• Censorship and Freedom of Expression
    Whither Political Freedoms in Africa?
    When it comes to civil liberties in Africa, Western governments and institutions must put their monies where their mouths are.
  • West Africa
    Climate Change and Conflict in the Sahel
    The African countries of the Sahel stand to be among the most affected by climate change. To help mitigate its effects, Beza Tesfaye argues that the United States should partner with civil society groups and expand climate adaptation and financing efforts.
  • Public Health Threats and Pandemics
    Where Has COVID-19 Contact Tracing Worked?
    As part of global efforts to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, health officials have tried a variety of contact-tracing strategies in countries around the world. Some have been success stories; others have been flops, as governments struggled to get buy-in from the public or shore up the resources needed for comprehensive tracing. Here are five countries’ experiences with contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Senegal
    Senegal's Democracy Faces a Crisis of Public Trust
    Senegal is easy to admire, but the latest news from Senegal is worrying, and it forces observers to grapple with the country’s complexities and challenges. 
  • COVID-19
    Senegal Pilgrimage Tests Resistance to COVID-19
    Senegal is a major center of West African Islam, and its imams, mullah, and brotherhoods are influential across the Sahel. The holy city of Touba, 120 miles east of the Senegalese capital of Dakar, is the site of a major, annual pilgrimage called the Magal, which is now underway. While no estimates are yet available as to the number of participants this year, in past years there have been as many as five million. The pilgrimage is organized by the Mourides sect of Islam. The caliph of the sect issued a call for the pilgrimage, and the government of Senegal has not objected. Many government officials will participate. Such is the power of the Mourides sect that any government would be hard-pressed to stop the Magal, perhaps the world's largest gathering thus far during the pandemic. (The Magal commemorates the French exile of the Mourides sect's founder during the colonial period when Senegal was part of the French West Africa empire.) The government of Senegal has received high marks for its efforts to control the pandemic with extensive testing and fast turn-around times. It seems to have worked. For example, on October 6, out of 777 tests, only nineteen were positive. Nevertheless, conventional wisdom would see the Magal as a COVID-19 disaster. Social distancing is impossible; water shortages mean limited opportunities, if any, for handwashing. While some pilgrims are masked, most are not, according to Western media.  If there is no great upsurge in COVID-19 cases as a result of the Magal, that would be further evidence that special factors are at work in West Africa that limit the spread of COVID-19, or at least of the illness and mortality that accompany the virus elsewhere. There are a number of different hypotheses: the World Health Organization estimates that some 80 percent of COVID cases in Africa are asymptomatic. Further, Africans tend to live much of their lives outdoors, and the population is younger than elsewhere in the world, both factors that reduce the severity of the illness. The Senegal minister of health says that he has deployed five thousand monitors to Touba, and Senegal's statistics—while not perfect—are better than elsewhere in Africa. Hence, the likelihood is better than elsewhere that the incidence of COVID-19 during the pilgrimage will become known.
  • Senegal
    How Remittances From Petit Senegal, a Diaspora Community in New York City, Build Wealth Abroad
    Tareian King is an intern with CFR's Africa Program and a student at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. She is also the founder of Nolafrique, an e-commerce platform that enables artisans in African villages to have global exposure and opportunities for scale up. The African diaspora sends more money to Africa than U.S. foreign aid and foreign direct investment. In 2018, sub-Saharan Africa received $25 billion in development assistance. In that same year, immigrants in the United States sent $46 billion in remittances to their home countries in Africa, out of a total of $150 billion sent from the United States globally. In 2017, $85 million in remittances were sent from the United States to Senegal, the seventh-most of any country (France topped the list with almost $650 million). Remittances are the transfer of money, often by a foreign worker, to an individual in their home country. A closer look at a diaspora neighborhood in New York City helps explain that remittances are not only a form of familial aid but also an important investment vehicle that builds wealth. In Petit Senegal, on 116th street between Lenox Avenue and Frederick Douglass, the sound of English is replaced by Wolof and French. “How are you?” is transformed into “Nanga def” and “ca va?” Wolof is the native language of the Wolof people found in the Gambia, Mauritania, and Senegal. French is the language of francophone West African countries, including Senegal, which are former French colonies. American fashion—such as blue jeans and t-shirts—also disappears. Instead, people are dressed in elaborate, traditional West African textiles and fabrics. In the evening, there are Muslim men sitting outside on the sidewalk with foldable chairs drinking attaya tea, a Senegalese drink consumed after meals and with guests. Petit Senegal, located in the heart of Harlem in Manhattan, is not much different from some neighborhoods in Senegal’s capital, Dakar. The cultural link between Petit Senegal and Senegal underpins an economic one.    