Africa Blog Roundup: Y’En a Marre, DSK and South Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, and More

Justin Sandefur: “Seeing Like a State in Africa: Data Needed.”

Chris Blattman: “Dear governments: Want to help the poor and transform your economy? Give people cash.”

Jacques Enaudeau:

“There are no foreclosed destinies, only deserted responsabilities” has become one of the mottos of the collective of Senegalese singers and journalists known as Y’En A Marre(“Enough is enough” in French). In the wake of the 2012 presidential elections, the group gained international recognition for leading the charge against then President Abdoulaye Wade, who was seeking a third term at age 86 while reportedly scheming to hand over the presidency to his son Karim Wade. Y’En A Marre’s international minute of fame may have passed with Macky Sall’s victory but its engagement as a new kind of political watchdog hasn’t faded since the ousting of Abdoulaye Wade. For its purpose is bigger: to form a united front against social injustice in Senegal and to shift the public debate away from politician bickering and back to the issues of ordinary Senegalese.

Africa in DC: “It’s Official: Obama to Africa This Summer.”

Shelby Grossman on upcoming elections in Equatorial Guinea.

Baobab: “Strauss-Kahn in South Sudan.”

Loomnie on Africans in China.

Somalia Newsroom: “Jubaland and the Future of Federalism in Somalia.”

Niger, Areva, China, Imouraren, and SDS

I’ve been following the launch of the Nigerien government’s $2.5 billion, five-year “Strategy for Development and Security” (SDS). As part of that story I’ve been wondering how the program, which partly aims to address political and economic grievances in the northern part of Niger, will interact with private firms that work in resource extraction, namely in uranium mining and oil drilling. On the one hand, the funding sources for SDS remain partly unclear, and the government may hope to use revenues from resource extraction to fund the program. On the other hand, some firms have themselves been the targets of popular anger and protests, meaning SDS’ administrators could face choices about whether to push for reforms or find alternative ways to reduce anger.

One part of the story that I originally missed is that the Nigerien government has begun voicing some dissatisfaction with French-owned uranium mining giant Areva. Reuters:

Niger warned French nuclear giant Areva on [October 11] against any further delays to its Imouraren uranium mining project, saying it could not support a company that is unable to meet its commitments.

The mine is meant to boost Niger’s uranium output by 5,000 and make it the world’s second-largest exporter of the nuclear fuel, but the planned startup of production was delayed to 2013 or 2014 from 2012 after seven Areva workers were kidnapped in Niger’s north two years ago.

Construction work has also been hampered by labour disputes that triggered strikes earlier this year.


[Mines Minister Omar Hamidou Tchiana] did not specify what action Niger might take against Areva if it failed to live up to the government’s expectations.

Areva’s official webpage for Imouraren is here, and a map of its location is here.

Much is at stake. Al Qarra (French) wrote yesterday,

Last week, rumors mentioned the resale of Areva’s stake to a Chinese enterprise, behind the back of Nigerien authorities. Despite the French firm’s denial, the Nigerien government seized this opportunity to denounce the firm’s practices. In the authorities’ sights: the economic benefits of the Imouraren site. The government desires more of the benefits for the population, at the same time that it demands that production begins earlier.

The rumors about a sale to a Chinese firm are apparently true. China Daily reported on October 26 that Areva, which currently has a 57% stake in Imouraren (with the Nigerien government holding a 43% stake), is “expected to reach agreement soon on the sale of a 13 percent stake in [Imouraren] to China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Co Ltd.”

We will see whether the sale goes through, and whether the Nigerien government is able to pressure its fellow stakeholders into opening the mine sooner and re-configuring how its profits are shared out. And then we will see what consequences all of this has for SDS and for political stability in the north. In any case the struggles surrounding Imouraren are a reminder of the complicated intersections between resource extraction and politics in Niger.

More on Security and Development in Niger

Last week I wrote about Niger’s new $2.5 billion, five-year program (“SDS”) for security and development in its northern regions. Yesterday I went up at World Politics Review with a piece that looks more closely at SDS and also discusses past (and hopefully future) efforts at security and development in northern Mali.

There are two additional points worth making here:

First, to amplify what I said in the article, it is unclear where much of SDS’ budget will come from. Niger’s government may hope that profits from uranium and oil will help fund SDS. Yet these industries are themselves partly the cause of dissatisfaction in some communities in Niger. This dissatisfaction has taken the form of strikes at uranium mines and, this week, a strike by fuel truck drivers.

