This Week in Africa: an amazing weekly links round-up

October 21, 2017

     By Duncan Green     

If you’re interested in more or less anything to do with Africa, check out ‘The Week in Africa’, an extraordinarily comprehensive round up of links by weekly email, put together by Jeff (American) and Phil (Zimbabwean) and hosted by the University of San Francicso. Sign up here.

Here’s this week’s bulletin:


“We have never seen such devastation. Not even in our dreams.”

Abdulkadir Abdirahman, director of Mogadishu’s ambulance service.

Everybody should read Lupita Nyong’o’s op-ed on Harvey Weinstein. Here is the week in Africa:

Bombing in Mogadishu

Mogadishu experienced one of the worst bombings in its history, killing more than 300 people and injuring 500 more. The video footage is devastating: it is a gravedigger’s worst nightmare. The president declared three days of mourning after the attack. The first responders are the unsung heroes. Turkey took the lead in the evacuation efforts, cementing its close ties with Somalia. Djibouti also contributed doctors. Technology played a key role in saving lives.

Before the bombing, the city was regaining stability, and Somalis in the diaspora had started to return home. But the bombing exposes security failures, as well as the possible infiltration of al-Shabab. It is possible that the attack was revenge for the botched US-led operation. Why aren’t we all with Somalia? The silver lining is that it brought shock, outrage, and resilience: Somalis volunteered in the clean up, and protested in the streets against terrorism and violence. Perhaps this provides the “break from the past” that Somalia needs. Can Somalia ever win against al-Shabab?

Liberia votes

Liberians went to the polls last week for its presidential election. Soccer star turned politician George Weah is the early leader in the count with 39% of the vote, and will face current Vice President Joseph Boakai (who had 29%) in a runoff on November 7. Could Weah win a runoff?

Kenya’s political struggle

Kenya’s electoral preparations are in shambles before next week’s vote. Election official Roselyn Akombe flees to the US after saying the IEBC is under “siege” and that the vote will not be free. Opposition leader Raila Odinga has threatened to boycott the polls. Of course, Kenyatta tells foreign powers to stay out of Kenyan affairs. Now the chairman of the electoral commission warned that he could not “truly be confident of the possibility of having a credible presidential election” because of “partisan political interests.” Clearly, Kenya’s political leaders are contributing to the political crisis. Here is everything you need to know about the situation.

Africa Confidential provides its take on the “political crisis.” This is a good briefing of the Supreme Court’s judgment. Meanwhile, Kenyan police instigated most of Kenya’s post-election violence, killing at least 33 people, Amnesty International reports. Boniface Mwangi is back at his best as an activist and protester. Aziz Rana makes the case against second-rate democracy in the country.

Ambush in Niger

Laura Seay is not happy with Rachel Maddow’s coverage of the ambush in Niger. Jason Warner provides an important overview of the terrorist affiliates in the region. John Kelly says the U.S. Special Forces are in Niger to “teach them how to respect human rights.” I’ll let Karen Attiah respond.

Struggle for rights and freedom

The Cameroonian government cracked down on protesters, arresting more than 500 people. LGBT activists worry about Trump’s impact on the continent. Resolving land disputes in Somalia is a difficult task. South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir says the country’s civil war is not his fault. This new piece examines the subtleties of authoritarianism in Museveni’s Uganda (remember: the US contributes to Museveni’s rule). The Ugandan government has arrested opposition leader Kizza Besigye, accusing him of attempted murder. This is a very interesting article about how celebrities like Jolie and Clooney interfere in the pursuit of global justice. Zimbabweans don’t want the government to monitor social media. Several people have died in Togo after an Imam was arrested. Can the UN help build a sustainable peace in Central African Republic? There is now a bronze statue of Jacob Zuma in Nigeria. Tanzanians are satisfied with democracy, but not entirely.

And there is no case for colonialism.

Plague outbreak in Madagascar

The plague is spreading at an alarming rate in Madagascar. The disease has been ruled out in the Seychelles, but health experts are on high alert. This is a helpful explainer on understanding plague in the 21st century.

Research corner

Nikki Morrison has a very interesting article about institutions and governance in African informal settlements. This new article looks at water governance in urban neighborhoods. I’m looking forward to reading Eric Kramon’s new book on electoral clientelism and vote buying in Africa. Check out the new book Understanding West Africa’s Ebola Epidemic. Congrats to Brandon Kendhammer, Abdoulaye Sounaye, and Daniel Eizenga on their new project that will examine the social impact of education on community responses to violent extremism. Jeremy Horowitz examines ethnicity and the swing vote in Kenya. Check out the new book Global Africa: Into the Twenty-First Century. The book Street Archives and City Life: Popular Intellectuals in Postcolonial Tanzania looks awesome. This book will tell you all you need to know about the history of Boko Haram.

Africa and the environment

Africa’s largest wind energy plant could relocate from Kenya to Tanzania. This is a really interesting article about how big water projects helped trigger the migrant crisis. Will the “Akon Lighting Africa” initiative electrify rural Mozambique?

The week in development

Scholars are calling for more manufacturing and industrial development in Africa. But can Africa be a manufacturing destination? One of the problems is that African labor costs remain high. Muhammad Yunus talks to Jeffrey Sachs about how to end global poverty. This new paper examines the economics of scaling up. Cheaper visas are more important than lower tariffs in boosting China-Nigeria trade. Rio Tinto is charged with fraud by US authorities. How does Equatorial Guinea spend its money? What’s behind Airbnb’s rising popularity in Africa?

When the Revolution Came for Amy Cuddy” is a must read about research, replication, and scholarly debate. Here is Andrew Gelman’s response. I agree with Claire Adida: “A little more empathy. A little less ‘gotcha.’”

Daily life

I love this: Nairobi’s rainy days. These portraits on the streets of Senegal are pretty cool. Listen to the Bawku West Collective. Anthony Bourdain does Lagos: more here. I want to visit Addis Ababa. Congrats to the nominees for the 2017 MOBO awards. This is a cool piece: The African churches of South Delhi.

All the best,

Jeff and Phil

October 21, 2017
Duncan Green