Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Aug. 25, 2014 (AP photo by Diego Azubel).

Chinese investment and engagement now touches almost every aspect of Africa’s economy, including infrastructure, transport and logistics, trade, manufacture, agriculture, telecommunications and, of course, resource extraction. Because of the vastness of this engagement, commentators frequently fall back on catchall concepts, including an assumption that Africa is essentially passive in this relationship. The reality is much more complicated. Instead of simply imposing Chinese approaches on African realities, Chinese actors frequently try to attain their goals by partially adapting to specific African systems, with varying degrees of success. This article provides examples of this process by looking at China’s relationships with three […]

Displaced South Sudanese women leave a makeshift camp in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base in the town of Bentiu, South Sudan, Sept. 22, 2014 (AP photo by Matthew Abbott).

JUBA, South Sudan—South Sudan is in crisis. Following the outbreak of a civil war almost a year ago, the country has been devastated by widespread violence that is both politically and ethnically motivated. The international community’s ability to stop the violence rests in large part on the shoulders of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), a peacekeeping operation with a mandate to use force to protect civilians. In order to protect people under the threat of violence, UNMISS needs to be perceived as neutral so that it does not become a target itself. The stakes could not be […]

A worker packs roses at a greenhouse in Naivasha, Kenya, April 19, 2010 (AP photo by Khalil Senosi).

After 12 years of divisive negotiations toward Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), the East African Community (EAC) last month became the latest African region to agree to a bilateral trade deal with the European Union. Concluding the talks was not easy, and sticking points among stakeholders remain, particularly around key African exports like Kenya’s horticultural products. The final deal has far-reaching consequences for East Africa’s economic development—not all of them good, as alternatives to such economic liberalization pacts, which critics contend favor the EU, emerge. Following the Cotonou Agreement in 2000 between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states, […]

French President Francois Hollande inspects arms confiscated from ex-Seleka rebels at a French military base in Bangui, Central African Republic, Feb. 28, 2014 (AP Photo/Sia kambou, Pool).

Despite a cease-fire in July and a United Nations mission in September that raised hopes of restoring order, the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) flared up again last month. The conflict originated with the rise of the Seleka, a predominantly Muslim insurgency that launched in December 2012 and overthrew CAR’s President Francois Bozize in March 2013, a decade after Bozize took power in a military coup. After presiding over mass violence and internal displacement, Seleka leader Michel Djotodia was forced to resign from the presidency in January 2014 at a regional summit in Chad. But interim President Catherine […]

A Chadian soldier patrols the streets of Gao, northern Mali, Jan. 29, 2013 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

In recent years, Chad has begun to emerge as a regional leader in Africa, playing a role in the 2012-2013 Mali conflict, contributing to the overthrow of President Francois Bozize in the Central African Republic and forming a significant military partnership with France in 2014. However, these signs of power mask an ongoing political stagnation in Chad and the failure of the government to make any serious improvements in living conditions for the vast majority of the population. Frustrations with how oil money has failed to deliver economic development, along with power struggles at the heart of the Chadian government, […]

Moroccan King Mohammed VI waves to the crowd as he stands in a limousine during a ceremony of allegiance, at the king’s palace in Rabat, Morocco, July 31, 2014 (AP photo by Abdeljalil Bounhar).

Last week, Morocco announced that it would increase intelligence and military support to the United Arab Emirates, ramping up its involvement in the coalition against the so-called Islamic State (IS). This should come as no surprise, as Morocco has been the target of threats by IS, and is also keen to maintain its position as a reliable Arab partner and funding recipient for the United States and Gulf powers against terrorism. Morocco is technically part of the 60-nation U.S.-led coalition against IS, but is listed with the likes of Tunisia, Portugal, Mexico and others as having an unspecified commitment. Beyond […]

Voters wait to cast their votes at a polling station in Gaberone, Oct. 16, 2009 (AP photo by Monirul Bhuiyan).

