All Posts (95)

The Glory That Was Medieval Africa

The kingdoms of early medieval Africa were genuine rivals to their Western counterparts in wealth, power and even political development. A century and a half before Christopher Columbus, the kingdom of Mali sent unsuccessful expeditions of hundreds of ships to find the “limits of the Atlantic Ocean.” Mansa Musa famously brought between 13 to 15 tonnes of gold with him to Mecca, distributing so much he depressed gold prices for years afterwards. The kingdom of the Kongo elected its leader at…

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Gulf of Guinea’s Piracy Problem

The Gulf of Guinea is supplanting the Somali coast as the world’s primary centre of maritime piracy. A study by the Observer Research Foundation noted that piracy incidents along the 6000 kilometre gulf coast had jumped from 54 in 2014 to 112 in 2018. As there was no international naval patrolling in the area, unlike in Somalia, and local naval capacity was limited, the pirates were facing little in the way of pushback. 

The main local source of piracy was the Niger river delta…

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Tanzania Suspends Chinese Port

Tanzanian President John Magufili announced on June 14 he was suspending construction of the $ 10 billion Bagamayo port, the largest Chinese port project in East Africa and a key element of the Belt Road Initiative. He criticized the Chinese for placing conditions that would only be accepted by “mad people” including that no rival ports would be built along much of the coast, China receive a 99-year lease and that Tanzania should not question any investments made in the port area. Magufili…

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Egypt Moves to Save Water

Egypt has begun enacting tighter water management policies as it faces a decreasing supply of water from its lifeline, the Nile. The country’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation announced in May a 20-year plan to reduce consumption, encourage recycling of water and the use of desalinated water for urban centres. After many years of delay, the government placed a ban on the amount of water-intensive rice that farmers can grow.  But in a sign of how difficult it is to move away from…

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Abortive Coup Attempt in Ethiopia

A failed coup attempt that killed four people, including its chief of army staff and a provincial governor, rocked Ethiopia’s polity in late June. The coup leader, Brigadier General Asaminew Tsige, was killed while trying to escape from a hideout. Some 250 people have since been arrested. The coup puts a question mark over Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s attempts to introduce democratic reforms to Ethiopia. 

Tsige was an Amhara, the second largest ethnic group in the country and one…

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Belt, Road and Science

One of the less known aspects of the Chinese-led Belt Road Initiative is its plans for joint scientific centres between China and various African countries. The Joint Sino-African Research Centre between the Chinese Academy of Science and Jomo Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, is the first of a number of envisaged centres. The Kenya centre is expected to serve as the headquarters for several other such centres ranging from Guinea to Madagascar. Most of these centres will focus on…

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Africa Leads War on Plastic

Africa is the world leader in banning single-use plastic bags with, at last count, 34 countries on the continent having put a ban on this latest environmental villain.
 
Tanzania, for example, is now forcing tourists to leave bags at the airport when they arrive. Some African countries insist foreign visitors must leave with any Ziploc bags that they bring to their country. Kenya is rated to have the world’s strictest laws on the use of plastic with violators facing fines of…

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Ramaphosa Wins in South Africa

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress successfully cruised to another national electoral victory in early May, confirming Cyril Ramaphosa as the country’s president. Ramaphosa had come to power after corruption scandals had triggered an intra-party revolt against his predecessor, Jacob Zuma. 

Ramaphosa faced dissent from Zuma’s supporters within his party, and electoral opposition from the white-dominated Democratic Alliance and a radical leftwing party, the…

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Hundreds of fake Facebook and Instagram accounts were removed by Facebook after they were found to be vehicles for social media attacks in election campaigns in Africa and elsewhere. Facebook said the accounts were operated by an Israeli marketing firm, Archimedes Group, and had been used to influence elections in Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Algeria as well as nine other countries outside Africa. 

Facebook said the accounts has been used to disseminate false information…

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Sudan Cracks Down on Protestors

The Sudanese military regime cracked down on pro-democracy protestors on June 3, ending civilian protests against the regime that began in December last year. Over 115 people were killed when soldiers attacked a protest site and rampaged through Khartoum. The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said 40 bodies were pulled out of the Nile, while a large number of women protestors were raped. The government admitted 61 deaths. 
The protests had led the regime to push out long-reigning…

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E-Commerce Firm Jumia Goes Public

Jumia, an e-commerce platform, went public on the New York Stock Exchange in mid-April and immediately reached a valuation of over one billion dollars. While branded by the media as “the first African tech startup" critics asked whether it was genuinely African and whether it represented a sound investment. 

