J. Peter Pham Named as Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa

The U.S. Department of State distributed this press release earlier today.

Press Statement
Heather Nauert
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 9, 2018

Peter Pham Africa Great Lakes Special Envoy Secretary Pompeo is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. J. Peter Pham to serve as the United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Dr. Pham will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of U.S. policy on the cross-border security, political, and economic issues in the Great Lakes region, with an emphasis on strengthening democratic institutions and civil society, as well as the safe and voluntary return of the region’s refugees and internally displaced persons.

Dr. Pham serves as Vice President and Director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. He brings to the Department vast Africa experience as the former vice president of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) and editor-in-chief of its quarterly Journal of the Middle East and Africa; an associate professor of Africana studies at James Madison University, where he was director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs; and on the Senior Advisory Group of the U.S. Africa Command.

Dr. Pham will assume the work previously undertaken by Senior Coordinator for the Great Lakes, Ambassador Larry Wohlers. U.S. ambassadors to the countries of the Great Lakes region remain charged with the conduct of bilateral relations. Dr. Pham will work in close coordination with the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs and our ambassadors in the region to further the Department’s work toward lasting peace, stability, and economic prosperity in the Great Lakes region.

Bolsonaro’s victory is likely to see Brazil scale down Africa interests

Amy Niang, University of the Witwatersrand

His first son is a senator for the state of Rio do Janeiro. His second son a municipal councillor in the city of Rio, and his third is a federal deputy for the state of São Paulo. And he himself has served seven terms as deputy and as member of several political parties.

Yet Jair Bolsonaro, the favourite candidate for Brazil’s upcoming runoff presidential elections, likes to present himself as a new man who operates outside of the “system”.

The rhetoric of a new man, untainted by the culture of corruption that prevails among the political class, is a powerful device. It’s succeeded in folding the interests of disparate social categories into those of seasoned right wing politicians.

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Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro on the campaign trail in Rio.
FEF-EPA/Marcelo Sayao

Bolsonaro is candidate for the Social Liberty Party. He’s the author of incendiary pronouncements, happily racist, misogynist and homophobic. The former army captain has managed to coalesce eclectic crowds whose commitment to democracy depends on the exclusion of entire sections of Brazilian society. He has colossal support among Brazil’s prolific evangelical communities. These have re-purposed their religious fervour to passionate hate and the demonising of adversaries.

Bolsonaro assuages the fears of a middle class that feels it’s lost privilege. He also confirms their aversion for Brazil’s internal “others” – namely black Brazilians and various Indian communities. In fact, he promises to keep privilege spaces of university education, residential suburbs and commercial spaces free from poor people.

For Bolsonaro, the choice Brazilians have to make is rather simple: it’s either “prosperity, freedom, family and God” – in other words him, or “the path of Venezuela”. In other words Fernando Haddad’s Workers’ Party.

In the first round of elections, Bolsonaro’s party secured 46% of the total vote. Haddad’s Workers’ party secured 29%. Haddad is routinely the victim of his opponent’s foul mouth. Bolsonaro is a slavery-denialist, who claims that the Portuguese never set foot in Africa and that Africans themselves “delivered” slaves to Brazil.

Needless to say his views on Africa are narrowly informed by the prism of Brazil’s uneasy, strained and unresolved racial question. As a result, his government can be expected to scale back Brazil’s engagements with the continent.

The end of Lula’s Africa moment?

Bolsonaro is expected to turn threats by the current administration to close Brazilian embassies in Africa into policies. Cutbacks on scholarships for African students are also expected.

At home he’s expected to put further restrictions on immigration and to withdraw into national priorities. These include Brazil’s economic doldrums, its fractured society, the high levels of crimes and more crucially the economic recession.

The only area where a Bolsonaro government policy might intersect with previous policy could be the military cooperation and the trade in military equipment.

If little is known about Bolsonaro’s views on foreign policy in relation to Africa, his running mate, General Hamilton Mourão, has been very clear. During a recent speech he criticised Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff’s South-South diplomacy claiming that it had resulted in costly association with “dirtbag scum” countries (African) that did not yield any “returns.

Africa was the centrepiece of Lula da Silva’s geopolitical aspirations for Brazilian status in an expanded and reformed multilateralism. In eight years of his presidency he visited 27 African countries over 12 trips.

But Brazil’s Africa moment had already began to fade under Rousseff. The election of Bolsonaro is likely to signal the beginning of the end of Africa-Brazil relations as we know them. It could even mean the end of the five country grouping known as BRICS as he has promised to review Brazil’s participation in the coalition.

Brazil’s relations with Africa have been particularly strong with the Lusophone countries of Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, and Sao Tome and Principe. Angola in particular became a springboard in Brazil’s expansion into the South Atlantic beyond the Lusophone world.

