Delegates attend the opening session of the 33rd African Union Summit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020 (AP photo).

A number of recent developments, including the civil war in Ethiopia and a spate of military takeovers in Mali, Guinea, Sudan and Chad, have exacerbated longstanding concerns of democratic backsliding, the return of military coups and the viability of the nation-state in Africa. The reactions of regional bodies and the African Union to these developments have been typified by carefully worded diplomatic statements, suspension of erring member states from group activities and weak sanctions, evoking familiar criticisms of those organizations as “dictators’ clubs” beholden to national leaders at the expense of the citizens they ostensibly serve. The inability of these bodies to […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently on a five-day tour of sub-Saharan Africa, his first to the region since taking office in January. Having already visited Kenya and Nigeria this week, he will conclude his tour Saturday in Senegal. The trip comes amid intensifying challenges for U.S. policy across Africa, including a deadly new crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Sudan following last month’s coup, a persistent civil conflict in Ethiopia, and mounting concerns about instability, democratic regression and the viability of the state in Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation. Washington is also concerned about China’s deepening relationship […]

South Africa’s president and head of the ruling African National Congress party, President, Cyril Ramaphosa during a ceremony in Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021

For South Africa’s long-ruling African National Congress party, the outcome of local elections on Nov. 1 was a predictable disaster. The polls took place against a troubled backdrop for the ANC, which has struggled through a perfect storm of challenges and missteps this year: a lack of tangible economic progress, poor public service delivery, chronic power shortages, the worst violent unrest since 1994 and seemingly endless allegations of corruption—all unfolding amid a global pandemic that caused South Africa’s largest economic contraction in a century. All of this virtually guaranteed the party would face a backlash at the ballot box. When the votes were […]

A desolate, semi-arid landscape surrounds the Sahel village of Ndiawagne Fall in Kebemer, Senegal, Nov. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

At the recently concluded COP26 Climate Change conference in Glasgow, African countries—led by leaders of major continental states including South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya—made the case for firmer commitments on climate funding from rich, more industrialized nations and a longer timeline on the transition away from coal and other fossil fuels.  One of the major announcements to come out of the summit was South Africa’s “watershed” finance agreement with several Western powers to transition off of coal-burning power plants. But despite the triumphalism surrounding that deal, African delegates generally left the Glasgow summit disappointed that their […]

Coffins containing victims of a fuel tanker explosion seen lined up during a mass burial in Freetown, Sierra Leone (SIPA Images via AP).

More than 130 people have been reported killed after a fuel tanker hit a large truck and exploded Nov. 5 in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital. The tragedy occurred in the city’s densely populated Wellington district. The victims included motorbike drivers who reportedly rushed toward the scene to collect leaking fuel, which they presumably hoped to either use or sell, as well as roadside traders and commuters trapped in vehicles along the busy intersection. Many of the victims were burned beyond recognition, and posters of the dead and missing have been stuck on walls and buildings around the site of the […]

Eswatini’s King Mswati III and his wife.

Following the intense pro-democracy protests that rocked Eswatini over the summer, international interest in the small southern African nation has waned. But for proponents of democratic reforms in the continent’s last absolute monarchy—formerly known as Swaziland—the fight is far from over. In mid-October, demonstrations once again intensified, partly to demand the release of two pro-democracy lawmakers who have been detained since July. Security forces loyal to King Mswati III responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, resulting in at least one death and 80 injuries. All told, dozens of people have been killed since protests first began in response to […]

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The standard, “flirting with apocalypse” narrative that dominates U.S. media coverage and political debates regarding climate change goes something like this: China, which is the world’s biggest carbon emitter, and India, which is lightly industrialized and still quite substantially poor, currently represent the biggest threats to saving the environment. The supposedly more altruistic West, by contrast, is prepared to make huge investments to forestall disaster. People who cling to this all-too-easy framing correctly say that if the world’s two most-populous countries do not radically constrain their carbon output, nothing the United States or Europe can do, including rapidly attaining net-zero […]

The high-speed rail Gautrain traveling between Johannesburg and Pretoria, in Pretoria, South Africa, Aug. 2, 2011 (AP Photo by Themba Hadebe).

Africa’s leaders and policymakers have long identified connectivity, tourism and, more broadly, mobility—human, capital and otherwise—as key to the continent’s economic structural transformation. For example, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, through seven key aspirations, has identified several programs and initiatives promoting connectivity and mobility as central to accelerating shared growth and development in Africa, as well as to forging a common identity.  Among its flagship projects intended to realize this ambition, the bloc has identified the need for an integrated high-speed train network connecting the continent’s capitals and commercial centers; a continent-wide free trade area, known today as the African […]

U.S. President Joe Biden, center, speaks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a plenary session at a NATO summit in Brussels, June 14, 2021 (AP photo by Olivier Matthys).

Tensions within NATO over the past two decades have led some to assert that the old military alliances of the 20th century are a thing of the past. Soon, the argument goes, they will give way to looser, ad hoc groupings like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, comprising Australia, India, Japan and the United States; the AUKUS security pact among Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States; or other “coalitions of the willing” formed to address specific concerns, like those that intervened in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. To be sure, the past 30 years have punched some […]

Delegates attend the opening session of the 33rd African Union Summit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020 (AP photo).

In early August, I watched the frenzied U.S. exit from Afghanistan from my hotel room in Accra, Ghana. I was not the only one in West Africa transfixed by the events in Kabul. Though Ghana is some 7,000 miles from Afghanistan, the chaotic scenes from the Kabul airport played on a loop in hotel lobbies, government buildings, restaurants and homes, broadcast not only by global networks like Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN, but also by local news channels.  The distressing images playing out on the TV came up repeatedly in my conversations with government officials, scholars and friends in Accra […]

Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti speaks during the opening ceremony of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 1, 2021 (AP photo by Alberto Pezzali).

The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, currently taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, has brought together a wide array of African leaders, policy specialists, businesspeople and activists focused on one goal: how to square the goal of reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally with the continent’s industrialization needs and financial realities. During the first two days of the summit, more than 25 African leaders representing nearly half of the continent’s 54 countries took center stage to make the case for a justice-oriented approach to solving the climate crisis. Speaking Tuesday at an Africa-focused event at the conference, Congolese […]