analysisBy African Arguments
Welcome to a special free edition of The Insiders’ Newsletter!
Every week, our eagle-eyed team of journalists and experts having been breaking down key stories from Africa and sending them off to our growing pool of ever-better-informed “insiders”. If you’d like to get these snappy insights too, click here to sign up. Your modest fee not only pays for the subscription, but helps support African Arguments’ core mission of providing freely-accessible news and analysis.
See a free preview of this week’s Insiders’ Newsletter below:
What everyone is talking about:
Why Buhari’s likes Trump
President Muhammadu Buhari became the first leader from sub-Saharan Africa to be received by Donald Trump in the White House, more than 15 months after the US president’s inauguration. Trump has in the past labelled African nations as “shithole” countries, included several of them in various travel ban orders, called Namibia “Nambia” during a meeting with African leaders, and has been openly critical of development aid and migration from Africa. With Nigerians being the largest African migrant community in the US and Nigeria one of the largest recipient of US aid in Africa, the visit of Buhari, a Muslim, was anticipated with great interest.
As all things related to Trump, the visit had its share of absurd, amusing and telling moments. It was notable that the only women present at a high-level meeting were from Nigeria’s delegation, while it was interesting that it was Buhari rather than Trump that emphasised the commitment of both countries to “a democratic model of governance”. Trump instead focused his remarks on his pet topic of “fair” trade relations and the killing of Christians in Nigeria.
From what we know about actual discussions on the working level, Buhari’s visit focussed on three issues: securing greater US assistance and investment, especially in agriculture; demanding greater support in recovering Nigerian funds that left the country through corruption; and cooperation in fighting Boko Haram.
Buhari took pragmatic approach, refusing to get baited into criticising the US president for his past gaffes. At least on military cooperation this tactic has shown positive results, with Trump greenlighting a $500m arms deal that includes several Super Tucano aircraft that have long been on the military’s wish list.
From Nigeria’s perspective, Trump’s presidency is likely much less of a problem than it is for many others. With considerable opportunities for US exports, Nigeria can take advantage of Trump’s bilateral approach to trade negotiations. Meanwhile, security assistance to African countries has intensified, not least because human rights are of little concern to this US administration. Buhari, it seems, has come to the conclusion that Trump may not be a terribly knowledgable or cordial partner, but one that he can work with.
@JohnCampbellcfr of the Council on Foreign Relations previews Buhari’s main agenda items for the trip to Washington
Press release of the Nigerian government outlining the plans for the trip
Interesting twitter threat by @KOpalo on why the Trump administration has been better for Africa (and Nigeria) than expected
Transcript of the initial remarks by Presidents Trump and Buhari before their meeting
Video of the joint press conference of the two leaders
Reuters article on the arms deal with details on the Super Tucano aircraft sold to Nigeria
Background on violence against christians in Nigeria (hint: it’s more complicated than Trump lets on) from the AFP
For a bit of insight into how Boko Haram works, check out this neat piece of reporting in Nigeria’s today, detailing the tax structure Boko Haram it introduced into a recently conquered town.
Compiled by @PeterDoerrie
What we are talking about:
What’s gonna happen in South Sudan?
Pity the negotiators scrambling to coordinate South Sudan’s peace talks.
Negotiations to end the four-year conflict, overseen by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), are on the brink of collapse again. This follows the government’s growing intransigence. President Salva Kiir has rejected calls to step down as part of a settlement, while his administration is threatening to move forward with elections despite warnings from virtually every international body that they would have no legitimacy and only entrench the opposition.
Meanwhile, that opposition continues to grow, making the task of wrangling all the different demands ever more difficult. Kiir’s former army chief of staff is the latest to join opposition ranks, announcing the formation of a new party last month. The developments were too much for IGAD negotiators, who are postponing negotiations scheduled to start later this month.
IGAD’s latest efforts were already drawing some concern for bringing little new to the table. Negotiators seem intent on brokering a power-sharing arrangement despite the earlier failure of a similar effort. And that’s when there were fewer parties involved.
As talks falter, the situation in South Sudan deteriorates. No one is even able to count the civilian dead, though at least two million people are internally displaced and another two million have fled the country. The Red Cross brokered the release of ten aid workers kidnapped by an armed opposition group earlier this week, but three others were killed. At least 100 humanitarians have now been killed since the conflict started.
At this point, it will likely take pressure from regional leaders to get the talks back on track. Kiir’s administration has shown relatively little concern for criticism from – and sanctions by – Western powers or the UN. But neighboring leaders helped mediate a previous deal and continue to have influence over Kiir. If he will listen to anyone, it is likely to be them.
@okechtabban with Kiir’s explanation for why he has turned down calls to resign.
@alyverjee and @SusanStigant detail the pitfalls of the power-sharing arrangement the South Sudan negotiators continue to push.
Kiir’s former army chief of staff explains why he decided to create an opposition group.
Compiled by @_andrew_green
Hear this Word!
Africa’s next female president: where & when?
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been awarded a $5 million prize for excellence in African leadership and said she will use it to establish a centre for women’s empowerment. Sirleaf, 79, stepped down as president of Liberia early this year after two terms in office.
