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On My Wish List for the Next Administration: A US Africa Policy Worthy of Africa

Precisely as Africa is rising on the radar screens of investors and security types, it seems to be falling off the US foreign policy map. With the exception of Governor Romney’s mention of Mali (twice!) in the third debate, Africa hardly featured at all. That’s a shame, since Africa is both a growing opportunity and will become a greater threat if neglected. I’ve been deeply disappointed to see the United States reduce its engagement with the continent under the current administration, losing ground on the progress made under Presidents Clinton and Bush. Regardless of who wins on November 6, the scope for doing better—and more without more money—is obvious.

The following originally appeared on October 1 as “Missing in Africa” on ForeignAffairs.com.

Opening Up Microdata Access in Africa

In this post, Gabriel Demombynes, Senior Economist in the Nairobi office of the World Bank, describes some of the issues raised at the Center for Global Development and the African Population & Health Research Center’s first meeting of the Data for African Development Working Group meeting last month. This blog was originally posted to the World Bank’s Development Impact Blog on October 1, 2012.

by Gabriel Demombynes

Recently I attended the inaugural meeting of the Data for African Development Working Group put together by the Center for Global Development and the African Population & Health Research Center here in Nairobi. The group aims to improve data for policymaking on the continent and in particular to overcome “political economy” problems in data collection and dissemination.

Taxing Kenya’s M-Pesa Picks the Pockets of the Poor

Kenya has instituted a new tax that affects users of M-Pesa -- a widely popular phone-based money transfer service used by more than half of Kenya’s adult population. The new 10 percent excise duty on fees charged for money transfer services applies to mobile phone providers, banks, and other money transfer agencies. Operated by Safaricom, the largest mobile network operator in Kenya, M-Pesa accounts for the largest share of users of money transfer services. Users of M-Pesa products will therefore bear most of the impact of the tax.

A Wake-Up Call on Contraceptive Rates in Africa

Between 1970 and 2010, most emerging countries achieved impressive gains in contraceptive coverage. As a result, their fertility has declined, their population growth rate has slowed down, and many of these countries have been able to capture the economic benefits of the demographic dividend, which occurs when the labor force becomes relatively larger in the total population thanks to lower fertility levels. In addition, the fertility decline improves the dependency ratios and reduces the burden of youth on working adults.

The Next Administration Should Close Africa’s Energy Poverty Gap

What’s going to be President Obama’s legacy on Africa?  President Clinton championed AGOA, still the core of US-Africa trade relations. President Bush built PEPFAR and the MCC.  There’s an outside chance that Feed the Future could be Obama’s lasting contribution, but I think the jury’s still out.  So what kind of big impact-big splash effort could we hope for in the next four years, from either a second Obama term or a new Romney administration?

Why Khartoum Needs an Ambassador, Not a USAID Mission

The tragic loss of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff in Benghazi last week brought back all too vivid memories of USAID/Sudan’s loss of two dedicated staff in a terrorist attack on New Year’s morning 2008. (I was the head of USAID's Africa bureau at the time.) In the wake of last Friday’s attack on the US embassy in Khartoum, I’m pondering anew the rationale behind the official American presence in Khartoum and the Government of Sudan’s commitment to its safety.

Africa Doesn't Need the Pentagon's Charity - Why I'm Grumpy About DOD's Development Programs in Africa

This blog was originally featured at AllAfrica.com.

In her recent Foreign Policy column, "The Pivot to Africa," Rosa Brooks made a plea for letting go of comfortable old assumptions about roles and missions between the civilian and non-civilian sides of the US government, particularly when it comes to US civil-military cooperation in Africa. My plea is for an evidence-based discussion of US development policy and its intersection with US national security.

US interests will be ill-served if we merely move from comfortable old (and false) assumptions about poverty and terrorism in Africa to comfortable new (and equally false) assumptions about "whole-of-government responses" to complex challenges. While the United States should of course think and work creatively, skepticism and, dare I say, opposition, from civilian agencies to AFRICOM taking on non-traditional military roles is not rooted in turf battles but in legitimate concerns about efficiency and results.

What Next for US Aid in Ethiopia?

The death of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi after twenty-one years in charge raises fresh questions about the future of US foreign aid to the country – including all three of President Obama’s development initiatives – and the conundrum of focusing aid in countries whose leaders hang on to power for more than a decade. Could a new rule banning foreign aid to long-serving heads of state help?

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