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.
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.
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