Witnesses in Zinder, where the refinery is located, said there were hundreds of trucks parked around the town in observance of the strike call.

Niger inaugurated the 20,000 barrel-per-day Soraz refinery in November 2011 hoping it would make Niger fuel self-sufficient and bring down prices.

But the refinery, 60 percent owned by Chinese state oil company CNPC and 40 percent by Niger, has been plagued by problems, including violent demonstrations by protesters complaining that fuel remains unaffordable.

Zinder (map) is, of course, in southern Niger, but the Zinder Region is one of six targeted by SDS.* Major uranium mines also lie within the targeted regions. If Niger’s government does not address complaints about working conditions, revenue flows, and other problems in the uranium and oil industries, those complaints may undermine the program’s overall goal of reducing grievances in the north and elsewhere.

The second point is that Niger is not just worried about instability in the far north, but is also concerned about a spillover of violence from neighboring Nigeria, where Boko Haram continues to launch attacks. In advance of an upcoming visit by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to Niger later this month, Nigerien authorities are calling for joint border patrols. Even as Niger keeps one eye on Mali and the north, then, the other watches Nigeria and the south.

*News reports have emphasized the idea of SDS as a program targeting the north, but the program is virtually national in scope. I am still making up my mind about how to characterize its geographical focus. Comments welcome.

Africa News Roundup: Kismayo, Boko Haram Arrests, Sudan and South Sudan Agreements, and More

Kenya’s Daily Nation reported yesterday that the Kenyan Defense Forces have taken the Somali port city of Kismayo, a stronghold of Al Shabab. Al Shabab has pulled out. More here and at the video report below.

IRIN reports that Somalia is becoming even more dangerous for journalists.


Nigeria’s military said Friday it had arrested a number of security personnel over links to Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, whose insurgency has killed hundreds of people.
The arrests came after soldiers from a special military unit deployed in the northeastern city of Maiduguri arrested an immigration officer, Grema Mohammed, for allegedly being an active member of Boko Haram, a military spokesman said.

Even more details on this week’s agreements (and lack of agreements) between Sudan and South Sudan:

Sudan and South Sudan plan to avoid future disputes over oil exports with a metering system, but have failed to end a $1.8 billion row over how much Juba will pay for seizing northern oil facilities after its secession.


Under the final deal, South Sudan will pay between $9.10 and $11 a barrel to export its crude through the north. Juba will also pay $3.08 billion to help Sudan overcome the loss of three quarters of oil production due to southern secession.

All Africa interviews Senegalese President Macky Sall.

Cuts to fuel prices in Niger, and a glimpse at the intersection of Niger-Chinese relations, oil wealth distribution, and domestic politics:

Niger will reduce the cost of fuel at the pumps by about 7 percent next year as a result of China cutting the interest rate on a loan taken out to pay for the West African country’s sole oil refinery, the oil minister said on state television.

The move will curb the threat of further social unrest in the West African state, where riots over fuel prices have cost at least two lives this year. There have also been several strikes by taxi drivers over the cost of locally produced fuel.

VOA: “Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) will soon issue millions of permanent voter cards in time for the next general election, according to Nick Dazang, the INEC deputy director public affairs…Dazang added that the new security features will reduce or eliminate voter fraud in future elections.” Maybe.

NTV Kenya on Kismayo:

Chad: Oil, Electricity, and Inequality

The fate of a national electrification project in Chad (French) will be important to watch as an indicator of whether the country’s oil wealth will bring widespread benefit to the people. Chad has been producing oil since 2003, but most Chadians continue to live in poverty and lack access to basic infrastructure. Current statistics on electricity are revealing:

More than 80% of the production of electricity is consumed by [the capital] N’djamena. A dozen secondary towns and centers have independent networks. There is no interconnected network in the country. The rate of access to electricity hardly exceeds 3%-4% of the population of Chad, which, in twenty years, has doubled to reach eleven million inhabitants.

The government has reduced electricity prices by 37%, and is working with China’s Exim Bank to increase electricity generation for N’djamena and other areas.

Some have hoped that oil would revolutionize living standards in Chad. As of 2010 (the best data I could find), Chad produced an estimated 126,000 barrels of oil per day – a small amount from the vantage of the world market, but a large amount for that country.