Lula da Silva sought to institutionalise the new Global South framework in the form of a biannual Africa South America Summit and also through the India, Brazil South Africa Dialogue Forum. He doubled Brazil’s diplomatic presence in Africa between 2000 and 2010. By 2010 there were 39 embassies. Over the same period, 18 African embassies opened in Brasilia.

These various initiatives fed a momentum in Brazil’s rise to global prominence. Brazil was for instance able to get José Graziano da Silva elected Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation with the strong support of African countries.

Beyond punctual strategies, Brazil’s engagement with Africa served to enhance its global standing and to buttress Brazil’s ambition to become a leading voice of the Global South.

Economic strategies

Brazil’s economic strategies took an expansionist pattern similar to that of other emerging powers. They targeted resources-rich and fast growing economies. Main export destinations were Egypt and Nigeria. Imports come mainly from Algeria and Nigeria.

Between 2000 and 2013, trade between Brazil and Africa expanded from $USD4.3 to USD$28.5 billion. But it dropped by USD$12.4 billion in 2016 following economic recession and political upheaval in Brazil.

Brazil’s economic engagement with Africa is not without its problems. For instance, the infrastructure giant Odebrecht is at the heart of Operação Lava-Jato (Operation Car War) which exposed the largest corruption scandal in the history of modern democracy. It involved over 200 leaders across the political and business sectors and over USD$2 billion.

Under Bolsonaro, economic ties can be expected to take a different turn. Institutions such as the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation can be expected to grow in prominence in Africa as he makes a big push for agro-business expansion. This will come with its own set of problems, notably pollution caused by fertilisers and attendant health risks. That, however, is unlikely to deter him.The Conversation

Amy Niang, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Wist University, Visiting Professor at the University of Sao Paulo, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Press Release – Africa Adaptation Initiative: A Response to Africa Biggest Challenge

This will be an opportunity to consider the most effective measures to help close the Adaptation Gap in Africa, which experts estimate to be between USD 7 billion and 15 billion per year by 2020, increasing thereafter

LIBREVILLE, Gabon, September 19, 2018/ — The first Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI) Partners (http://AfricaAdaptationInitiative.org/rt/) Roundtable Meeting will take place on Monday 24 September 2018, from 10.30 a.m. – 11.30 a.m. in New-York at the UN Secretariat Conference Room 5, in margins of 73rd UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Gabon Ali Bongo Ondimba Africa Adaptation InitiativeThis is jointly hosted by the Gabonese Government, on behalf of the African Union’s Committee of Head of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Over 40 leaders including Mrs Patricia ESPINOSA, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Mr Eric SOLHEIM, UNEP Administrator, Josefa Leonel Correia SACKO, African Union Commissioner, Pierre GUISLAIN, Deputy President of the African development Bank (AfDB), countries and organizations, have confirmed to participate to this important meeting.

This will be an opportunity to consider the most effective measures to help close the Adaptation Gap in Africa, which experts estimate to be between USD 7 billion and 15 billion per year by 2020, increasing thereafter.

While all African countries are investing significant domestic resources in their own response to climate change, through their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), there is still a significant gap that requires international support in terms of finance, technology development and transfer and capacity building.

Every day African countries have to face the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture, water, access to natural resources, and millions are struggling to adapt to the harmful effects coastal erosion, floods, desertification and the devastation of disasters caused by extreme weather events. These multiple consequences of climate change make adaptation the priority for Africa.

Ali Bongo Ondimba 2014As the current chair of CAHOSCC and the AAI Champion, the President of Gabon, H.E. Ali BONGO ONDIMBA, has firmly taken the lead in the drive to accelerate action on climate change adaptation in Africa, working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to mobilize through this roundtable $ 5 Million to support the 3 years AAI work programme.

“Africa, with its means, is deploying all its energy to fight the cancer of modern development that is climate change.This must therefore also lead our partners to mobilise their efforts relentlessly, in accordance with commitments that are continually repeated but still insufficiently implemented. I therefore invite all our partners to join the transformation train to boost Paris’ momentum and turn our words into deeds. For as I have said since Paris. The cost of inaction will be greater and heavier than that of action”, said H.E. Mr. Ali BONGO ONDIMBA, President of The Gabonese Republic, Coordinator of Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Africa Adaptation Initiative.

Press Release: U.S. Senators condemn democratic backsliding in Uganda

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) released the following statement on the current situation in Uganda.

Senators Uganda Bobi Wine


“As members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we are gravely concerned about the continued deterioration of democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms in Uganda. The actions of the Government of Uganda towards its critics—protesters, opposition supporters, and parliamentarians like Members of Parliament Frances Zaake and Robert Kyangulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine—are unacceptable. Likewise, we are extremely troubled by the beating and arrest of journalists during these events, and by reports that foreign correspondents are being denied accreditation to work in Uganda.

