October 21, 2018

“She really helped the community.” – Mohammed Liman on his daughter, Hauwa Liman, a young midwife killed by Boko Haram. 


This newsletter features insight from Christopher Olaolu Ogunmodede and Dafe Oputu.
What is it?
On 5 July 2018, President Buhari issued Executive Order 6 “On the Preservation of Suspicious Assets Connected with Corruption and Other Relevant Offences”. The order allows the President to freeze assets and impose travel bans on individuals facing corruption cases.
Why are we hearing about it now?
Two lawyers recently took the Executive to court, arguing that Order 6 amounts to interference in the workings of the judicial arm of government by the executive arm. Apparently, the order violates the principles of “innocent until proven guilty” and the constitutional right to own property. Last Thursday, the Federal High Court in Abuja concluded in favour of the government, allowing it to go ahead with implementation. The court did, however, modify the order by requiring the executive arm of government to seek and obtain a court order before freezing any assets. The case is currently being appealed.

Who is affected?
According to Presidential Spokesperson Garba Shehu, the list of 50 affected individuals includes those accused of stealing over N50 million whose cases were between 7 and 10 years old.
What are the positives?
The Order seems designed to prevent delays in judgement. Corruption cases in Nigeria can take years, and some have argued that this leads to impunity. Powerful individuals are granted bail and have incentive and resources to frustrate an effective conclusion to their case. Many solutions have been proposed including special corruption courts and denial of bail in such cases.

What are the negatives?
It is easy to imagine this power being used selectively against political enemies. Already some have accused the list of being biased against opponents of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Others worry that allowing presidential discretion to seize assets or block travel will set a dangerous precedent that future administrations could abuse. 

What is an executive order anyway?
Though not explicitly mentioned in their constitutions, executive orders are quite common in Nigeria and other presidential systems. They are instructions given by the President to executive ministries, departments or agencies on how to do their jobs. Ultimately, it is the Supreme Court’s job to decide whether executive orders overreach into the responsibilities of the judiciary or the legislature.
The Story
On Tuesday, the World Economic Forum published the 2018 Global Competitiveness Index

Top Trend
Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific remain home to the most competitive economies, while sub-Saharan Africa consists of 8 out of the 10 least competitive economies.

African economies showed some steady (if modest) progress – the highest ranked African countries were Mauritius, South Africa, Seychelles, Botswana and Kenya. Nigeria (Africa’s largest economy) was ranked 115th (an improvement of ten places) while Rwanda and Ethiopia (the flavours of the month for much of the African intelligentsia and business elite) were ranked 108th and 122nd respectively.
Other Specifics
The United States returned to the overall #1 rank for the first time in a decade, while China failed to break into the top 25. Among the top 30 ranked economies overall, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates featured the wildest swings from 2017-18, with a rise of +11 and a descent of -10 places respectively
Innovation is much harder than it sounds. For 77 of the 140 economies studied, Innovation capability is the weakest of the 12 pillars of competitiveness. Only four ‘super innovators’ score above 80: Germany, the United States, Switzerland and Taiwan (China).

For low-income countries primarily in Africa, these findings should cause a sobering reflection on the scale of the task ahead. However, African economies can take solace in the fact that there is little determinism involved here; African economies can become more competitive globally by marshaling the right political leadership to build the institutional framework that can foster innovation, create and develop newer industries, open up markets and lead to improved social and economic conditions.


“How can we cry when western countries deny visas but yet refuse entry to our own?”

Nigerians and residents of other African countries are no longer eligible to receive visa-on-arrival in Tanzania, after recent changes in the country’s visa policy. Expensive and cumbersome visa processes are one of the reasons it remains difficult for Africans to explore their continent, much moreso than visitors from Western nations.
Yet Tanzania’s move is an exception to the trend of opening African borders. On 12 October, Ethiopia announced it would soon begin issuing visa-on-arrival for Africans as part of its plans to increase transit air-traffic through Ethiopian Air. It joins Rwanda, which started a similar policy at the beginning of this year, and Ghana which has been doing so since 2016. 
“The chances of a woman making it to the 9th National Assembly in 2019 are slim.”

In what seemed like a year with decent outings for women in African politics, Nigeria seems to be bucking some progressive trends. In the recently concluded primary season in Nigeria, only 31 women (out of a possible 469) from either the Peoples Democratic Party or the All Progressives Congress secured their party’s nomination for the National Assembly elections in February 2019.

Surely, this cannot be good news for attempts to build a more broad-based, inclusive political terrain. They also, unfortunately, highlight the steep climb necessary to break the shackles of a political culture based around money, patronage and rent-seeking, institutional norms that, inherently, exclude women and young people, in various African contexts. Given the expectations of the #nottooyoungtorun movement and the large numbers of women who declared their interest in seeking political office, this development is nothing short of disappointing. But it is also a moment of clarity, in many ways—out with the idealism, in with the realism?
“This election was absolutely irregular...”

Opposition candidates in Cameroon are already petitioning the country’s top court for a rerun of last week’s elections ahead of official results expected Sunday 21 October, 2018. The opposition Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon Party (MRC) has alleged incidents of ballot stuffing, voter intimidation and violence in a controversial polls that are expected to extend incumbent President Paul Biya’s 36 year rule. Voter turnout was depressed in anglophone regions that have been in crisis the past two years.
When results are finally announced, it will be interesting to see what international observers (including from the African Union) say, given their record of rubber-stamping highly problematic elections elsewhere on the continent. 
“The message was saying the body parts belonged to Khashoggi.”

Much of the world has been captivated by the Jamal Khashoggi saga, and for good reason—even as details continue to emerge, this case of a missing Saudi Arabian journalist strikes as one of the worst examples of state-sanctioned murder on foreign soil in recent memory. But it is perhaps a good time to bring things a little closer to the continent. For Rwandan dissidents, none of this is either surprising or impossible, as the Kagame regime has been silencing critical voices abroad for quite some time, and often in similarly brutal ways. The Khashoggi episode has turned out to be quite the PR disaster for Saudi Arabia at least in the short-term, and it has sparked discussions about how Western patrons should react to authoritarian clients that project violence against dissidents and defectors far beyond their borders.

For African citizens, many of whom live within autocratic systems, the possibility that state violence is becoming globalized and that fleeing your country of origin is not enough to secure yourself or your loved ones from violence is disconcerting. It remains to be seen how Western nations—who do have leverage far more than they may be willing to admit—will react to the growing normalization of violence against government critics on foreign soil.
How [not] to write about Africa

Lately the Columbia Journalism Review has been doing some amazing work and this piece about how Western journalists often employ the “[insert African city] is the [insert Western city] of Africa” trope, when writing about Africa is no different. The trope, which the piece explores, applies to cities—Dakar = the Senegal of Africa—as it does to even people—Mo Abudu = Africa’s Oprah. For African(ist)s and people who observe happenings on the continent, this trope is hardly unfamiliar.

That said, there exists a view that describing Africa and Africans this way is simply the best way to familiarize Western readers with African cities, personalities, heritage centers etc. Many (often Westerners) lament how little African countries attract in terms of popular interest and tourism dollars compared to other parts of the world and argue that these analogies (imperfect as they are) are a useful shorthand in communicating ideas about these places and people. Western citizens, they claim, will be more likely to visit these places the more they read about and relate to these places, spurring more tourism.

A more sceptical counterargument, however, may adopt the view that these shopworn clichés are a clickbaity reach for eyeballs and website hits, crafted by publications that manipulate audiences by using bait-and-switch tactics to draw interest on happenings on the “Dark Continent”
Know something we should be watching?
[email protected]