Almost from the beginning of oil production in Chad, there has been a huge gap between the wealth the country has acquired and the needs of its citizens. This exchange between a National Geographic reporter and a Chadian farmer from 2005 reveals how shallow the few development projects supported by oil seemed to some Chadians:

Gratitude is simply not on the agenda in the villages we visit. Distrust and unsatisfied expectations certainly are.

“They said the majority of us would get rich, but we have just got poorer. Nothing good has come from the oil,” mutters Mbangtoloum Ngarambé, a lanky peasant farmer who grows cotton, rice, and millet in the fields around his village, Kayrati. We stand in the shade of a mango tree, watching women and children filling their enamel basins at the new water pump, which seems to me to be working pretty efficiently.

“Isn’t that something good?” I ask, interrupting the flow of Ngarambé’s displeasure and pointing at the contraption.

“Yes, that’s good.”

“And the new classrooms over there?”

“Yes, they are good.”

Cleaning his teeth with a little stick, Ngarambé studies me out of the corner of his eye as we run through all the things that are lacking around here: a modern economy with jobs, a hospital close by, paved roads, security.

In 2012, Chad’s oil wealth has still brought “only superficial change,” Celeste Hicks reports:

Ordinary Chadians could be forgiven for asking what benefit [oil] was to them. When the Chinese National Petroleum Company arrived in the late 2000s they promised something different – cashing in on their approximately 20,000 bpd concession in the Bongor Basin, the Chinese have built a refinery at Djermaya which began to produce diesel and petrol for local consumption at the end of 2011. Although this relationship has also been characteristically fraught – the Chinese chairman of the refinery was declared ‘persona non grata’ in Chad earlier this year in a row over the price the Chinese were receiving for the fuel – it has allowed Deby to give a palpable demonstration of the fruits of the oil boom. Diesel is now about 520 CFA at the pump – a guaranteed price – and noticeably cheaper than when I was last in Chad, when all of its domestic fuel was imported from Cameroon or Nigeria.

But life is still not easy in Chad – food and living costs are excessively high (Chad recently came in as the third most expensive city in the world for expatriates and those costs feed down to ordinary Chadians), and hasty promises to increase civil service salaries by up to 40% in the next two years will be difficult to achieve. Once the visitor to N’Djamena leaves the shiny new presidential quarter, very little has changed, with bad roads, few businesses and substandard housing. In the countryside, food production is poor, over three million people are facing food shortages this year – the country’s deficit is 400,000 tonnes and government stocks are only about 40,000 tonnes. UNICEF estimates that 100,000 children could die if assistance isn’t brought urgently. Literacy levels are still low, and the country is struggling to cope with outbreaks of polio, meningitis and measles.

Optimism about Chad continues in some quarters. In November 2011, an IMF official wrote that increases in oil production and improvements in security were boosting Chad’s economic outlook, though he warned that Chad needed to “rebuild a savings buffer against the risk of an oil-price drop,” “find an efficient and affordable way to shield the poor from high fuel prices,” and guard against hunger.

Chad, it seems, has the resources to take on ambitious projects to improve citizens’ lives. After years of disappointment and inequality, the success of the electrification project will help show how far the government is willing to go in achieving that goal.

For more background on the oil industry in Chad, see International Crisis Group, which detailed in a 2010 piece how Chad won “an easy victory” over the control mechanisms the World Bank and the European Union attempted to impose over its oil revenue.

Africa Blog Roundup: Clinton in Africa, Oil in Uganda, Senegal and Habre, and More

Habiba Osman: “On Hillary Clinton’s Recent Visit to Africa.”

I am therefore not surprised that this African tour has come up now considering the diminishing role that the US is now finding itself in with the Chinese almost taking over as the biggest African donor and trade partner. Sub Saharan Africa, especially, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi in the South have felt the presence of the Chinese greatly with infrastructure being built everywhere in these countries, courtesy of the Chinese government.

Politically, Clinton’s visit is therefore timely as some of most African states have openly declared that they are in favour of the Chinese donations, which seem to have no strings attached. By strings, I mean, adherence to the rule of law, respect for human rights and observance of good governance. Africa’s relationship with China has gained international attention and is a sure factor in destabilising America’s role as the sole super power.

Tony Otoa Jr. on oil and civil society in Uganda.

Lesley Anne Warner: “Kenya’s Coast Province Could Be Flashpoint in Run-Up to Elections.”

Amb. John Campbell on recent violence at a South African platinum mine.

