked about country in Africa. After a bold gesture to gain its independence from France, the country subsequently faced some economic and political challenges that effectively contributed to its marginalization. Moreover, the lack of highly sought-after minerals or precious oil reserves that some of its neighbors have been endowed with have, for some time, undermined the country’s ability to attract considerable foreign investments and generate crucial government revenues. Despite remaining one of the poorest countries in the Africa, the prospects for a more prosperous Guinea look bright. Thus, to the leaders of Guinea: the ball is in your court. Within the next decade or so, you have the ability to improve the lives of every single Guinean citizen.
Building on recent political and economic achievements, Guinean leaders should focus on strengthening domestic institutions and infrastructures in order to guarantee that the government is able to deliver services to its people. This can primarily be achieved by continuing and even fostering greater economic and strategic cooperation with Guinea’s most important partner, China. Unlike many countries in the West, China has realized Guinea’s incredible potential for rapid economic development. Ironically, the under-exploitation of Guinea’s mineral reserves, which has hampered the potential benefits that could be reaped from the country’s natural resources, has also spared the country from the troubles that now pervade the more extraction-oriented economies of Africa. In addition, the recent revision of the mining code has laid the ground for better public-private partnership, which Herbst and Mills argue, is critical to African development.
In the same vein, the development of Guinea’s hydro-power capacity will be an important step in assuring that Guinea is propelled into a period of economic growth. Nick-named the “Water Tower of West Africa”, Guinea’s immense hydro-power potential is estimated to be over 6000 MW. More projects like the Kaleta Dam financed by China will not only increase the government’s capacity to furnish electricity to every household in Guinea, but also turn the country into a major exporter of power to neighboring countries. This could be a major source of revenues for the government, reinforcing its means to provide Guinean citizens with basic necessities. Consequently, as Guinea furthers its partnership with global leaders like China to develop its infrastructures, it should seek to establish greater commercial ties with regional partners.
Lastly, the democratic gains that Guinea achieved over the last five years represent a crucial steppingstone to transforming Guinean society. Herbst and Mills attest that democracy is one of the drivers that will propel positive change in African countries but whose effect partly depends on how the government of the day reacts (Herbst & Mills, 2006). Therefore, it is imperative that President Alpha Conde continues to improve the rule of law and promote good governance. In doing so, Guinean leaders will be able to maintain a healthy relationship with the West, which, despite all the wounds they have inflicted upon the continent, is critical for the socioeconomic and political future of the country. Ultimately, as Guinea build on those relationships with the East and the West, it is of utmost significance for the country’s leaders to stay vigilant and break old traditions by acting on the best interest of the people.
Herbst, Jeffrey and Greg Mills. Africa in 2020: Three Scenarios for the Future. Brenthurst Discussion Papers, 2/2006.
Somalia’s involvement in the international community as of right now is very limited. Somalia still has a very unstable economy with numerous security threats. For this reason, the international community will need to play a significant role in attempting to help bring relative stability ex. by providing financial and military aid. Somalia is a nation state that ultimately is still trying to figure out their identity and unite the local communities. Somali’s leaders must take charge and implement this philosophy as well as accept the help of world powers.
In terms of engagement, Somali’s leaders should first be focused on creating a strong central government with limited corruption. Government leaders need to look to establish relationships with African countries as well as other international leaders. It is important to establish regional relationships in order to strengthen the African continent as a whole, which will bring stability and potentially more international involvement. After creating these relationships, Somali leaders should specifically attempt to work with the international community to develop strong counter terrorism strategies to address terrorist organizations such as Al-Shabaab, which will hopefully bring short-term stability to the state. Establishing strong partnerships with states that have strong militaries and leadership can be very beneficial when dealing with issues of national security. For example, a relationship with a powerful state such as the United States could bring a great deal of strategic guidance and useful aid. U.S. counter terrorism forces could show Somali’s military how to counter insurgencies and other violent extremist. Somalia will also need to begin developing a long-term strategy to mitigate violent conflicts by addressing local grievances and having a concrete plan to deter radicalization. These strategies can be quickly achieved when collaborating with the international community and learning from states that might also be dealing with a similar problem.
In addition, I believe that Somali’s leaders can begin to engage with the systemic issues that are hindering the state’s economy and work with the world on creating a more stable system that will help the local communities. So far the majority of communities in Somalia receive profits from the agricultural industry. Somali leaders can begin to find states that might have more of a need for these agricultural products in return for assistance with infrastructure and creating more of a space for private businesses. The building of infrastructure and the emergence of private businesses will help create more jobs and as a result begin to stabilize the economy.