“We call upon the Ugandan authorities to conduct a credible investigation into the murder of Yasin Kawuma, and into the reports of beatings, torture, and the use of lethal force on civilians by security forces during the Arua Municipality by-election campaign and subsequent protests, and to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. It is critical to Uganda’s democracy that Parliament is respected as an independent institution of the government, and that Members of Parliament can execute their mandate without threat or interference. We strongly urge President Museveni and the Ugandan Government to adhere to the rule of law, and respect freedom of expression, press, and assembly granted by the country’s constitution. As Bobi Wine and Francis Zaake return to Uganda after medical treatment, we will closely monitor their situation, and that of those who face charges alongside them.”

Solar kits and battery lamps are replacing kerosene across Africa

Jörg Peters, University of Passau

For decades, people in rural Africa have been using sooty kerosene lamps to dimly light their homes. But in recent years households, even in poor areas, have started to replace their kerosene lamps with non-rechargeable dry-cell battery driven lamps and solar kits. This is happening largely without any governmental or donor involvement. These devices are equipped with light-emitting diodes (LED) that have become significantly cheaper over the years. This has, in turn, made them a highly efficient technology affordable, even for poor people living in rural areas.

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Many rural communities across Africa have dropped kerosene lighting for various electrical lights.

Our study covering seven countries across sub-Saharan Africa shows how privately supplied dry-cell battery driven lamps as well as solar kits have facilitated a lighting transition. Cheap supplies of disposable batteries and lamps mostly from China, have found their way into the most remote villages in the region.

A quote from a Senegalese expert we engaged with in the field summarises this transition:

Chinese torches have electrified Africa, not World Bank.

At least for basic electric lighting provision this seems to be true. Obviously, LED torches do not replace the need for more powerful electricity that can be used for productive purposes.

The lighting transition away from kerosene is a remarkable development that challenges the traditional understanding of how mass electrification happens – and how mass adoption of a technology shapes up. The convention is that these processes are initiated from the top by governmental or non-governmental organisations supported by a development agent like the World Bank or its Lighting Global programme, which specialises in supporting sustainable growth of the global off-grid lighting market.

But, in the case of dry-cell battery driven lamps, the technology has diffused without any top-down support. It’s an amazing tale of technology diffusion that has happened without any institutional support.

The transition away from kerosene

We came across an intriguing example in small villages in rural Rwanda we were surveying for a randomised controlled trial on solar kits. We found that people had replaced kerosene lamps with dry-cell battery LED lamps. Slightly better-off households were using ready-made flashlight – either smaller torches or much brighter multi-diode lamps.

Even the poorest people could afford the investment by hand-crafting one-diode torches, connected to disposable batteries tied by banana leaves. We were told by a number of people that kids had brought the idea from school, where it spread through word-of-mouth channels.

Admittedly, our lighting transition study covers only selected places in seven countries. But the similarity of these patterns across all of them suggests it can be generalised to other regions.

And the economic argument – affordability and scalability of LED-lamps – seems to be universal. LED torches are cheaper to run than kerosene lamps. In addition, the scalability from handcrafting dim one-diode lights (that come at less than a dollar) to bright multi-diode lamps (that can cost several dollars) solves the liquidity constraint problem attached to more lumpy investments.

LED seems to be a perfectly adaptive pro-poor technology. Households can scale the investment according to their ability to pay. Not least, rural dwellers everywhere have a high preference for LED over kerosene.

How about quality?

The concern of many donor agencies – including Lighting Global – is that the quality of these LED lamps and low cost solar lanterns is poor, particularly when it comes to their durability. Based on this assumption they advocate quality verified products.

Yet, in a case study in Burkina Faso we showed that this is only true when one considers the absolute quality, not the quality relative to the upfront costs. For a household with low purchasing power it is not rational to invest in a high-quality kit that lasts, say, twice as long but costs three times as much. Given that poor people don’t have much cash and have many other urgent and essential things to deal with, it’s perfectly reasonable that they would prefer a cheaper solar lamp over a more expensive one – even if it breaks sooner.

This raises concerns about the inappropriate disposal of electronic waste. The shorter durability of non-quality-verified products and the surging consumption of dry-cell batteries in rural Africa is leading to more and more electronic waste. This increasing environmental burden needs to be addressed. Here, quality-verified solar kits and their licensed vendor network can have an important role, as we argue in another paper.


The LED dissemination success story has provided poor people in Africa with access to clean lighting sources.

This suggests that expectations about the impact of electrification have to be updated. Most notably, positive health effects by a reduction of kerosene induced air pollution as it was observed in El Salvador might not materialise anymore in Africa. At the same time, policy makers should have an eye on an emerging new problem: the massive increase of electronic waste in areas were no waste management system is in place.The Conversation

Jörg Peters, Professor, University of Passau

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.