In front of a collection of sticks, torn plastic sheeting, and broken pieces of harvester zinc held together by taut rope and shiny nails, 63-year-old Francis Selee stands stoic like a statue.
In 2011 the United Nations recognized the world’s newest nation in South Sudan, giving international license to a regional, political, and cultural necessity. These UN efforts came on the heels of a half a century’s worth of a bloody conflict. Into this situation, the constitution of South Sudan was birthed. And, consequently, the brightest flicker of hope in South Sudan was the possible role of women in it.
Olfa Arfaoui is a Technical Expert in the Regional Program for the Economic Integration of Women in the MENA Region for the German Development Corporation (GIZ). In her role, she is responsible for coordinating media campaigns to raise awareness on women's roles in the economy and society at large. The most recent campaign engaged NGOs from different fields as well as government organizations and was shared widely across Tunisia and the MENA region. Olfa also ensures implementation of the various aspects of the program, and works on a gender diversity program for women working in the private sector in Tunisia. Prior to her current position she served as both a research consultant and program assistant at GIZ and did some remote consulting for a U.S. based tourism firm. Olfa is passionate about empowering women, especially young women, to be financially independent and has done mentoring with craft makers on how to improve their products, increase revenues, and market their products.
Across the African continent, popular demand for democratic governance has risen steadily over the past decade. However, this growing demand has remained unmatched by a proportionally increasing supply of democracy.
In the West African nation of Burkina Faso, the rise of violent protests against President Blaise Compaore on October 30th rapidly culminated in the government’s abrupt collapse and the president’s resignation just one day later.
On Tuesday, fifty African heads of state met with President Barack Obama to discuss everything from economic development to peace and security on the African continent. Among Africa’s leaders was Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, who heads a country that has grown in economic and political importance in recent years, all the while suffering from shambolic policies and lack of basic security. As the story of Nigeria shows, ordinary people’s determination to improve their lives succeeds—often in the face of a broken government.
There is something distressing about Africa. Seven of the world’s 10 fastest-expanding economies are on the continent, yet the nations are not creating jobs for their young people at a rate commensurate with their growth.
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.
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