Overall, Somali leaders need to work with the international community on two crucial objectives- security and economic stability. The relative achievement of these two objectives will greatly improve Somalia and begin to positively allow for a stable independent state. The world will play an integral role in assisting the central government but it will ultimately be Somali’s leaders that will drive this state in the right direction.
In 2006, Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills published “Africa in 2020: Three Scenarios for the Future,” detailing Africa’s prospects over the next fourteen years, and outline specific steps and policies which would lead to one of three possible outcomes. Although I find their outcomes to be fairly obvious, the real value of their piece is in the analysis of the driving factors of each outcome. Among the most important factors, which the author’s note, is the willingness of domestic leaders to legitimately take interest in domestic development, and ultimately, continental development. In order to achieve the most ideal scenario, “Africa takes charge,” the authors purport that the drivers for Africa change must come from within the continent itself. Although the authors do recommend that countries eschew pursuing international aid, or promote isolationist continental policy, my main critique of the article is that it downplays what I see to be as the necessity of foreign, non-Africa involvement, as a step along the way in development.
In their introduction to the three scenarios, Herbst and Mills write of the potential success of Africa taking its development into its own hands, even though many African countries “are among the weakest in the world,” and seemingly have no agency regarding their destiny. The authors counter this using Bostwana, which was once one of Africa’s poorest and least developed countries. I find this to be inherently contradictory, as the authors’ themselves point out that Botswana’s growth was stimulated primarily by De Beers, and the diamond trade. While it is certainly true that as countries develop, they are better able to help their regional and continental neighbors, I think that to say that the most positive scenario is based on Africa taking charge of its own destiny ultimately ignores the necessity of outside investment and influence, which can provide development in the proportion of countries necessary for Africa to really develop from within.
Writing in 2006, the authors’ best case scenario was for a developed Africa which acted continentally in order to promote regional growth. Besides this scenario being extremely unrealistic in a fourteen year span, it completely mitigates the necessity for involvement of countries outside the continent. In the authors’ ideal scenario, the continental powers have the ability to help develop those countries which have lagged behind. Evaluating their scenarios today, despite development of many large African countries, particularly Nigeria, it is still impossible to promote development across the continent which would yield a stable and productive Africa by 2020. Perhaps if Herbst and Mills reevaluated their piece today, they might still see the possibility for Africa “taking charge” by 2020, but I imagine they would reevaluate their frameworks to allow for heavy foreign influence across the continent in the meantime.
While I agree with the authors that it will be important for Africa to take a continental approach to growth and development, it is foolish to claim that in order to do so, Africa must promote growth from within. In order to establish levels of development, high enough to create momentum across the continent, Africa must be dependent on foreign investment and engagement for a while longer.
From studying the underlying burdens that affect African statehood, it becomes apparent that societal failures are not limited to a root cause. Instead the infrastructure that allows a nation to assume legitimacy requires a variety of factors that disables a state from functioning properly. These factors range from foreign interference from both state and non-state actors, ethnic conflict, governance rife with corruption, colonial legacies, etc.. However, this understanding of statehood doesn’t understate the fact that depending on the particular state, certain factors have more weight than others. In regards to the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) a substantial hindrance to its ability to act, as a functioning state would be its unsustainable economic system. This infrastructure has largely been informal and rather fluid, in combination due to periods of conflict/ war and its history of nomadism. The lack of a diverse domestic economic system, which provides more than just agricultural products, has had lasting effects on the nation’s ability to generate revenue. In truth the primary sources of income to the nation has been the “provision of money transfers, transport, and telecommunications services.” These remittances are supplied by the significant Somali diaspora across the globe, which supports the fledgling government. The tangible effects of these financial constraints have primarily affected the pervasiveness of violence within the state. The first example being, the high degree of poverty has left a vast lower class and has utterly destroyed the middle class. Conflict bred out of these disenfranchised classes has proved a breeding ground for recruits of extremist groups like Al-Shabaab, which consistently challenge the FGS. Another example would be the lack of resources available to the government has directly affected their ability to maintain defensive measures both within and on its borders. This has led to alternative methods the FGS has used to sustain a useful military force, such as partnering with stronger states. Allying with foreign forces has had its own repercussions that continually challenge the sanctity of Somalia’s sovereign nature.
