Africa in the news: Buhari meets Cameroon’s president, South African unemployment rate falls, and Obama travels to Africa


Nigeria steps up efforts to fight Boko Haram and corruption


On Wednesday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met with his Cameroonian counterpart President Paul Biya in Yaoundé to discuss collaborative efforts to eliminate terrorism, among other cross-border issues such as the demarcation of land boundaries. In recent years, the region has been severely afflicted by suicide bombings and cross-border raids led by Boko Haram extremists, and President Buhari has called for regional cooperation stating, “we recognize that none of us can succeed alone.” On Thursday, the Nigerian defense ministry announced the appointment of a new general, Major-General Iliyasu Isah Abbah, to head a five-nation taskforce against Boko Haram.

The week was also ripe with allegations against the previous Nigerian government under Goodluck Jonathan. Reports claim that regional efforts to combat Boko Haram were stalled because of lack of effort from the former president, Goodluck Jonathan. A former minister has also been accused of stealing $6 billion of public funds. The new ruling party, the All Progressive Congress, has expressed support for President Buhari’s decision to investigate corruption allegations against the former government. However, supporters of the previous administration have called upon the president to acknowledge the various anti-corruption and security efforts that were enacted under Jonathan’s leadership.


South Africa’s unemployment rate drops


South Africa’s unemployment rate dropped to 25 percent, according to a new report from Statistics South Africa, the national statistical service. Unemployment is a perennial challenge in the country: Bloomberg notes that South Africa’s joblessness rate is the second highest of the 62 countries it tracks. In fact, there are currently more than 5 million South Africans unemployed. While the new jobs figures are welcome news, analysts conclude that they are “unlikely to be a harbinger of long-term trends.” According to the International Monetary Fund, labor market reforms “remain essential for sustainably higher, job-rich growth.”  The South African economy is projected to grow by just 2 percent in 2015-2016, constrained by regulatory challenges and ongoing electricity shortages. Dipping commodity prices have also caused South African mining firms to recently announce plans to lay off nearly 14,000 workers in the coming months.


President Obama concludes his visit to Kenya and Ethiopia


Nearly one year after the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington D.C., President Obama traveled to Kenya and Ethiopia from July 24 to 28 for what is expected to be his last trip to the African continent before his presidency ends in 2016. The three-day visit to Kenya, his paternal ancestral homeland, commenced with warm reception from several dozen of his family members upon his arrival Friday night. On Saturday, July 25, Obama participated in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit—an annual U.S.-sponsored forum that convenes entrepreneurs and leaders from business and government for workshops related to entrepreneurial development—where he highlighted the important role of African governments “in creating the transparency, and the rule of law, and the ease of doing business, and the anti-corruption agenda that creates a platform for people to succeed.” In meetings with Kenyan ministers, he and his delegation also signed several deals focusing on countering violent extremism and other diverse security threats, as well as improving bilateral trade and investment opportunities. He culminated his time in Kenya by addressing the Kenyan public, celebrating Kenya’s progress in its political stability and for its emerging economy, but also noting that corruption and “bad traditions,” such as gender inequality, continue to undermine the country’s potential.

In Ethiopia, Obama met with leaders from the East African Community, African Union, and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediating group about the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, which elicited complaints from South Sudanese government officials, who were excluded from the discussion. He also held talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn during which Obama referenced Ethiopia’s recent elections (which were completely swept by the ruling party) as “democratic,” prompting harsh criticism from African activists. On Tuesday, Obama became the first U.S. president to address the African Union, and in his remarks focused on strengthening U.S.-African economic ties “to create jobs and capacity for Africans,” but also warned Ethiopia not to limit political freedoms by jailing journalists and opposition party members.

For more analysis on the outcomes and highlights of Obama’s trip to Kenya and Ethiopia, please see the dedicated Brookings webpage as well as the following Africa in Focus posts:  Obama in Kenya: A report from the field and a recap of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit by AGI Nonresident Fellow Witney Schneidman and What President Obama didn’t see on his trip to Africa by AGI Senior Fellow John Page.