Happy Enkutatash, y’all.
In this week’s episode, we chatted with Professor Landry Signé (@LandrySigne), a Distinguished Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for African Studies, founding Chairman of the award-wining Global Network for Africa’s Prosperity, and Professor of Political Science and Senior Adviser to the Chancellor and Provost on International Affairs at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Our conversation was largely about his newly published book, Innovating Development Strategies in Africa: The Role of International, Regional and National Actors.
Here’s what we’re reading and learning from the continent this week:
Following up on the Kenyan presidential election that we talked about in last week’s episode with Kathleen Klaus (@KathleenKlaus), check out a piece Ken Opalo (@kopalo) wrote in The Monkey Cage published last week. In the post, Ken draws on his research on political institutions in Africa to show how the historic ruling by Kenya’s Supreme Court was only possible because the judiciary is politically independent from the president.
Talking about presidents, there have been large protests in Togo calling for the president to leave office. Faure Gnassingbé is currently in the middle of his third term as president, and his presidency follows that of his father Gnassingbé Eyadema. Together, the Gnassingbé dynasty has ruled Togo for 50 years. To counter the protests, Gnassingbé’s government has restricted access to the internet and also blocked text messaging. If you want more background on Togolese opinion on term limits, read a 2015 piece I wrote with Jules Ahlin and Tyson Roberts (@tysonsahib) for The Monkey Cage and our post-election report published in Electoral Studies.
Also in West Africa, the U.S. Peace Corps has evacuated all 124 of its volunteers in Burkina Faso, citing security concerns. The decision follows a terror attack on a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou last month.
For all the doom and gloom in the news, there was some really great writing on the internet this week:
Alexis Okeowo (@alexis_ok) has a beautiful piece in The New Yorker following a Somali basketball player who plays despite threats against her and women athletes in Somalia more broadly. (Okeowo’s book, A Moonless, Starless Sky, is coming out early next month and I can’t wait to read it!)
I also want to point listeners to a wonderful long read by Sisonke Msimang (@SisonkeMsimang) reviewing Howard French’s (@hofrench) three books in the Johannesburg Review of Books. Her piece is so much more than a book review – it’s really a piece about writing and storytelling.
A few bonus links:
Check out the book recommendation Landry made during our chat, I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhennet. Alexis Okeowo reviewed the book for The New Yorker and said it was “an enthralling and sometimes shocking blend of reportage and memoir from the centers of jihadi networks in the Middle East and North Africa.”
Finally, Oxfam is moving its headquarters to Nairobi, Kenya. In an interview with BBC, Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said, “We are going there so that we are not sitting 3,000 miles away and writing reports about people whom we don’t share their daily struggles with.”