This Week in Africa, July 23, 2021

Democracy. Development. Daily Life.


“The oft-repeated mantra that ‘we're in this together’ rings hollow when a privileged few have more vaccines than they need and a great many have nothing.”

Journalist Larry Madowo


I am excited for the Monkey Cage’s African Politics Summer Reading Spectacular! Here is the week in Africa:

Disillusionment in South Africa

There is a semblance of calm in South Africa after days of violence and looting. But things will not return to normal, as the recent events were “a moment of rupture.” The violence was an uprising by elites, not the people. This is the fault-lines of the world’s most unequal society. Mohammed Jameel Abdulla argues that South Africa has gaping wounds that require healing and material investments. The rule of justice is more important than the rule of law. Looting is nothing new, as politicians and the elite have been stealing from the country for years. Niren Tolsi provides an excellent personal narrative of the events in KwaZulu -Natal, and how the events hearken back to 1949. There is no silver lining to South Africa’s Zuma insurrection. Read this helpful thread.

An oldie but a good one: Benjamin Fogel and Sean Jacobs explain why South Africa needs democratic socialism. Jess Auerbach argues that South Africa is not a failed state, but part of a failed global system. All these events are part of a long historical process contributing to what I call political sting.

Struggle for rights and freedom

Ugandan activists describe months of physical abuse in prison. Neha Wadekar investigateshow the fight for Cabo Delgado is a hidden war for Mozambique’s natural resources. South Sudanese pastor Reverend James Ninrew Dong asks: What happened to our “freedom, justice, and equality”? The Zulu royal house conflict escalates. Protests continue in eSwatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy. Taxi wars continue in Western Cape.

Meet the men tasked with rebuilding Sudan. This is an interesting analysis of South Africa’s constitutional court. Ethiopia’s Tigray forces say they’ve released 1,000 soldiers. The country needs real political dialogue between groups. Alex Thurston explains why Jihadists are collecting “zakat” in the Sahel. Protesters rally outside Paul Biya’s hotel in Geneva. Yonatan Morse analyzes Samia Suluhu Hassan’s first 100 days in office and what it means for the future of the CCM. Security forces arrested main opposition leader Freeman Mbowe this week. Paul Rusesabagina’s daughter is the victim of a near constant surveillance campaign. This is an interesting discussion of Ghana’s census. What are the effects of Boko Haram stockpiling weapons on the Lake Chad basin? Does Nigeria need another national conference? What is the fate of Kenya’s counties?

And get your Sahel news here

Migration and displacement

This report offers lessons on how to expand migration pathways from Nigeria to Europe. These policies could provide a migration model that works for everyone. I look forward to seeing Kakuma: My City. Record numbers are fleeing violence in Burkina Faso. Malawi is becoming less and less welcome to refugees. This article examines the neglected colonial legacy of the 1951 refugee convention. Robtel Neajai Pailey discusses Liberia’s political economy of belonging. Hosting refugees does not increase conflict risk, and might reduce it.

African international relations

Judd Devermont discusses American foreign policy options in Africa on the Lawfare podcast. CSIS also outlines a new economic partnership with the continent. Hanae Bezad’s new piece “Boosting Cultural Readiness for a Pan African Momentum” looks great. The US carried out its first air strike in Somalia under Biden, and Ilhan Omar wants answers.

Read this: Oumar Ba’s “Global Justice and Race.”

China in Africa

How will the West counter China’s growing role on the continent? Can China help break the deadlock in the Nile Dam dispute?

How is China impacting African cities?

I ask this question in my new commentary for Management and Organization Review. China is a model for what African countries can achieve, but it is also actively shaping the contours of African urbanization through funding for infrastructure, planning expertise, and knowledge sharing. I make three points: 1) China is a model and an enabler, 2) The meaning of infrastructure matters, and 3) China is helping reshape urban space. See my summary thread here, and I’d be curious to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Africa’s rapid urbanization

Lagos experiences severe floods this week, as this photo of cars under water show. Here are a few more. This piece discusses green spaces and urban forests in Kenya and Ethiopia. This article examples the entangled governance surrounding the Konkomba Market in Accra. Tanzania will receive its first electric SGR trains by November. A Turkish-built mosque in Ghana has opened to worshippers. Lagos is growing into its role as Africa’s Silicon Valley. This is why CARE is addressing urban issues in Africa. Check out this scoping study of Addis Ababa. This article examines air quality, environmental justice, and curfews in Nairobi. Small towns are collapsing across South Africa.