Petit Senegal is filled with thriving, tax-paying businesses owned and operated by Burkinabe, Gambians, Ivorians, Malians, and Senegalese, though the majority of businesses are owned and operated by the latter. Import-export businesses, supermarkets, seamstress, tailors, phone repair shops, beauty salons, bakeries, Islamic educational programs, and African goods stores fund the remittances to their respective West African countries. Senegalese immigrants have built a substantial amount of wealth for themselves, but to understand their success requires a look back to Senegal. Dakar’s real estate market grew 256 percent between 1994 and 2020, and business owners in Petit Senegal opted out of investing their profits in a house with a white picket fence in America. Instead, they opted to invest in the profitable real estate market in Dakar. Residents return home during holiday breaks to purchase their land in cash instead of sending the money via wire transfers. Once the land is acquired, they return to Petit Senegal and remittances pay for construction. Profits from these properties in Senegal are then invested in local businesses in Petit Senegal, helping them grow, and the investment cycle in Senegal continues. The goal of most residents in Petit Senegal is to build as many properties in Senegal as they can while they are in America. Mr. Jabel Cisse, a seamstress in Harlem for over twenty-five years, has built two villas and an apartment complex since immigrating to America. Mr. Muhammad Fall, the owner of an import-export business, has built two apartment complexes and is now in the process of building a hotel. While these shops are small, their owners are engaged in international business with Senegal. The people in Petit Senegal selling earrings and soaps and repairing phones are the same individuals financing real estate in Senegal. The $85 million from the United States is about 4 percent of the $2.2 billion Senegal receives as remittances, which together account for 10 percent of Senegalese GDP. One of the sources of that capital, diaspora communities like Petit Senegal, are a natural bridge between the U.S. and their home countries. They know the risks and customs of the market, have local contacts, and know how to invest in their countries in profitable ways. As foreign aid budgets are cut or threatened and immigrants find financial success, remittances have grown in importance; so, too, should the diaspora communities that pay for them.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
    Secretary of State Pompeo Completes Trip to Africa
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently completed his first trip in his current role to Africa. Over three days, he visited Dakar in Senegal, Luanda in Angola, and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, where he also visited the head of the African Union. During the trip, Secretary Pompeo advocated for a stronger U.S.-Africa relationship amidst China’s growing role on the continent.  Though President Trump appears to have no interest in Africa beyond seemingly unfiltered insults, some in his administration have visited, thought not to the same extent as previous administrations. His wife Melania, his daughter Ivanka, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have all visited the continent, though the latter was fired by Trump during his trip. Unlike past administrations, the Trump administration has no high profile, signature Africa policy initiative, such as President Bill Clinton’s Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), President George W. Bush’s campaign against HIV/AID (the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, or PEPFAR), or President Barack Obama’s electric power initiative (Power Africa).  The Trump administration’s Africa strategy, Prosper Africa, envisages facilitating greater American private sector investment and trade with Africa. Its Development Finance Corporation has significant potential, building on and ultimately replacing the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, but it is underfunded and is only just now becoming operational. Prosper Africa’s roll-out rhetoric by then National Security Advisor John Bolton seemed more concerned with countering China’s political and security influence on the continent than on political, social, or economic development. Meanwhile the Trump administration’s new “travel ban,” suspending immigration to the United States from Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania because of alleged security shortcomings, is unlikely to encourage American private sector involvement with Africa.  But in general, American policy toward Africa—encouraging democracy and the rule of law, facilitating economic development, and supporting the development of African security initiatives and capabilities—remains consistent with that of previous administrations, driven below the cabinet level and from outside the White House. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Tibor Nagy and USAID Administrator Mark Green get high marks for management, and Congress has blocked Trump administration efforts to eviscerate the various assistance programs from which Africa benefits.  Moreover, American soft power endures, going from strength to strength. China may have peppered the continent with Confucius Institutes designed to expand its influence through the study of Chinese language and culture, but the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Africa league and the enduring power of Hollywood promote American mass culture to a much larger popular audience. Aubrey Hruby observes that the movie “Black Panther” and the NBA do more to build American influence than cabinet visits. And that is even leaving aside Oprah! It is always worth keeping in mind that the American relationship with Africa is much more than presidential administrations.
  • Iran
    Senegal vs. Iran?