With this knowledge of Somalia’s economic situation, focusing on the nation’s long-term economic plan would be my suggestion to President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. By doing so, he can lessen the influence that Al-Shabaab has over the narrative which describes the nation of Somalia. Combatting them through a direct contest, such as military conquests and assassinations of leaders only becomes effective to a certain point. The only way to eradicate extreme ideology is through swaying the populace from which the group draws support. Even more importantly, economic improvement can bridge the existing divide between the conflicting states within Somaliland, Puntland, Galmudug, etc… A reasonable starting point for doing this would be continually developing existing and promising relationships with powerful nations. In 2013 the USA recognized the FGS as a nation, as well as a multi-billion dollar international investment was promised to the new government. Receiving investment from the dominant economic powers would provide the necessary diversity to Somalia’s domestic economic infrastructure. A specific region of development that may prove most useful is using the strategic geographic location of Somalia on the Horn of Africa, to gain further support from China and other powers looking to increase their presence in the region.
In the wake of the Congolese Supreme Court’s decision to allow Joseph Kabila to remain in power after the Congolese President failed to ensure his administration arrange for elections this year, popular exiled Congolese leader, Moise Katumbi, has vowed to return to his home country. This would have major implications for the political situation in the DRC, as Katumbi was ranked as the most popular Congolese leader in a recent opinion poll, and could theoretically mobilize vast support to counter Kabila’s regime. Although Katumbi has announced that he intends his opposition to be peaceful, even assuring Kabila that he would not be prosecuted if he stepped down, it is possible that his return would spark devestating civil conflict. Kabila’s term is set to end December 19. If he does not set down, we will see whether Katumbi keeps his promise, as he has previously promised a return, and has yet to make good on those promises.
In Jeffrey Herbst’s and Greg Mills’ 2006 piece “Africa in 2020: Three Scenarios for the Future,” the authors imagine three different futures for Africa in 2020. The differences between these futures are stark, and according to the authors, depend on a variety of factors. In order to promote a brighter future, the authors advocate for greater agency of African countries in actions and policies, which will affect the continent overall. In 2006, they noted that with the exception of Africa, the continent’s largest countries were not regional and continental leaders. Although in the past decade, we have seen the emergence of some of Africa’s largest countries, notably Nigeria, many still have not embraced such leadership roles. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is an example of a large state which has yet to achieve a commendable rate of development, and thus is unable to act as a leader. Unless in the next four years, the DRC can promote economic growth, political stability, and social equity, it is likely that Herbst’s and Mills’ second scenario will hold true for Africa in 2020. In order to achieve this development, the DRC must engage positively with the world.
Political reform is necessary for the DRC to achieve political stability. With the democratic crisis currently underway as Joseph Kabila nears the end of what should be his final term in office, it is important that the country not only allows for but encourages monitoring of the political situation by developed countries both African and otherwise. It is clear that the people of the DRC desire a well-functioning democracy; the ongoing protests in and around Kinshasa make this evident. In order to assure that the democratic processes which are supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution occur, it is important for the government to engage with strong democratic powers, especially those on the African continent, such as South Africa, and to allow these countries to monitor and perhaps even facilitate elections and the transition of power.
In terms of economic reform, the DRC is in desperate need of developmental aid from the international communities. I would recommend that the DRC’s leader first secure stable and functioning democracy, in order to promote investment. While Herbst and Mills recommend change as a result of African initiative, in order for the DRC to catch up, I think that assistance from other countries is necessary. In particular, the DRC should establish better bilateral relations with China, leveraging its mineral resources, which Chinese industry so desperately needs, for the types of infrastructure projects that China has been so successful with in other countries across the continent. With improved infrastructure, the DRC will be more able to focus on diversification, thereby reducing dependence on mineral resources. The DRC must stipulate that foreign development projects utilize Congolese labor, thereby helping the citizenry to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for industry diversification.
Finally, the DRC must improve social equity, in order to reduce conflict and encourage productivity. As it stands, Kinshasa operates almost separately from the rest of the country, leaving many outside of the capital feeling alienated, and without opportunity. This leads to civil conflict. Improved infrastructure through partnerships with China will link the rest of the country to the capital, and the use of Congolese labor will, again, improve the workforce. This allows for better social equity, and thus a more cohesive country overall.
With international help, the DRC can establish a stable democracy, improve and diversify its economy, and promote equitable growth. At a certain point of development, the DRC will be able to reduce its need for foreign aid and investment, and can better serve in Herbst’s and Mills’ vision a large country with positive continental influence.
Herbst and Mills. “Africa in 2020: Three Scenarios for the Future.”