Peter Dorrie on President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso:

To adequately judge Blaise Compaoré’s record of bringing development and prosperity to his people, it is first of all important to remind oneself that he has been in power since 1987, a full quarter of a century. More than half the population of his country has only known his rule.

Despite the period of peace that Burkina experienced during this time, and a comparatively generous 13 Billion US Dollars in international development assistance, the country still ranks only 181st out of 187 countries in terms of human development. All of the other bottom ten countries in the HDI ranking experienced devastating civil wars during this time – except Guinea, which instead had to put up with a brutal military dictatorship. To put it bluntly: Blaise Compaoré is the only African head of state who managed to dramatically limit the development of his country without declaring outright war on it.

Jason Stearns asks, “When Will Donors Un-Freeze Aid to Rwanda?”

Writing in Nigeria’s Daily Trust, Idang Alibi comes out against Senegal’s planned trial for former Chadian leader Hissene Habre.

Anne Campbell weighs in on the issue of African presidents and overseas educations.

Baobab on electricity in Somalia.

Last but not least, a reflection from Carmen McCain on fasting during Ramadan as a non-Muslim.

Africa News Roundup: Eid and Boko Haram, Northern Mali, Chad and China, and More

Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid al Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, this Sunday. In Northern Nigeria, authorities are bracing themselves for possible attacks by the rebel sect Boko Haram:

A centuries-old Eid festival in the major northern city of Kano, famed for its elaborate horse pageant, has been cancelled, officially due to the local emir’s health, but residents suspected the worsening violence was to blame.

In the volatile central city of Jos, authorities declared off-limits two main prayer grounds that have been hit by violence in the past over security concerns, but said alternative locations were available.

The authorities’ moves were an indication of how badly security has deteriorated in northern and central Nigeria, where Boko Haram has been blamed for more than 1,400 deaths since 2010.

Nigeria’s national police chief urged the public to share tips with officers, something many people have been reluctant to do out of fear of both Boko Haram and the authorities, who have been accused of abuses.

The warning message from the US Embassy in Abuja is here.

The Washington Post reports on Boko Haram’s efforts to gain a foothold in towns along the Nigeria-Niger border. An interesting article, although as regular readers know I think the “tolerant Sufis versus militant fundamentalists” line is simplistic.

In other Nigeria news, Shell “said on Friday it had contained oil leaked from a failed pump within a flowstation on Nigeria’s Nembe Creek though local residents disputed this, saying it had spread to mangrove swamps.”


Observers of Somalia’s political transition process say the final political benchmarks to end the transition, including the election of a new president, will not be met by the August 20 deadline.  An arbitration committee working to solve clan disputes on how to share parliamentary seats is yet to reach agreement. Some reports also say the technical selection committee working to screen and approve members of the next parliament objects to some of the candidates put forward.

The numbers out of northern Mali are grim and getting worse: over 435,000 people displaced, and 4.6 million hungry.

Patriarch Abune Paulos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church passed away on Thursday.

China delivered food aid to Chad this week, marking the occasion with a ceremony on Monday (French).

Presidents Alassane Ouattara and Idriss Deby met in Mecca (French), where they discussed Mali and other matters.

IRIN writes that education in the Sahel is “in crisis.”

What else is happening?

Give and Take in Niger’s Relationship with China

Yesterday, Reuters reported that Niger had “succeeded in renegotiating the terms of a $980 million loan from China’s Export-Import Bank that covered the cost of building an oil refinery in the east of the West African nation.” In contrast to the standard image of China as predator and Africa as prey, the article suggests some give-and-take:

The government called for an audit of the cost of the 20,000 barrel-per-day Soraz plant just days before it opened in November after the price tag rose to $980 million from the $600 million agreed at signing.


Niger signed a $5 billion joint venture deal with Chinese oil company CNPC in 2008 to build the refinery and develop crude oil from the Agadem field a further 700 km east.

China’s Exim Bank initially made the loan at an interest rate of 3.5 percent reimbursable over 10 year, but lowered the rate to 3.1 during negotiations last year.

Now the interest rate on the loan will be capped at 2%.

It is also noteworthy that China’s investments in Niger are starting to go beyond oil and uranium. In March, China’s Sinolight announced plans to build a sugar refinery there. President Mahamadou Issoufou has stated his desire for China to invest in Nigerien agriculture and infrastructure.

