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A Reflection on 2013 for Africa Up Close

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As we enter a new year in just a week, I would like to take this last post of 2013 and reflect on what has been a year of growth for our program blog, Africa Up Close. Now just over a year old, Africa Up Close, has become a major source of information for the policy community, academia, and those who follow Africa here in the U.S.  Here are some of our statistics. From a start up in September 2012, this blog now has a major following, with a total of 9,300 visitors from July 1-December 1 alone, of which 40% are returning visitors and 60% are new visitors.  The average visitor looks at a minimum of two pages per visit. We have therefore had almost 20,000 page views in that time frame.   As would be expected, our viewers are overwhelmingly from the U.S. mainly Washington, DC and New York, followed by the UK, Kenya and South Africa.

Our original purpose was to provide a platform for African voices to be heard in policy, research, and academic circles here in the U.S.   We have been able to meet that objective, with the vast majority of our contributors residing on the continent, either Africans or others who live and work extensively in Africa.  In fact, our most viewed pieces since October have been three written by our first Southern Voices Scholars here at the Wilson Center: Daniel Kebede's articles on Somalia, the first on "A Bottom-Up Approach on the Integration of the Armed Forces in Somalia" on December 16, and "Somalia Still in Transition" on October 26, and Fritz Nganje's  piece on "Decentralization and Development Post-2015: A Strategic Imperative for Africa?" on October 7.

This year we followed in detail the "big" stories, like President Obama's trip to Africa in July; the AGOA Summit in Addis in August; the surrender of the M23 in the Eastern DRC and its implications; the northern Mali/Sahel security situation and the Malian elections; the coup and subsequent unrest and human rights violations in the Central African Republic; the Westgate massacre in Kenya by Al Shabaab; and the recent situation in South Sudan as that new nation verges on all out civil war.   Our reporting has featured perspectives from "on-the-ground," with Tom Mboya in Kenya and Francis Kornegay in South Africa reflecting on Obama trip, Representative Karen Bass giving a firsthand account of the AGOA summit, and many other well informed observers.  Along with the fact that our contributions are in both English and French, our daily news summaries have begun to feature a major contribution, translations of Spanish, Chinese and Portuguese reporting on Africa, perspectives about which we are too often unaware and ill-informed.

While it is important to get alternate views and analysis on the "breaking news" which tends to dominate our attention, of equal importance are the myriad other substantive issues of mutual concern on Africa.  Examples are poverty in Africa, the future of women's entrepreneurship, regional economic integration, peace education in post-conflict societies, Christian and Muslim extremism, BRICS and emerging powers, science and technology, and many more, all of which have been featured on our pages.  Our contributors in 2013 have included research and think tank scholars and academics from Africa, Africa Union officials, conflict resolution practitioners, former African government officials and ambassadors, African non-governmental organization leaders, former U.S. ambassadors and other Western diplomats to Africa, and a Member of the American Congress on the Africa sub-committee of the House.

Finally, as often as we can, we feature video interviews with significant policy leaders and analysts from Africa and Washington.  In 2013 these have included Dr. Ludovic Lado, an anthropologist of religion and researcher at the Centre de Recherche et d'Action poir la Paix (CERAP) in Abidjan; Dr. Paul Williams, Professor of African Security at George Washington University;  Fatima Jibrell, the founder of Adeso, "a humanitarian and development organization that is changing the way people think about and deliver aid in Africa"; Djibrille Bassolé, the Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso; Dr. Bogaletch Gebre, a crusader against female genital mutilation in Ethiopia and winner of the 2013 King Baudouin African Development Prize; and Jessica Breakey, a young South African who was a participant in the South Africa-Washington International Program (SAWIP).

All in all, it has been a fulsome and very busy year, and 2014 seems poised to bring more of the same.  While situations like that prevailing in South Sudan right now give us pause as we realize there are still so many failures of governance, and a lack of addressing core causes of conflict in Africa, we also see the strides being taken, and major progress emerging on regional integration, breaking down of intra-Africa trade barriers, growth of middle class Africans, provision of energy, clean water, and health care to so many thousands of Africans, and a growth rate unparalleled in the world.

Have a peaceful holiday season, hopefully in the arms of your family, and let's all hope for an enriching, progressive and positive new year.

Related Program

Africa Program

The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and US-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial US-Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in US-Africa relations.    Read more