Jumia claims to have four million dedicated users, of which about a third are in Nigeria, the company’s largest market. But the company lost one billion…

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General Haftar Goes to Tripoli

In the latest chapter in Libya’s continuing civil war, March saw the rebel army of General Khalifa Haftar move from its bases in Tobruk and Benghazi in eastern Libya all the way into the suburbs of the capital Tripoli. Neighbouring militia then mobilised to support the United Nations-backed Tripoli government and by mid-April Haftar’s offensive into Tripoli had started to grind to a halt. Reports of airstrikes and the arrival of armed patrol boats indicate the foreign backers of both Libyan…

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In an example of how Africa’s governments fail to benefit from their mineral sales, a Reuters analysis showed that the United Arab Emirates in 2016 imported more gold from Africa than any other country but almost none of this was listed in the export figures of the African countries concerned. 

The Reuters study showed that the UAE imported $ 15.1 billion worth of gold from Africa in 2016, about 446 tonnes of gold. Of the 46 African countries from which the UAE imports gold, 25…

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This year’s mini-Arab Spring ended the decades long reigns of Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria and Omar al Bashir in Sudan. The struggle of power between the entrenched politico-military establishments of the two countries and the popular movements dominating the streets, however, continues to play out. 

Sudan’s ruling Military Transitional Council and the opposition alliance, the Declaration of Freedom and Changes Forces, agreed in principle in mid-April to form a joint body to…

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A to Zoning of African Politics

Oxford University Press has published a new Dictionary of African Politics that puts together a lexicon of African political terms. Besides some difficult academic concepts like neo-patrimonialism, it also include the following:

Zoning: A Nigerian expression to describe the practice of alternating the presidency between the northern and southern parts of the country.

Skirt and Blouse Voting: A Kenyan expression to split one’s presidential and legislative votes…

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Rwanda Vs Uganda

Rwanda and Uganda relations have hit a new low with the former virtually closing its borders to all trade and human movement from its eastern neighbour. The falling out between Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, and Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, is the culmination of a series of incidents going back to two years.

Last year, Uganda arrested and dismissed a number of senior security officers claiming they were assisting the Rwandan authorities to track and extradite political…

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The head of Algeria’s ruling party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), on March 21 declared his party’s support for the popular protests calling for the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Media reports say Bouteflika, who has ruled Algeria for 19 years, may step down on April 28.

The protests began in February when Bouteflika, 82, announced plans to run for a fifth term as president and hold elections in April. In a mass movement that has drawn parallels to the…

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US Media on Africa

A study on US media coverage of Africa released in January concluded that not only does Africa receive little attention, what little it does is marked by negative stereotypes. The report, by the Norman Lear Center of the University of Southern California, looked at print, television and social media.

Among its findings were that Europe received about seven times more references than Africa; out of 700,000 hours of television programming only 25 major scripted storylines were…

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India Helps Out Mozambique

India was among the first international responders to arrive at the Mozambican port of Beira after it faced the full brunt of Cyclone Idai on March 15. Three Indian naval ships, INS Sujatha, INS Shardul and INS Sarathi, arrived with food, clothes, medicine and potable water five days after the storm hit the Mozambican coast. Mozambique’s defence minister visited the ships as the aid was transferred to the local defence forces. 

According to the Red Cross, the cyclone…

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Italians Make a Return to the Horn

Fed up with the European Union’s inability to stop the waves of African migrants arriving in southern Europe, Italy is making a cautious return to its colonial-era stamping grounds of Eritrea in Ethiopia. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte made a state visit to the two countries in October last year, the first high-level outreach by Italy to the Horn of Africa since the 1990s. 

Conte’s action is partly a sign of Italy’s desperation regarding its refugee crisis. Illegal seaborne…

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About the Author

Pramit Pal Chaudhury

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Foreign Editor, Hindustan Times, and Distinguished Fellow & Head, Strategic Affairs, Ananta Aspen Centre

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri writes on political, security, and economic issues. He previously wrote for the Statesman and the Telegraph in Calcutta. He served on the National Security Advisory Board of the Indian government from 2011-2015. Among other affiliations, he is a member of the Asia Society Global Council, the Aspen Institute Italia, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and the Mont Pelerin Society. Pramit is also a senior associate of Rhodium Group, New York City, advisor to the Bower Group Asia in India, a member of the Council on Emerging Markets, Washington, DC, and a delegate for the Confederation of Indian Industry-Aspen Strategy Group Indo-U.S. Strategic Dialogue and the Ananta Aspen Strategic Dialogues with Japan, China and Israel. Born in 1964, he has visited over fifty countries on five continents. Mr. Pal Chaudhuri is a history graduate from Cornell University.