A resilience reset is needed to build sustainable cities. Learn more about water resilience in a changing urban context. Get your copy of Cities in the Anthropocene: New Ecology and Urban Politics. This is an interesting article about critical infrastructures and the Hargeisa Airport in Somaliland. And the Urban Institute has published some great books.

Research corner

Check out Judith Byfield’s The Great Upheaval: Women and Nation in Postwar Nigeria.  Qualitative Comparative Analysis Using R: A Beginner’s Guide looks interesting. Micro, bottom-up research is crucial to understanding power and politics. Why is it so difficult for states to build capacity?

Catherine Boone, Fibian Lukalo, and Sandra Joireman published this excellent article on settlement schemes in Kenya between 1962 and 2016 (the incredible data that maps the schemes over time is available at the Harvard Dataverse). Sneha Annavarapu and Zachary Levenson’s special issue on ethnographies of the state looks awesome. Deodatus Patrick Shayo has a new GLD Working Paper on citizen participation in the age of crowdsourcing in Tanzania. Dan Paget explains where opposition parties focus their energy in Tanzania. Leila Demarest examines elite clientelism in Nigeria. This article examines Al-Shabaab pledges to Al Qaeda.Check out Farai Chipato’s article on performative citizenship in Zimbabwe.

Go to Charleston for the Southeast Regional Seminar in African Studies (SERSAS) & Southeast Africanist Network (SEAN) annual conference. Also attend the African Studies Association of Africa conference in Cape Town. And listen to GLD’s Governance Uncovered podcast.

Common pool resources metaketa results

The Metaketa initiative for natural resource governance and common pool resources is complete, and results are published in PNAS. Here is a summary: “In a meta-analysis of the experimental results from the six sites, we find that the community monitoring reduced CPR use and increased user satisfaction and knowledge by modest amounts. Our findings demonstrate that community monitoring can improve CPR management in disparate contexts, even when monitoring is externally initiated rather than homegrown.”

Africa Spectrum book reviews

Aishwarya Bhuta reviews Rebecca Warne Peters’ Implementing Inequality: The Invisible Labor of International Development. Gino Vlavonou reviewsHunting Game: Raiding Politics in the Central African Republic by Louisa Lombard.

The week in development

Ghana’s development professionals are not getting the credit they deserve, but also don’t have the power to determine where and how aid is spent. Here is an explainer on Ethiopia’s mega dam and the politics around it. There is a bird flu outbreak in Ghana. The future of humanity will be less white and increasingly African. Banks are opening up on every cornerin Nigeria. Kenya is not putting its local founders first. Nanjala Nyabola asks: What is the language of our digital future? Can tourism bounce back after the pandemic?


The Lancet argues that solidarity and collaboration is key to defeating coronavirus. Africa needs vaccines, not travel bans. The vaccine shortage is about inequality, not only corruption. The US donated millions of doses to several African countries. Pfizer will turn to a South African plant to produce vaccines. The US and China are both failing the global leadership test when it comes to vaccines. There is great injustice to the vaccine apartheid.

This is an interesting article about how Niger has largely avoided the worst of the coronavirus. These poor nations are trailing in the fight against COVID-19. Kenya mishandled its COVID cash program for the poor. Larry Madowo provides this account of the devastation in Kenya (and watch the video here). Mary Robinson outlines a human rights centered approach to combating COVID-19. Who’s catching the coronavirus in Kenya?

Africa and the environment

Could Gabon become a green superpower? South African farmers need drought insurance. Madagascar is experiencing a climate change-driven famine. This grant will cover carbon monitoring on the continent. Conflict threatens Mozambique’s gas ambitions. A systems approach is needed to combat food insecurity. Coastal erosion threatens Senegal’s rock climbing clique.

Giannis Antetokounmpo wins the NBA Championship

Nigerian-born, Greek citizen Giannis Antetokounmpo played the game of a lifetime to help the Milwaukee Bucks win the NBA Championship. He has an incredible immigrant story that also represents the internationalization of the NBA. His family was unwelcome in Greece – at first. He never forgot where he came from and is proud of his Nigerian roots. Nigerians now know who he is. I can’t wait to read Mirin Fader’s new book on Giannis’ incredible rise to become the best basketball player in the world. A big congrats!

Daily life

This is a very cool piece about Africa’s new and emerging literary magazines. Football in Mogadishu. Swahili architecture is magnificent. Quadri Aruna is a table tennis star. Let’s celebrate the growing influence of African comics. African football coaches still face significant racism. The spirit of Tsepo Tshola. These elite athletes are fighting for acceptance. Check out Rest of the World’s Spotify Playlist. This playlist is good too! Ethiopia is #JeorgeFloyd. And Angelique Kidjo puts Africa at the center.

All the best,

Jeff and Phil

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