Cross-posted from my Africa Update newsletter. We’ve got positive masculinity in Mali, the triple-taxed business owners of Somalia, a bridge on the River Congo, the perils of not participating in the census in Kenya, and more.
Musical interlude courtesy of Laura Seay
West Africa: An innovative community counseling project has reduced rates of intimate partner violence in some towns in Ghana. Mali, Togo, and Benin are using men’s clubs to promote ideas about positive, non-violent masculinity. Here are some lessons for scaling up cash transfer programs from Burkina Faso. This was an insightful article about Nigeria’s worsening seasonal flooding problem.
Central Africa: In Uganda, LGBT+ people are finding that rural family members can be surprisingly accepting. Uganda is also arming local defense groups in places with a limited police presence, leading to concerns that they’ll cause more problems than they’ll prevent. This was a good summary of how Uganda’s Museveni has managed to hang on to power for 32 years. The Burundian government is trying to kick UNCHR out of the country after two years of refusing to work with the human rights body. As the DRC’s elections draw nearer, dissidents who say they were tortured by Kabila’s government are speaking out. Displaced people in eastern Congo are flocking to wartime boomtowns. In a historic first, Kinshasa and Brazzaville are going to be linked by an AfDB-financed bridge.
East Africa: Sudan’s parliament is considering legislation that would let President Bashir, who’s already been in office since 1989, stay past the current end of his term in 2020. In Somalia, business owners complain that they’re paying triple taxesto al Shabaab, ISIS, and the government. New research shows that cash transfers increase recipients’ trust in local government in Tanzania. Check out this new edited volume on post-liberation Eritrea. South Sudan is planning to relocate thousands of citizens away from newly operational oil fields.
Graph of visa openness from the AfDB, via Ken Opalo
Kenya focus: In an interesting twist on the standard narrative of multinational corporations grabbing land in Africa, Kenyan governors are trying to reclaim land from large companies as their leases expire, claiming that the British colonists didn’t have the right to sell the land in the first place. The Africa Prisons Project helped one Kenyan inmate teach himself law behind bars and get his case overturned. Here’s the background on the politics of welfare expansion in Kenya. This is a remarkable piece of writing tracing the decline of one Kenyan family’s fortunes under the Moi government through the quality of their daily tea. Kenyans who don’t want to talk to census-takers next year might face enormous fines.
Southern Africa: Malawi is considering an onerous bill for the registration of NGOs, with penalties including years in jail or fines of $20,000 for those who don’t comply. Congrats to Shamila Batohi, who just became the first woman to serve as South Africa’s chief prosecutor. Zambian firms are willing to pay more taxes if they actually see improvements in public services afterwards. In Zimbabwe, urban authorities are promoting cremation as room in cemeteries runs low, but many people are concerned that their dead ancestors will be angered if they’re not buried properly.
All about museums: Belgium just re-opened its African museum, newly revamped to be less racist, but the DRC is now calling for it to return artifacts for a proposed future museum in Lubumbashi. When Western museums try to keep African artifacts with claims that they’ll be better protected, “who are they guarding the artifacts from?” I can’t wait to visit the Museum of African Civilizations in Dakar.
Haitian artist Philippe Dodard next to his work “Memory in Motion” at the Museum of African Civilizations
Public health: In Zambia, transgender and intersex people are falsifying prescriptions for hormones and self-administering them when the formal healthcare system proves too difficult to navigate. Community health workers in Uganda are more effective when they can cover their costs by selling basic medications on their home visits. Access to toilets is improving in poor neighborhoods in Nairobi, but many women still don’t use them out of concerns over cost and security. In Burkina Faso, a non-profit is helping sex workers avoid HIV by bringing confidential testing services right to the streets where they work. Africa is the fastest-growing region for contraceptive use, likely because its baseline rates of usage remain quite low at only around 25% of sexually active women. Rates of female genital cutting have dropped significantly in East Africa over the last two decades.
My writing: I’ve been doing more writing lately. Check out some reflections on the politics of African archives, the economics of political transitions in autocracies, and why Nairobi banned the mini-buses which are its most popular form of transport.
Looking forward to reading this book, via a suggestion from Robtel Neajai Pailey
Podcasts: Check out the Nairobi Ideas podcast, produced by my great team at Mawazo! CSIS has a new “Into Africa” podcast which looks promising. “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing” is a new podcast for East African women in business from Kali Media.
Twitter: Interesting people I’ve followed recently include Franklin Amuakwa-Mensah(Ghana), Belinda Archibong (Nigeria), Oyebola Okunogbe (Nigeria), John Tanza (S. Sudan), Sabatho Nyamsenda (Tanzania), Chitata Tavengwa (Zimbabwe), and Ismail Einashe (Horn of Africa).