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Why World Water Day Should be Every Day

Aaron Kinnari is the founder of The Future Forum. Learn more about the world water crisis at TheFutureForum.org/water.

Today is World Water Day. For most folks reading this post, potable water is a short walk to the closest faucet. But for one in nine people around the world, accessing clean water is a much more arduous task.

The absence of this most basic necessity has far reaching consequences. From water-borne diseases that claim millions of lives annually to the billions of dollars in lost productivity and economic opportunity, the global water crisis bares tremendous costs for nations around the world and is crippling long-term growth and development. Read more

South Sudan’s Poisonous Corruption

Andrew C. Miller is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relation’s Center for Preventive Action. A version of this post originally appeared on Africa in Transition, a Council on Foreign Relations blog.

South Sudan just celebrated its first birthday, but in the words of one South Sudanese blogger, the nascent country is “screwed up.” Fears that the state’s institutions are already failing could be well-founded if the government doesn’t address systemic problems. No one factor explains the state’s fragility, but it’s widely recognized that corruption has eroded South Sudanese confidence in their government.

Since 2005, state officials and government contractors have stolen an estimated $4 billion from treasury coffers—an amount equivalent to 30 percent of the country’s annual economic output. In a particularly egregious example, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning squandered millions of dollars as grain contracts, meant to stave off an anticipated food shortage, were awarded to shell companies. Read more

Evaluating the Failed States Index and U.S. Africa Policy

Asch Harwood is the Council on Foreign Relations Africa program research associate. A version of this post originally appeared on Africa in Transition, a Council on Foreign Relations blog.

The Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy have released their 2012 Failed States Index. Fourteen of the twenty states listed as “critical” are found in sub-Saharan Africa. Among the highest scores (bad) are Somalia, DRC, Chad, Zimbabwe, and Sudan.

How predictive is the index? Well, it depends on how you define state failure. If you mean coup, clearly it’s not 100 percent accurate. Mali ranked number 79, which means that it is in danger, but not critical. And yet the country has been struck by interrelated crises—the coup in Bamako, Azawad’s secession and occupation, Tuareg mercenaries, jihadist camps—that fulfill most definitions of state failure. (Jay Ulfelder argues it is indeed possible to assess the likelihood of a coup, which could be considered one definition for state failure.) Read more

Kony 2012 “Cover the Night” a Flop?

Asch Harwood is the Council on Foreign Relations Africa program research associate. A version of this post originally appeared on Africa in Transition, a Council on Foreign Relations blog.

When Invisible Children released its call to “make Kony famous” on April 20, Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in the New Yorker about the inadequacy of social media to affect social change came immediately to mind. The Kony 2012 video, with its eighty million plus YouTube views, could easily be seen as a litmus test for his hypothesis: can online networks translate into offline action? Read more

KONY 2012: Beyond the Buzz

Melissa Bukuru is an intern with the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Program. A version of this post originally appeared on Africa in Transition, a Council on Foreign Relations blog.

After 50 million views and a media buzz that shows no sign of dying down quickly, backlash to Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 video campaign was inevitable. Many African journalists are protesting the “imperialist” undertones of the video, arguing that the video presents only a “single story”and ignores the community-based organizations already at work in Uganda and its neighbors (not to mention plenty of important details about the LRA.) Read more

Corruption’s Impact on Voting in Nigeria and Mexico

Asch Harwood is the Council on Foreign Relations Africa program research associate. A version of this post originally appeared on Africa in Transition, a Council on Foreign Relations blog.

John Campbell has regularly made the point that from 1999 to 2007  increasingly bad elections led Nigerians to withdraw from the political process. Despite official proclamations, the 2007 elections were thought to have had an extremely low turnout.

A recent paper (PDF) by the National Bureau of Economic Research (h/t to Chris Blattman), “Looking Beyond the Incumbent: The Effects of Exposing Corruption on Electoral Outcomes,” provides what could be some empirical evidence from their randomized experiment in Mexico to support this observation. Read more

New Figures on Facebook and Twitter in Africa

Asch Harwood is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Africa program research associate and Melissa Bukuru is the CFR Africa program intern. A version of this post originally appeared on Africa in Transition, a CFR blog.

Like mobile statistics (which Asch wrote about yesterday), information on social media use can also be thin. A communications firm, Portland, has set out to address this deficit and measure just how prevalent Twitter is and how it is being used across Africa. They analyzed about 11.5 million geolocated tweets across the continent (including North Africa). Read more

Defining Mobile Phone Usage in Africa

Asch Harwood is the Council on Foreign Relations Africa program research associate. A version of this post originally appeared on Africa in Transition, a Council on Foreign Relations blog.

A comment was recently made to me citing the huge number of mobile phones in Nigeria—over 90 million—as an indicator of that country’s budding middle class. However, in this conversation, my interlocutor failed to make the distinction between mobile phones and mobile phones subscriptions, which turns out to be important. Read more

Johannesburg’s Undocumented Immigrants

Melissa Bukuru is an intern with the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Program. A version of this post originally appeared on Africa in Transition, a Council on Foreign Relations blog.

Last week, the UNHCR released a report claiming that one thousand five hundred would-be African migrants to Europe drowned or went missing while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The episode reinforces the common perception that throngs of Africans are knocking on Fortress Europe’s door every day with varying degrees of success. It also reinforces the notion of victimhood – that these immigrants are fleeing unlivable conditions, and that they are at the mercy of their adventure north. But the reality is that most African immigration is intra-continental. Read more