AfricaSource|Strategic Insight on the New Africa

The global HIV/AIDS epidemic and the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak varied in length, number of lives lost, and geographic areas affected. However, both posed national security risks to the United States, and both therefore prompted large-scale US government responses: the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Operation United Assistance in Liberia, respectively. Today, the United States is confronting these kinds of public health crises as well as a score of terrorist threats, and it is possible that the two problems could merge as terrorists seek to use bioterrorism to achieve their goals. US national security has traditionally focused on security’s “hard” elements—terrorism, state collapse, and crime. But public health threats—whether introduced deliberately through bioterrorism or emerging from natural causes as the 2014 Ebola outbreak did—also pose a significant threat to the homeland and thus deserve to be prioritized by the United States.

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Explicitly invoking the US aid initiative that rebuilt Western Europe’s devastated infrastructure and weakened economies after World War II as a bulwark against Communist expansionism, the German government unveiled its ambitious framework for a “Marshall Plan with Africa” (Eckpunkte für einen Marshallplan mit Afrika) on January 18 with the twin objectives of increasing trade and development on the continent and hopefully reducing mass migration flows north across the Mediterranean.

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French President François Hollande went to Bamako, Mali, last week for the twenty-seventh Africa-France Summit, his last scheduled visit to Africa before he leaves office in May, having been forced to give up any hope of a second term by the most abysmal approval ratings of any head of state in this history of the Fifth Republic. Running for the presidency five years ago, Hollande included in his election manifesto, 60 Engagements pour la France, a promise to definitively break with “Françafrique,” the neocolonial pact between France and its former colonies, in favor of “a new relationship founded on equality, trust, and solidarity.” Given Africa’s rising geopolitical heft and burgeoning economic dynamism, the legacy the French leader actually leaves in the region—which has been a bright spot amid Hollande’s widespread unpopularity—is of significant import not only for Africans, but also for France, its European neighbors, and, indeed, the wider transatlantic community.

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The continued failure of commodity prices to recover significantly and the global slowdown of economic growth, especially in China and other emerging markets, made 2016 a tumultuous year for many African economies, indeed, “the worst year for average economic growth” in the region in over twenty years, according to a report from Ernst & Young. Compounding these trends, varying dynamics within the continent’s biggest economies meant that Nigeria slipped into recession while South Africa barely lurched forward with anemic 0.2 percent growth in the third quarter. Looking ahead, those countries which have diversified their economies, focused on energy infrastructure, and promoted industrialization will be best poised to overcome the current challenges and succeed in 2017.

As Aubrey Hruby and I documented in a report last year, those countries that rely heavily on the export of one or two resources to drive their economic growth have suffered as a result of the emerging market downturn and its knock-on effects, both in terms of demand for their commodities and in availability of financing for their major infrastructure and other development projects.

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Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is unlikely to abide by the terms of an agreement that aims to end his fifteen-year rule and ensure the DRC’s first-ever democratic transition of power, said J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.

“Miracles can happen and I guess, in the Christmas spirit, one wants to acknowledge the possibility, but I would not wager” that Kabila will keep his end of the bargain, said Pham, who also serves as vice president for research and regional initiatives at the Atlantic Council.

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The United States must work to avoid another ‘world war’ in Africa, says Atlantic Council’s J. Peter Pham


The United States must ratchet up pressure on Congolese President Joseph Kabila in an attempt to convince him to leave office; a failure to do so would risk dragging the country and its neighbors into a costly war, said J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.

Kabila’s decision to remain president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) beyond his constitutionally mandated two terms has sparked deadly protests across the country. Etienne Tshisekedi, a senior opposition leader, called on the Congolese people to peacefully resist an “illegal, illegitimate leader.” Nevertheless, hundreds of protesters have clashed with security forces.

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Over the weekend, European Union (EU) officials struck a deal with the West African nation of Mali to provide development funds in exchange for the country accepting the return of Malians whose asylum requests have been refused in Europe. While all the details of the agreement have yet to be announced, a brief statement by the Dutch foreign ministry indicated that Mali would receive 145.1 million euros of support across nine projects—six focused on Mali and three focused regionally. These projects would be aimed at both creating jobs and strengthening Mali’s border management capacity, including reinforcing the state’s registration system and implementing identity cards and biometric passports.

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US President-elect Donald Trump must make Africa a priority because it is in the United States’ interest to help tackle the security, humanitarian, and developmental challenges emanating from the continent, according to J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.

Pham said the Trump administration must focus its Africa strategy on four key principles—earned engagement, realistic expectations, effective partners and partnerships, and flexible structures. Pham, who is vice president for research and regional initiatives at the Atlantic Council, is also the author of a new paper—“A Measured US Strategy for the New Africa.” The paper will be released on December 5.

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A briefer on Zimbabwe's impending quasi-currency

Seven years since abandoning its own currency, Zimbabwe’s government is moving full steam ahead to introduce what it calls “bond notes” into the country’s multi-currency system. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) announced this month that it has released the regulations creating the legal precedent to print and circulate the bond notes. The significance of the RBZ clearing its last “regulatory hurdle” is lost on many, and for good reason. Zimbabwe’s bizarre financial system requires some explanation especially given the fact that the term bond notes is widely unknown. Instead, it’s something the RBZ has invented in an attempt to dig itself out of the severe cash crisis plaguing the country’s rock bottom economy. This briefer provides some background information in anticipation of the imminent release of the notes.  

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With increased partnership at the top of the agenda, a September meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and over fifteen African heads of state at the margins of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) marks a critical point in Israel’s recent refocus on Africa. Conventional analysis on recent Israel-Africa relations suggests that Israel’s primary goal is to break up a traditionally anti-Israel voting bloc within the United Nations. However, current Israeli engagement with Africa goes beyond Israel’s short-term strategic interests. Deeper Israel-Africa ties are potentially a win-win situation, offering economic advancement and increased security cooperation for Israel and the continent alike.

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