AfricaSource Strategic Insight on the New Africa

The Africa Center hosted a busy week of events around the US-Africa Leaders Summit, welcoming four heads of state, the head of a regional governmental organization, numerous ministers, corporate executives, and other stakeholders for lively and thoughtful conversations about the important African issues of the day. Below is a sampling of some of our favorite photos from the week—we hope they will give you a feel for the breadth and diversity of our events, and the interesting discussions they provoked among participants.

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Africa's demographic trends have been gaining attention for years, and our last maps for this week show why. Africa today has just over 1 billion people, but by the end of this century it is projected to hold more than 4 billion. Nigeria is a major part of the story; already Africa's most populous country with approximately 178 million people, its population is projected to grow to more than 900 million by 2100. Or in other words, in 2100 almost every fourth African will be a Nigerian.

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Today's graphs show selected trading heavyweights and their five largest African trading partners, along with the trade volume by US dollar amount per country. The BRICS countries minus China are presented in a bar graph for ease of comparison.

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Today’s map documents the primary imports and exports, and primary export destinations, of all African countries (excluding Swaziland, for which there is no recent data). China leads the pack as the primary export destination for fourteen countries, while nine countries export primarily to Europe. Most of the latter are in North Africa, unsurprising given those countries’ geographical proximity as well as historical and linguistic ties to Europe.

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The US-Africa Leaders Summit concluded last week, and in honor of the billions of dollars' worth of deals that emerged from the Summit, the Africa Center has created a series of maps and charts—a new one of which will be released daily—highlighting different aspects of the continent's economic story. The map featured here presents three basic economic indicators for each country in Africa, and notes the ten-fastest growing economies on the continent. Tomorrow's map will explore African trade.

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Visiting Fellow Aubrey Hruby discusses her hopes of seeing increased US business interest and investment in Africa as a result of the US-Africa Leaders Summit, as well as what she believes the long-term impact of the historic gathering will be.

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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, greets Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore upon his arrival at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on Sept. 23, 2013. The two leaders will meet to discuss security issues of mutual importance.   DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo.
Although scores of African heads of state and government who will be arriving in Washington in coming days for the historic US-Africa Leaders Summit, media attention will likely focus on only a handful of leaders either because of the economic heft of their countries or because of the controversies surrounding them. This is regrettable since, in addition to the business deals to be struck and the challenges to be confronted, the gathering should also be an opportunity to strengthen ties with a number of countries and leaders who, away from the limelight, have quietly proven themselves to be remarkably reliable partners to the United States. One such country is Burkina Faso, whose President Blaise Compaoré will be hosted by the Atlantic Council next week.

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On April 30, the leader of Senegal’s main separatist rebel group, the Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC,) agreed to a ceasefire and peace talks to end one of Africa’s longest-running civil conflicts, which has sputtered off and on in the country’s southern Casamance region for the last thirty-two years.

The separatist movement poses no existential threat to Senegal – one of Africa’s more stable democracies – but it remains a reputational blemish and has hamstrung economic growth. If successful, the April 30 agreement will provide an opening for the Senegalese government to redevelop the Casamance economy, integrate the region into national politics, and – hopefully – to redirect more of its formidable military resources towards peacekeeping efforts in West Africa.

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On May 11 China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang formally signed a deal with a number of East African leaders for the Export Import Bank of China to finance the first stage of a modern railway network that would connect the major cities of the East African Community (EAC)—Bujumbura, Juba, Kampala, Nairobi and Kigali—with the coast. The initial segment will provide a rail link between the region’s major economic hub, Nairobi, and the port city of Mombasa. These 610 kilometers of track are expected to cost $3.8 billion, 90 percent of which will be funded by the Export Import Bank and 10 percent by the Kenyan government. Construction is expected to begin in October 2014 and finish in 2017. China’s state-owned construction firm, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), will be the principal contractor.

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Earlier this week, Argentine stocks plummeted after the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the Argentine government in an epic court battle with angry investors. The case pitted Argentina against US-based investors, both big and small, who lost fortunes during the South American country’s 2001-2002 economic implosion when it defaulted on its bonds—a total loss of nearly $100 billion. Among other holdouts, the New York-based hedge fund NML Capital Limited refused a restructuring of bonds it held and instead sought legal redress for the almost $1.3 billion face value of the IOUs it held. The Supreme Court’s ruling backs up a Ghanaian court which, two years earlier, concluded that Argentina should pay back its creditors.

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