AfricaSource Strategic Insight on the New Africa

Over Egypt’s vocal dissent, Ethiopia is forging ahead with final construction on its ambitious Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River, the lifeblood of nearly 500 million Africans. As the region’s population is expected to double to a whopping one billion people over the next three decades, the dam will become more of a flashpoint in an already volatile region, and the rising political tension bodes poorly for East Africa’s future stability.

In November, after months of disagreement over the release of an environmental impact study, Egypt withdrew from technical negotiations on the GERD’s construction. Cairo worries that the project gives its upstream neighbor Ethiopia too much control over the Nile, which is Egypt’s primary freshwater resource. Meanwhile, an escalating diplomatic crisis between Egypt and Sudan, ostensibly over water issues but exacerbated by fallout from the Gulf crisis, has hardened the divisions between Egypt and an emerging Ethiopia-Sudan alliance.

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On Tuesday, January 23rd, Africa Center Senior Fellow Aubrey Hruby testified on US-Africa trade and investment before the US International Trade Commission hearing on US Trade and Investment with Sub-Saharan Africa: Recent Developments, #332-564.

Distinguished members of the committee, Ambassadors, and fellow witnesses:

I would like to begin by thanking you, not only for the opportunity to testify before you today, but also the attention that the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) has given to the topic of trade and investment with our partners across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

My name is Aubrey Hruby. I’m a Senior Fellow with the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council and I’ve spent the better part of my career advising Fortune 500 companies to design and implement successful investment and market entry strategies for over twenty African markets. I will devote my testimony to the following themes: 1) an assessment of US trade with SSA; 2) Africa’s increasing diversity of trading partners; 3) the role of the WTO’s TFA in stimulating economic growth and development on the continent; and 4) recommendations for the future.

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Cameroon’s crisis, which pits a marginalized group of English-speakers against the Francophone majority, has taken a dangerous turn. The conflict has its roots in the colonial era, when British and French territories were awkwardly combined to form modern-day Cameroon. Anglophones have wanted autonomy for decades, but in the past year, they have mounted a full-throated secessionist campaign. In October, Anglophone protests marred the country’s 56th anniversary of unification, triggering a violent crackdown by the state. Protestors have since begun attacking the security forces, and their demands for the creation of an independent nation, which they call “Ambazonia,” have become increasingly violent.

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The primary political fault line running through Cameroon, a country in Central Africa, is not ethnic, but linguistic – the population is divided between its English and French speaking parts. In recent months, the linguistic cleavage has started to widen, with increasing demands for Anglophone autonomy and secession. This amplification of decades-old divides is in large-part due to the repressive strategies employed by the Francophone central government in response. A continuation of this dispute may heighten the growing violence and security concerns in the country and threaten the stability of a region already facing extensive intra-state conflict.

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The ongoing military intervention in Zimbabwe effectively marks the end of Robert Mugabe’s thirty-seven-year hold on power, according to J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.

“In whatever way the developments of the last twenty-four to forty-eight hours play out, it is quite clear that the near-absolute grip that he had on power for almost four decades, that era has come to an end,” said Pham. 

The military said it has put Mugabe, who has led the country since 1980, under house arrest.

“The military seems to be taking a very careful approach in not formally declaring this a coup, but it is quite clear that, at least for now, they are in charge,” said Pham.

J. Peter Pham spoke in an interview with the New Atlanticist’s Ashish Kumar Sen. 

To read the interview, please click here. 

On November 3, the United States carried out two separate airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Somalia, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced in a statement. The operations marked the first time that US forces have targeted ISIS militants in the conflict-ridden Horn of Africa country, where al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab has been the primary focus of American and partner efforts in recent years. 

The strikes also underscore the shift in ISIS’ center of gravity following the group’s losses not only in Iraq and Syria this year, but also the routing of its affiliate in Libya last December. These developments have sent surviving fighters and arms flowing into more remote areas, including the Sahel, where the killing of four US Special Forces troops in an ambush in Niger in October focused attention on the new front lines of the fight. While most of the counterterrorism focus is on North and West Africa, where many ISIS recruits originally came from, the eastern side of the continent presents its own vulnerabilities.

To read more, click here.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, delivered a stern message to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir in their meeting in Juba on October 24: the United States is “disappointed” in Kiir’s leadership and he must not take US assistance for granted. In a stark reminder of the perilous situation in the six-year-old nation, Haley was later forced to hastily evacuate South Sudan after a group of anti-Kiir protesters turned violent.

Haley’s tough rhetoric raises the question: what, if anything, can the United States do to prevent the world’s youngest nation—one that it helped foster—from unraveling under the pressures of a protracted war, corrupt leaders, acute famine, and the displacement of its people?

To read more, click here.

This weekend’s truck bombing in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, was the worst assault on civilians in that country’s long, sad history. But such attacks are a weekly event in Somalia and have been for the past decade. This attack was dramatically worse than most, but surely it won’t be the last. And it highlights a truth that Washington cannot afford to ignore any longer: its “strategy” in Somalia just is not working.

To read more, click here.

Over the past three years, as thousands of refugees drowned off Europe’s coasts, Germany’s open-door policy towards asylum seekers propelled the country to a position of global humanitarian leadership, and turned its chancellor, Angela Merkel, into a global icon for human rights advocates. As of 2016, the nation of 82.5 million absorbed 890,000 refugees, and a majority of the German population has warmly supported the influx of foreigners. However, the Berlin Christmas attack by a rejected asylum seeker, and the 1,200 sexual assaults reported in numerous German cities over New Year in 2016 (allegedly perpetrated by immigrants of North African descent), has sparked widespread outrage fueling debate to reduce the number of refugees granted asylum. Facing a competitive reelection race in September, Merkel has responded to public pressure on the migration question without surrendering Germany’s moral and thought leadership on the issue.

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Ten years after the guns of the three-decade-long Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency went silent, northern Uganda’s local leaders are concerned that the deadly war raging across the South Sudanese border could disturb the fragile region.

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