In 2011, The Economist dubbed it “the hopeful continent”, and with good reason. Africa is shaking off the stereotypes of receiver of aid and sufferer of famine, and looking to build a brighter future of sustainable economic growth, investment, and growing democratic prospects. Already, the continent is seeing results, with several nations joining the ranks of the top ten fastest growing global economies. By 2050, the continent is predicted to have the world’s second largest population, which leaders are hoping to leverage on the global trade stage in manufacturing, services, agriculture, and technology.
Although the U.S. and African Union troops have strived to combat Islamic extremism and related terrorist activities in the Horn of Africa for two decades, more recently across Central Africa, a continued interest in, if not expansion of, such activities elsewhere on the Africa continent is necessary. Given the rise of Boko Haram’s activity in the last decade, as well as events of the preceding years in Mali, including the surge driven by Ansar Al Dine, it would be wise to examine areas of nascent activity from which future threats may emanate. In addition to current host countries such as Nigeria and Mali, it is important that the international community look at other states in West Africa where these movements are gaining tenuous—but important—toeholds.
Since December 2013, deadly clashes have occurred in Algeria's central Ghardaia region, breaking the calm tension after Algeria's recent history of religious violence and civil war in the 1990s. These clashes have been between the Arab-identified Maliki and Amazigh Ibadi communities—religious communities in the region with doctrinal differences. With at least 13 people killed and thousands of Algerian police and gendarmes deployed to the province, the situation in Ghardaia requires attention from a foreign policy perspective, as it points to an underlying issue of religious stability in North Africa. While there are superficial doctrinal disputes between the Maliki and Ibadi groups, the fundamental issues in Ghardaia are ethnic and sociopolitical.
In the Gambia, an individual's property rights could be at risk due to the lack of an organized land allocation system and an absence of authority figures who adhere to the rule of law to ensure land is rightfully bestowed to the owner. Much context pertaining to this issue can be explained through an examination of the history of the country and the development of its laws.
A new age of communication is dawning. Voices demanding to be heard are fading from town squares and entering a new digital arena. Voices that, in this new age of smartphones and social media, are harder than ever to silence, even as advancing technology puts new tools of censorship into the hands of government officials. However, efforts to oppose the influence of internet censorship are rapidly gaining momentum worldwide.
Move over BRICs. Africa is currently one of the fastest developing regions in the world, with six of the world’s top ten fastest growing economies hailing from the continent. As economies reach GDP growth rates of 6 and 7 percent, the continent finds itself in need of an influx of foreign investment, venture capital, and smart public-private partnerships to build the infrastructure needed to sustain such growth.
The Zambian government recently revoked three small-scale mining licenses held by Chinese Collum Coal Mine in Sinazongwe in Southern Province due to violations of safety and environmental laws and its failure to pay mineral royalties. The Zambian government has taken over operations until a suitable investor willing to comply with the law has been identified. Since the mine was taken over by the Zambian government, it claims that regular inspections have been conducted in order to remedy the mines’ problems. The decision to revoke the licenses sets an important precedent for similar cases, while also indicating a change in the trade partnership between China and Zambia, in which the African country is less inclined to allow Chinese companies to dictate rules and takes more active ownership of its natural resources.
North Africa remains afflicted by the spectre of terrorism, and there are indications that the threat is on the rise. There is no state in the Maghreb region which has not experienced it, and the worsening socio-economic conditions in the region have stimulated the development and spread of terrorist recruitment networks in neighbouring countries. Furthermore, the political impasse in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine, as well as geostrategic interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan by a coalition of actors including the U.S., the UK, and their allies, has further fuelled the rise of political and violent extremist terrorist movements in the region. In particular, the 2003 U.S.-led operation in Iraq fuelled violent extremist ideologies and boosted jihadist recruitment. According to some analyses, between 2006 and 2007 almost one third of foreign fighters in Iraq was North African.
In a previous version of the article, we identified Dr. Agnes Binagwaho as the former Minister of Health of Rwanda. She is actually the current Rwandan Minister of Health; she was formerly the Permanent Secretary of Health. Dr. Binagwaho's name was also misspelled. We regret the errors.
Nearly 19 years ago, Rwanda was torn apart by a brutal genocide that killed more than one million people. Today, Rwanda is a peaceful country full of promise and hope. Along with efforts to rebuild the economic ruins of this once-failed state, government and health officials are tenaciously confronting nationwide health issues by implementing revolutionary strategies to provide sustainable health care to their citizens.
The progress is astounding. Life expectancy at birth was at only 25 years at the end of 1994, but had recovered to 50 in 2008. Meanwhile, infant mortality decreased from 129 to 62 deaths per 1,000 live births per year, and under-five mortality decreased from 219 to 103 between 1994 and 2007.
The Honorable Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Minister of Health in Rwanda, has been a prominent presence in these amazing developments. Prior to this role, she was the Permanent Secretary of Health in the Ministry of Health, the Executive Secretary of the National AIDS Control Commission, a member of the Expert Panel of the Country Coordinating Mechanism in Rwanda for the Global Fund, and a pediatrician by training.
There is growing visibility on the global stage of the role of first lady—an intriguing position that has no job description, yet has enormous potential to champion important causes and motivate change.
For example, first ladies of Africa are often called the “mamas” of their country. They occupy a unique position in their society and they recognize the opportunity—and challenge—they have to use their platform to help improve the lives of people in their country.
Despite this increased visibility, the role of first lady is often misunderstood and underestimated. In Africa, first ladies are particularly scrutinized. Speculation about shopping sprees undermines their valuable work and distorts the path these women work hard to forge.
Through our respective work in various international development programs as well as first-hand experience with a number of African first ladies, we knew these women were champions for change both individually and as a collective force.
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