With the adoption of a new constitution last weekend, Tunisia became the first post-revolutionary country in the Arab world to forge a political settlement accepted by the broad mass of its people. The process has hardly been swift, but the passage of the document by an overwhelming majority—200 delegates in favor and only 12 against—is a significant achievement. At a time when the other Arab countries that saw popular uprisings in 2011 have been dragged down by polarization and violence, Tunisia provides an example of political compromise overcoming broad national differences. Tunisia’s path to this moment has often been precarious. […]

On Nov. 5, 2010, Ghana Statistical Service, the country’s government statistics office, announced that it was revising its gross domestic product (GDP) estimates upward, and as a result Ghana’s GDP per capita almost doubled. The country was upgraded in an instant from a low- to lower-middle-income country. A sense of bewilderment and confusion arose in the development community. When did Ghana really become a middle-income country? What about comparisons with other countries? Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa, struck a dramatic tone in an address to a conference organized by Statistics South Africa, calling the state of […]

Let us start with a simple question: What was the total fertility rate (TFR) for a given developing country in a given year? The total fertility rate—or the number of children, on average, a woman in a given population is expected to have in her lifetime—is a crucial indicator, as it, in conjunction with mortality and migration, determines the future size, growth rate and age structure of a population. It is a much more important and informative measure than the crude birth rate, which is simply a snapshot of the total number of births in a population divided by the […]

Can Estonian soldiers defend their country by fighting in the middle of Africa? Last week, the European Union approved plans to send up to 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic (CAR). Perhaps surprisingly, Estonia was the first EU member to make a firm pledge of ground forces to the mission, which will reinforce existing French and African contingents. Other eastern EU members, including Poland and the Czech Republic, are also reportedly considering participating, while Britain and Germany have hung back. This diplomatic maneuvering says more about the state of European defense cooperation than African affairs. The Estonians, Czechs and […]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues have become an increasingly prominent aspect of the U.S. foreign policy debate, especially as the United States considers the best response to anti-gay laws passed abroad. The most recent challenge comes from Nigeria. This month, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which critics say effectively outlaws pro-gay organizations and will worsen persecution of homosexuals in the country. Various news outlets have reported that several Nigerians have already been arrested under the law and that others have been attacked or harassed. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement […]

U.S. development aid has long been characterized by public sector funding of socio-economic, political and security projects in the developing and underdeveloped world. Over the past few years, however, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun a number of programs that are being financed by private capital. Among them, in 2011, USAID launched the Private Capital Group for Africa, aiming to generate more than $500 million in private investments to assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in sub-Saharan Africa, and the African Agricultural Capital Fund to invest $25 million specifically in agricultural SMEs in East Africa. Last […]

After winning Kenya’s March 2013 presidential election, President Uhuru Kenyatta inherited the difficult task of leading East Africa’s most significant diplomatic and economic actor while simultaneously awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The charges, for alleged crimes against humanity, stemmed from Kenya’s disputed 2007 elections. Given Kenya’s historically strong ties to the West, the charges against Kenyatta and his deputy president, William Ruto, forced the new Jubilee coalition government onto an immediate diplomatic tightrope—one defined by an all-consuming campaign to weaken international support for the trials, while maintaining enough continuity of engagement with the West to prevent international […]

Despite its status as a poor, landlocked country in the midst of West Africa, Burkina Faso plays an important role in the region and for its international partners. During his 26 years in power, President Blaise Compaore has cast himself as an indispensible mediator, having brokered negotiations to end crises in Togo in 2006, Cote d’Ivoire in 2007 and 2011, and Mali in 2012, among others. With the diplomatic skill and networks necessary to negotiate the release of Westerners held by terrorist groups in the Sahel, Burkina Faso under Compaore has also become a “hostage whisperer.” In addition, Compaore has […]

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finished a three-country tour of Africa with an aim to create new opportunities for Japanese companies on the continent, a promise of dramatically increased loans and a pledge to bolster Tokyo’s role in the maintenance of peace and security there. Abe’s visit, which took him to Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique and Ethiopia, was the first trip to sub-Saharan Africa by a Japanese leader since former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi toured the continent in 2006. Abe’s renewed focus on Africa is driven by a range of factors but can be loosely characterized as an attempt […]