This episode prompted debate of when and where Africa’s next female president would be elected. Since Ameenah Gurib-Fakim resigned from the presidency in Mauritius, Africa has had no female head of state or government.
We are trying to think of the next African country that will have a female leader. We estimate it will take at least 20 years. Can you think of a country that might get there faster?
— Nanjala Nyabola (@Nanjala1) April 27, 2018
So who might be next?
Namibia is a possibility. According to Africa Confidential, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, foreign minister and vice president of the ruling party, is “perfectly positioned to become the next head of state at the end of President Hage Geingob’s second term in 2025, or earlier, should his health fail.” (Geingob is 76; three years ago his personal physician declared he was the “healthiest 47-year-old” he had ever seen.)
Malawi is another contender. Former president Joyce Banda returned to Malawi this weekend after a four-year self-imposed exile. She lad left Malawi in 2014 after losing an election to current president Peter Mutharika, in the wake of the so-called Cashgate corruption scandal. Local media have reported a possible deal between Mutharika and Banda ahead of next year’s elections.
Beyond that, it is difficult to see other clear possibilities. Africa currently has four women deputy or vice presidents: Tanzania (Samia Suluhu), The Gambia (Fatoumata Tambajang), Liberia (Jewel Taylor) and Zambia (Inonge Wina). In theory, they are second-in-command in their respective countries, but in terms of actual political power, the picture is very different. In much of Africa, women tend to get stuck in the “deputy” role; there is now broader consensus for women in leadership, but party machinery in most countries is not willing to propose a woman for the top job. And even when women do ascend to leadership, it tends to be in an appointed role.
Sirleaf’s 2006 election as Africa’s first female president provides some clues on the context that breaks barriers for women. One of them is conflict. Societies that have gone through the devastation of war are often more willing to experiment with the more stereotypically peaceful and less militaristic approach associated with female leadership.
One hopes it will not take conflict though for Africa to see its next female leader.
More on the unusual circumstances and synergistic forces that produce women in top political leadership roles in Africa, by @cobbo3
A 2015 list of the some of the many women who have tried – and failed – for president in Africa; some of the names are familiar, many more are not
Compiled by @chris_mungai
Chart of the week:
Africa’s best and brightest are often host countries’ best and brightest too
This is not a terribly new insight: In contrast to populist rhetoric, migrants to industrialised nations, including from African countries, tend to be well educated and skilled. But a Pew Research study found some interesting discrepancies between Western host countries. Key takeaways:
Host countries with relatively open migration policies like America’s diversity visa programme or ties based on colonial relationships like the UK, France and Portugal correlate with a highly skilled African migrant population.
Highly-educated native populations correlate with highly-educated immigrant populations from Africa.
Pew theorises that this is due to the fact that in countries with a long histories of African migration and well-educated native populations both attract higher-skilled migrants and offer more opportunities for them to attain higher education
This echoes a study from Germany, where immigrants are more likely to study at a university than natives. But there are also some blind spots to Pew’s data: namely the situation of illegal migrants and how migrants and natives without a college degree compare to each other in terms of education or skills.
Overall, studies like these should encourage policymakers to spend less time on populist anti-migration rhetoric, and more effort on structuring migration and integration policies to benefit all. Unfortunately, win-win politics continues to be an underappreciated sport in these times.
@TheYomiKazeem reports for Quartz Africa on Pew’s findings
Pew Research’s original study
Report on migration and education in Germany (in German)
Compiled by @PeterDoerrie
Tweet of the week:
The sounds of religion
-Lagos closed churches for excessive noise.
-Kigali banned mosques from using loudspeakers.
-Accra wants mosques to use WhatsApp to call members to prayers:
How religion is clashing with efforts to tackle noise pollution in Africa. https://t.co/8tJhW5b0PO – @qzafrica
— Quartz Africa (@qzafrica) April 25, 2018
Many African cities have amazing and sometimes overwhelming soundscapes. Religion (or to be more exact: religious congregations) contributes significantly to this and not always in a pleasant way. So it is encouraging to see that noise pollution is getting attention from politicians and it will be interesting to see how they manage inevitable resistance to change.
Compiled by @PeterDoerrie
What else you should be reading
A member of Uganda’s presidential guard fled, but the more interesting part of this report from @tbutagira is the background about the time in 2013 when 400 soldiers deserted after they were forced to work as laborers on the president’s ranch.
@EmmanuelFreuden explains how a team of reporters tracked the Cameroonian president’s frequent travels and details the blowback they have gotten from his supporters.
Darius Okolla’s (@TweetingBandit) sterling piece on why millenials are Kenya’s – and the continent’s – best hope for change despite being a demographic dismissed for being shallow and tech-obsessed is a must read.
Why Hugh Masekela’s “Stimela” is the best anthem for Labour/ Worker’s Day, celebrated this week on May 1.
Three of the 10 countries least likely to vote alongside the United States at the United Nations are in Africa. @raediology asks if the U.S. follow through on threats to cut funding?
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies found in a study that African countries with term limits for their presidents tend to be more stable
Chatham House’s Ahmed Soliman likes Ethiopia’s new prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s approach to reforms
This week’s editorial team: @PeterDoerrie, @chris_mungai, @_andrew_green, @jamesjwan