Sep 10 2014

Impact of changes in Tanzania’s family planning policies could benefit other African countries

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Based on a new paper, LSE’s Ernestina Coast and alumna Michelle Weinberger examine the lessons learned from trends in Tanzania’s family planning policy over the past 20 years.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest regional fertility rates in the world.  Contraception impacts fertility levels, and is strongly affected by policies and programming, including levels of funding (including donor funding) and regulations on who can provide different contraceptive methods.  Access to family planning programmes that are voluntary, accessible, acceptable and affordable remains the principal policy instrument in most countries for satisfying the unmet need for contraception.


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Sep 9 2014

Globalisation and Africa’s development: The Limits of an Inward-Looking Economic Policy

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The African continent would do well to adapt to the opportunities and challenges of globalisation rather than engage in a policy of self-sufficiency which could set it back in the world economy, argues LSE Visiting Fellow, Olu Fasan.

On 23 July, Dr Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, visited the London School of Economics to deliver a public lecture on Africa’s development. The lecture, entitled Beyond Africa Rising, drew on his recent book, Emerging Africa: how the global economy’s ‘last frontier’ can prosper and matter.

Dr Moghalu’s mission was to challenge current orthodoxy about Africa’s development and to articulate a new vision for the continent. Africa may be emerging, he said, but it is far from rising. He argued that recent positive macroeconomic indicators in the continent have led to the growth of what he called the “Africa Rising industry”. Yet Africa has not emerged, let alone risen as a co-creator of global prosperity.

globalisationDr Moghalu gave two reasons why Africa has not risen. First, Africa lacks a worldview in its economies and its governance. Second, globalisation has hurt the continent more than it has helped. From these “fundamental understandings”, as he put it, came Dr Moghalu’s big ideas, his “new” paradigm for Africa’s development. He urged Africa to adopt an inward-looking economic policy to become a “self-sufficient player”. He advocated a more muscular state hand on the levers of capitalism so that Africa can “short-circuit” globalisation and “liberate itself from the oppressive dominance of globalisation”. Continue reading

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Sep 8 2014

#GreatWarInAfrica: “Loyalty” does not explain why African soldiers fought in East Africa in World War I


Michelle Moyd of Indiana University seeks to dispel the myth of blindly loyal colonial troops during World War One.

One hundred years after World War I began in Europe, the question of why tens of thousands of African soldiers fought for European colonial powers in Africa intrigues us. European colonial military officers writing about their troops after 1918 proclaimed their soldiers’ loyalty and dedication to imperial goals and ideals. This is particularly true of the East Africa campaign, which captured the attention and imaginations of many post-war writers. Thousands of colonial troops from German East Africa, British East Africa, Belgian Congo, Portuguese East Africa, and elsewhere did indeed fight to the end of the protracted and grueling campaign, which had lasted slightly longer than the war on Europe’s western front. But does it make sense to describe these soldiers as “loyal?”


The askari troops pictured fought alongside the Germans in East Africa

In a limited sense, perhaps. When the campaign ended in late November 1918, some 1200 German colonial troops (askari) surrendered to Allied forces alongside their commander, General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. At the end of the war, the British King’s African Rifles (KAR) still had some 30,000 men in arms, and the Belgian Force Publique about 15,000. Inasmuch as these soldiers remained with their armies until the armistice, they met a minimum standard of loyalty to their organisations and commanders. Continue reading

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Sep 5 2014

Book Review – A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts: Sudan and South Sudan’s Bitter and Incomplete Divorce by James Copnall

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LSE’s Janel Smith finds James Copnall’s writing style and analysis refreshing in A Poisonous Thorn in our Hearts: Sudan and South Sudan’s Bitter and Incomplete Divorce.

A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts: Sudan and South Sudan’s Bitter and Incomplete Divorce by James Copnall provides a rich and vivid account of the period immediately following the separation of South Sudan from Sudan and represents a fascinating introduction to a wealth of views and experiences of Sudanese peoples residing in both Sudans from politicians, businessmen, and civil society activists to celebrities, cow herders and tea sellers. As the BBC’s Sudan correspondent from 2009-2012, Copnall travelled extensively throughout the Sudans and has reported from over 20 African states, thus, possessing knowledge and familiarity with the political, economic, and social climate and cultural contexts of the region.


Published in 2014 the book includes material from well over 100 interviews as well as first-hand accounts from the author’s own travels within both countries. It covers the recent violence in 2013 in both Sudan and South Sudan that saw protests and a violent clampdown by government take place in Khartoum, and political tensions between President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar in South Sudan that plunged the world’s newest country into civil war in December 2013. As such, A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts is an extremely timely and relevant publication. Continue reading

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Sep 4 2014

Book Review: External Mission: The ANC in Exile 1960-1990 by Stephen Ellis

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Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in February 1990 was one of the most memorable moments of recent decades. It came a few days after the removal of the ban on the African National Congress; founded a century ago and outlawed in 1960, it had transferred its headquarters abroad and opened what it termed an External Mission. For the thirty years following its banning, the ANC had fought relentlessly against the apartheid state. Finally voted into office in 1994, the ANC today regards its armed struggle as the central plank of its legitimacy. Emma Lundin is impressed by External Mission‘s study of the ANC’s period in exile.