When diplomats gathered at the United Nations last week to launch a series of commemorations of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, there was much talk of the need for decisive responses to early signs of future mass atrocities. By contrast, actual diplomacy to manage today’s well-advanced crises in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) was more tentative. The U.S. and Russia called for local cease-fires to ease the suffering in Syria. South Sudanese negotiatorsin Addis Ababa mulled a truce while fighting continued unabated at home. An agreement to appoint a new interim president in the CAR failed to […]

This month, thousands of African migrants to Israel, many seeking asylum, marched in Tel Aviv to demand more rights and protections from the Israeli government. In an email interview, Dov Waxman, associate professor of political science at Baruch College and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), as well as the co-director of the Middle East Center for Peace, Culture and Development at Northeastern University, explained Israel’s immigration policy. WPR: What is the state of Israel’s overall immigration policy, particularly with regard to political refugees? Dov Waxman: Israel’s immigration policy fundamentally distinguishes between Jews, non-Jews […]

Last week, 75 officials resigned from Burkina Faso’s ruling party, citing the disappearance of democracy under President Blaise Compaore. In an email interview, Michael Keating, a lecturer in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance and director of operations at the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development at the McCormack Graduate School at University of Massachusetts, Boston, explained the state of political opposition in Burkina Faso. WPR: What has been the general state of political opposition and dissent in Burkina Faso in recent years? Michael Keating: Burkina Faso is one of the most underreported countries in the […]

Since the conflict in South Sudan escalated in December, well-meaning governments and United Nations officials have repeatedly argued that only a political solution can end the fighting. “There is no military solution,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power told CNN on Christmas Eve. But the South Sudanese government does not seem entirely convinced. Over the past week it has ratcheted up its offensives against rebel-held areas, recapturing the economically important town of Bentiu. Bor, another major center in rebel hands, has also been under attack. The government is still in peace talks with rebel envoys, but it is evidently […]

Hery Rajaonarimampianina has won Madagascar’s first presidential election since a 2009 coup, according to provisional results announced by the country’s electoral commission. But Madagascar’s Special Election Court must rule on the definitive outcome after considering appeals and claims of fraud from rival candidate Jean Louis Robinson. The court has about 10 days to decide whether to verify the announced results of the Dec. 20 election, according to which Rajaonarimampianina, a former finance minister, won 53.5 percent of the vote, a comfortable seven-point margin over Robinson’s 46.5 percent. The court has already rejected conflicting submissions by both candidates, each seeking to […]

The United States played an important role in facilitating the independence of South Sudan, the world’s newest country. Now U.S. leaders are watching the unfolding of an ethnic-tinged civil conflict that has already left hundreds dead and displaced around 200,000 people. Fighting broke out in the middle of last month between government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those allied with former Vice President Riek Machar, whom Kiir removed from office last year along with all his other ministers. Kiir accused Machar of orchestrating a coup against his government shortly before fighting began. While violence continues in parts of […]

It is an absolute certainty that 2014 will be a turbulent year for the United Nations. The organization is struggling with crises ranging from the chaos in the Central African Republic (CAR) to the plight of Syrian refugees. There is little hope that these challenges will dissipate soon. Yet two sets of peace talks this month could well decide whether the U.N. faces a truly dreadful year ahead, or just a very difficult one. The first is already underway in Addis Ababa, where emissaries of the South Sudanese government and its opponents may or may not manage to reverse their […]

During his campaign for president in 2008, Barack Obama promised that he would restore America’s standing in the world—in part by using his unique multicultural background to better communicate with U.S. friends and foes alike. While Obama has certainly enjoyed some foreign policy successes, there is one region in which he has so far glaringly and disappointingly fallen well short of that promise: Africa. By every conceivable metric, Africa is growing in stature and importance. More than 60 percent of Africans are below the age of 25, and the continent’s population is expected to double by 2050 to more than […]