This is not to say that China’s presence in Niger is problem-free or benevolent. The 2008 oil deal drew protest from trade unions and civil society groups, who said the deal-making had lacked transparency, and who voiced concerns about whether the oil wealth would reach ordinary citizens. China has been accused of backing President Mamadou Tandja (who was overthrown in a coup in 2010), even when Tandja was attempting to consolidate power extra-constitutionally. In 2010, workers in northern Niger decried conditions at a Chinese mining site, describing it as a “colony” and nicknaming it “Guantanamo.”

The relationship, then, is not simple. As the renegotiation of the loan reminds us, though, neither is it unidirectional.

For more, see Jamestown’s valuable, although dated (2007) piece on Niger-China relations.

Africa Blog Roundup: Ethiopian Orthodoxy, China and Africa, Banking in Somalia, Aikido in Mali, and More

Africa Is A Country on Ramadan traditions.

Tom Boylston on “Ethiopian Orthodoxy in post-Imperial times and…the emergence of a competitive religious public sphere.”

Ty McCormick writes about the recent Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, noting that “China has taken measures to rebalance trade ties with Africa, including the elimination of tariffs on certain African products.”

Baobab on banking in Somalia:

The doors at the aptly named First Somali Bank (FSB) opened in May. More than 100 customers have opened accounts. Some did so by bringing in sacks of Somali shillings, worth 22,000 to the dollar, while others opted for accounts in American greenbacks. Mr Egal recently set up a TedX conference on the “Rebirth of Mogadishu”. Even for an entrepreneur who took his first steps in finance with a cheque-cashing business in a rough neighbourhood of Baltimore in America, Mogadishu is a challenge. No one has seen a chequebook here since the cold war, when Somalia was in the Soviet orbit. Mr Egal, who is waiting for the still fragile government to give him a banking licence, admits that conditions are “not yet right” for ATM machines.

Jason Stearns flags a US State Department announcement on a reduction in military aid to Rwanda. Stearns writes, “It’s a symbolic amount of $200,000, but I think this is the first time Washington has cut aid to Kigali for political reasons.”

Dr. Bruce Whitehouse on Aikido in Mali:

Back in the 1960s Bamako was briefly a node in aikido’s nascent global network. Three Soviet aid workers learned the art, then unknown in their homeland, at the Bamako Judo Club from one master Van Bai, a Frenchman of Vietnamese origin. (Malians sometimes recall his name as “Henri Wambaye”.) A few years later these Soviet students brought aikido from Mali to the USSR — illustrating the unpredictable pathways of the transnational diffusion of culture.

Dr. Kim Yi Dionne marks the one-year anniversary of major protests in Malawi.

What are you reading today?

Africa Blog Roundup: Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and More

Lesley Anne Warner, “Calls Continue for Military Intervention in Mali.”

The Moor Next Door on “The Battle at Gao.”

Baobab compares recent church attacks in Kenya with interreligious violence in Nigeria.

Emeka Okafor flags a podcast on “The Politics of Ethnicity in Ethiopia.”

Roving Bandit: “Why South Sudan Is Winning the Oil Pipeline Stand-off with Khartoum.”

Shelby Grossman on Nigerian politics and Boko Haram.

Eliot Pence and Bright Simons:

On many of the macroeconomic indicators used to judge conformity with the mainstream – debt to GDP ratio, current account balance, fiscal balance, inflation – Africa is situated closer to the mainstream, while key OECD countries drift away. Data tracking other kinds of flows – in cultural, innovation, and labour flows – point to a continent becoming a key player in the Global South – not just assimilating into the global mainstream, but helping to shape it.

Rosie Spinks on alternative energy in Africa:

A new project called Africa Express, being carried out by Frenchmen Jeremy Debreu and Claire Guibert with support from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), is bringing attention to a different breed of alternative energy on the continent, one where Africans who lack access to energy are the main beneficiaries.

For a period of ten months, the pair are traveling 20,000 km through 23 countries using trains and buses to survey a range of alternative energy projects. From a community refrigeration project in northern Senegal to a massive hydroelectric dam in Morocco, the size and nature of the projects differ, though they all have one notable in common.

“Africa Express aims to promote energy projects with good practices that are intended to benefit Africans,” Guibert said. “We are not only talking about renewable energy, but with the access to energy to people at the base of the pyramid.”

Amb. David Shinn on “China’s Special Economic Zones in Africa.”

What are you reading today?