Recent uncertainty and speculation about Nelson Mandela’s health has inevitably led to discussions about the great man’s legacy. These have, in turn, revealed how much of the history of the African National Congress (ANC) – the party that Mandela led into power in 1994 – remains to be uncovered, and Stephen Ellis‘ new book, External Mission: The ANC in Exile 1960-1990, could not have come at a better time. Published in late 2012, a year that marked the centenary anniversary of the ANC, it is a riveting, thorough and thought-provoking account of one of the murkiest and most significant chapters in the party’s history: the decades that the ANC spent underground and in exile following its banning by the South African authorities.

external_missionAs Desmond Tutu Professor of Social Sciences at Amsterdam’s Free University, Ellis has delved into the subject in his earlier work, but this account is the largest volume produced on the topic. His main objective, it seems, has been to answer a couple of major questions previously unresolved by ANC historiography: why did the ANC rely so heavily on communist allies – both the South African Communist Party and foreign Communist regimes – in its struggle, and how did that allegiance shape the ANC itself? This Ellis explores in eight chronological chapters that show just how ill-prepared the ANC was when forced underground by the apartheid regime in 1960, and how vital SACP funds, training and foreign connections were to keep the movement going throughout the 30 years of its banning. Continue reading

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Sep 3 2014

Photo Blog: South Africa’s Democracy – Mandela’s “Cherished Ideal”

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From 1 – 26 September 2014, an exhibition at LSE brings together photos, documents and artefacts that illustrate South Africa’s unique journey into democracy – President Nelson Mandela’s cherished ideal.

Moeletsi Mbeki, South African author and businessman, and deputy chair of the South African Institute of International Affairs, will give an associated lecture on Tuesday 23 September.

It is appropriate to explore the country’s journey in what has been a momentous year of remembrance for the country – 20 years since the first free elections in South Africa were held and 50 years after Mandela and his colleagues were sentenced to life imprisonment at the Rivonia trial.

 Photo by CHRIS LEDOCHOWSKI Nelson Mandela makes his first speech to the nation from the balcony of the Cape Town City Hall after his release from prison, Western Cape. 1990 Courtesy UCT Libraries Special Collections"

Nelson Mandela makes his first speech to the nation from the balcony of the Cape Town City Hall after his release from prison, Western Cape.
Courtesy UCT Libraries Special Collections

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Sep 1 2014

#GreatWarInAfrica Book Review: World War I in Africa: The Forgotten Conflict Among the European Powers by Anne Samson

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 World War I in Africa looks afresh at the strategies of the German and Allied campaigns, and at the great rivalry between General Jan Christian Smuts, who took on the German forces in East Africa, and General Lettow-Vorbeck, celebrated as the only German general to occupy British territory and whose troops finished the war undefeated. Although this book is presented as a multi-national study of the war in Africa, its key strength lies in the author’s intimate knowledge of internal politics in South Africa, writes LSE’s Mahon Murphy.

“Ah, I wish to hell I were in France! There one lives like a gentleman and dies like a man, here one lives like a pig and dies like a dog,” Lord Cranworth, settler in British East Africa once stated (p. 154).

Apart from Hew Strachan’s book on Africa during the First World War, there have not been many recent publications that have dealt with the conflict in Europe’s African colonies. That trend has been shifting, and with the centenary of the war and the historiographical shift to colonial history, gender studies, transnational and colonial history, there is an expected glut of publications that will look in depth at what was previously considered a side show. With this in mind one may be forgiven for thinking that it is actually the conflict on the Western Front rather than in Africa which is in danger of being forgotten.


Anne Samson’s new book on the First World War in Africa builds on her previous publication on the conflict and South Africa. This new book offers a more comparative look at the war and focuses in on the actual places of conflict in German East Africa and German South West Africa. Strachan’s standard work takes an in-depth look at the military campaigns. Samson seeks, however, to draw out the “humanness” of the war through a study of the influences of individuals rather than a military machine. This is certainly not a new approach to the conflict in German East Africa. The conflict there was awash with well-studied characters from the undefeated in the field: General Paul Lettow-Vorbeck and the eccentric British Naval Officer Spicer-Simson. However, what Samson delivers is a fascinating insight into the interplay between these various characters and how decisions taken on the ground, affected the outcome of the war. The Great War in Africa is presented here as a battle of wits between the various war, colonial, and foreign offices and those in the immediate line of fire (p. 43). Continue reading

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