    One of the oddest news stories of the week reported that: Senegal will send 2,100 troops to Saudi Arabia as part of an international coalition combating Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen, the West African nation’s foreign minister said on Monday...."The international coalition is aiming to protect and secure the holy sites of Islam, Medina and Mecca," Senegalese Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye told parliament. "The president...has decided to respond favourably to this request by deploying a contingent of 2,100 men in the holy land of Saudi Arabia," he said. Why is this odd? For starters, just how will the Senegalese communicate with their Saudi allies? Senegalese speak Wolof and French, not English or Arabic. The efficacy of this expeditionary force seems doubtful if the two allies have no common language. Secondly, the Houthis have shown a desire to expand their power in Yemen and have already taken its capital, but I’ve seen no evidence that they plan to march on Mecca and Medina. Suspicions abound: a Washington Post blog item suggested this: "The most obvious potential benefit of a Senegalese military engagement alongside Saudi Arabia would be in the form of closer political and economic ties between the two, and almost certainly direct cash payments from Saudi Arabia to Senegal," says Andrew Lebovich, a security and political analyst focused on West Africa. Too cynical? Senegal can surely use more foreign aid, although the BBC says opposition politicians spoke out: "Saudi Arabia isn’t threatened and neither are Islam’s holy sites. There is nothing to justify a military intervention by Senegal," opposition politician Modou Diagne was quoted as saying. Iran, which backs the Houthis, is viewed by Sunnis as having designs on Mecca and Medina, but it is surely odd to think that they can best be defended by Senegalese troops. Perhaps the mention of those two holy cities was simply the Senegalese government’s way of arguing that this was all being done for Islam rather than for Saudi Arabia or against Iran. Perhaps the Saudis are pleased to add another country to the coalition they are building, especially since reports came out that Pakistan had declined the honor. But if the coalition is meant to be effective at fighting the Houthis, it would be better to concentrate on Arabic-speaking soldiers who can really integrate into GCC forces. Relying on Senegal is not going to help much.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
    For Nigerian Girls Boko Haram Is Not the Only Threat
    This is a guest post by Latanya Mapp Frett, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Global, the international arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Zahra, a teenage Muslim girl living in Northern Nigeria, fought back tears as she recently addressed a crowd in Senegal about an unlikely transformation her father had undergone. “My father is supportive of my use of contraception,” she said. Furthermore, “he supports my counseling and providing condoms and other [contraceptive] methods to my peers.” Zahra’s father’s position is unique in her conservative community, which has some of the highest rates of child marriage in the world and where less than half of all female adolescents receive sexuality education of any kind. Her father’s acceptance came only after Zahra’s mother died from complications related to HIV/AIDS, leaving her family devastated—and leaving Zahra responsible for rearing her siblings. It is hard to imagine the circumstances that Zahra must face as a young woman in her country today. She is vulnerable to abductions that are carried out by the militant terrorists of Boko Haram. But she faces other challenges as well. She is under immense pressure to marry and start a family; she must share in the financial upkeep of her family, necessitating work both inside and outside the home; she has few opportunities to continue her education; and, she wrestles with the same interests, desires, and concerns as many teenage girls living in our modern era. After the death of her mother, Zahra knew that she wanted to do everything she could to prevent her fate from befalling others. Zahra became a Youth Peer Provider (YPP) with Planned Parenthood Global’s partner organization NKST, a faith-based group that runs health centers and community education campaigns. NKST trains young people as community health workers to serve peers in their own communities—increasing knowledge, dispelling myths, changing social norms, and promoting healthy behaviors. YPPs go one step beyond traditional youth peer educators by providing not only education but also contraceptive products and services where they might not otherwise be available. They also advocate that their governments—in Zahra’s case, it was the Nigerian health ministry—expand access and support for sexual and reproductive health services in their communities. As a result of such advocacy, the Nigerian government recently launched new guidelines in Nigeria calling for the inclusion of youth-friendly services in government-run primary health facilities. Planned Parenthood Global worked in partnership with the government to shape and to launch this landmark policy, and continues to work to create youth-friendly materials as resources for these government health facilities, many of which will now be offering youth-friendly services for the first time. Currently, most services designed specifically to meet young people’s needs are operated by private, non-governmental health facilities, but the new guidelines aim to change that and mark an important step in granting Nigerian youth today greater access to sexual and reproductive health services. More young people in Nigeria now have access to health and especially sexual and reproductive health information and care than before. They are thereby able to make healthier choices and lead healthier lives. It is to be hoped that the newly elected administration will also value these principles to protect and encourage young people and their futures.