Last month, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party narrowly won a majority of seats in parliament. In an email interview, Gape Kaboyakgosi, senior research fellow at the Botswana Institute for Development and Policy Analysis, discussed Botswana’s domestic politics. WPR: What are the reasons behind the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) recent decline in support? Gape Kaboyakgosi: A number of factors led to the electoral decline of the BDP. First, for the first time ever, the BDP broke apart, leading to the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) by several longtime BDP members. Their resignations deprived the BDP of experienced, […]

Lt. Col. Isaac Yacouba Zida at a press briefing, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Nov. 3, 2014 (AP photo by Theo Renaut).

Last week, opponents of Blaise Compaore, the long-serving de facto dictator of Burkina Faso, launched a series of demonstrations that have quickly led to a new government headed by Lt. Col. Isaac Zida. While this was a somewhat softer military coup than old-fashioned ones where officers marched civilian leaders out and shot them, it was a coup nonetheless. Washington is now scrambling to make sense of it. While Compaore’s ouster might send a useful signal to other de facto dictators who have clung to power for decades, the way it happened did not bode well for Africa’s fragile grasp on […]

The Oosterscheldekering storm surge barrier, Burgh-Haamstede, the Netherlands, Feb. 11, 2011 (photo by Flickr user vtveen, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

In September, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte offered assistance to Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on water management after a dike was breached, forcing over 700,000 Pakistanis to flee their homes. In an email interview, Mariska Heijs, training and research fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations “Clingendael,” discussed the Netherlands’ water management diplomacy. WPR: How prominently does water management diplomacy fit into the Netherlands’ wider foreign aid and development policies, and what expertise does the Netherlands offer? Mariska Heijs: Water is one of the four themes of the Netherlands’ foreign aid and development policy, alongside security and […]

A man walks past an election poster of Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) party in the Soweto township of Johannesburg, South Africa, May 9, 2014 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Since May 2009, Jacob Zuma’s leadership of South Africa has played out against a backdrop of corruption scandals and other damaging revelations that have drained the lifeblood from his presidency. Crisis management has effectively become Zuma’s modus operandi, with short-term political survival eclipsing the need to provide South Africa with stable and effective governance. Zuma’s re-election last May, following the decisive, if qualified, victory of the African National Congress (ANC) in national elections, did not provide the hoped-for new beginning. That has the ANC hierarchy scrambling. Zuma contaminates contemporary South African politics so much that it is difficult to envisage […]

An oil well undergoes testing in the Lake Albertine region of western Uganda, 2010 (AP photo by Monitor Publications Ltd).

KAMPALA, Uganda—As he delivers his lecture from the breezy, pink-hued classroom, Robert Rutaro is optimistic about Uganda’s future in oil. An attorney with a master’s degree in oil and gas law from Scotland, Rutaro returned home this January to find a job in Uganda’s Ministry of Energy and now doubles as a lecturer at the Institute of Petroleum Studies-Kampala (IPSK), a two-year-old university offering a range of degree programs in oil and gas sector management. Since 2006, when the Anglo-Irish firm Tullow discovered East Africa’s first commercially viable oil in the vicinity of Uganda’s Lake Albert, the country has been […]

A car burns outside the parliament building in Burkina Faso as people protest against their longtime President Blaise Compaore, who seeks another term in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Oct. 30, 2014 (AP photo by Theo Rena).

On Oct. 30, after several massive demonstrations against efforts by supporters of long-serving President Blaise Compaore to remove presidential term limits, protesters in Burkina Faso set fire to the country’s parliament to prevent a vote from taking place on the issue. The next day, Compaore resigned. After what appeared to be a power struggle within the military, Lt. Col. Isaac Zida emerged as the head of a transitional government, which faces continued pressure from protesters and opposition leaders to hand over power to civilians. The situation remains fluid. The protests that swept Campaore from power drew on longstanding grievances and […]

U.N. peacekeepers of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) patrol the Golan Heights, April 7, 2011 (U.N photo by Wolfgang Grebien).

It is a truth universally acknowledged, at least among American political analysts, that the struggle against violent Islamist extremism is back in play as an organizing principle in international affairs. The Obama administration may have hoped to wind down the “war on terror,” but it is now engaged in open-ended if limited military operations in Syria and Iraq against the so-called Islamic State (IS). This conflict will shape Washington’s relations with regional powers including Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia, although it is still unclear that the U.S. can balance their competing interests. But this new phase in the fight against […]