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Friday, July 26, 2013

South Africa: Politics, Economy, and U.S. Relations

Nicolas Cook
Specialist in African Affairs

South Africa is a multi-racial, majority black southern African country of nearly 52 million. It held its first universal suffrage elections in 1994, after a transition from white minority rule under apartheid, a system of state-enforced racial segregation and socioeconomic discrimination. South Africa is influential regionally, due to its political engagement and trade and investment across Africa and its active role within the African Union. It is viewed as a U.S. strategic partner in Africa, despite periodic differences over some foreign policy issues. In late June 2013, President Obama traveled to South Africa after visiting Senegal, prior to a visit to Tanzania. The trip centered on U.S.-African partnership in the areas of trade and investment, development, democracy and youth leadership development, and peace and security. Key issues addressed in South Africa included bilateral political and economic ties, development cooperation, and shared U.S.-South African aims regarding conflict mitigation, increased trade and investment, and development across Africa.

Congress has long been engaged with South Africa, notably during the anti-apartheid struggle, and with regard to post-apartheid socioeconomic development efforts, a key focus of bilateral ties. Since 1992, South Africa has been a leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid, mostly devoted to addressing HIV/AIDS and other health challenges. Aid oversight has drawn the bulk of South Africa-related congressional attention in recent years. U.S. policy makers are also increasingly focused on efforts to strengthen already growing U.S.-South African trade and investment ties. Other key areas of bilateral engagement include security cooperation and an ongoing U.S.-South African Strategic Dialogue. Established in 2010, the Dialogue centers on health, education, food security, law enforcement, trade, investment, and energy, among other issues.

South Africa has the largest, most diversified, and highly industrialized economy in Africa. It has enjoyed moderate economic growth in most recent years. Average per capita incomes and access to education have grown across racial groups, notably for blacks. Despite post-apartheid national socioeconomic gains, South Africa remains a highly unequal society with respect to wealth and income distribution and access to jobs, social services, utilities, and land. Most blacks are poor, and average black incomes are far smaller than those of the historically privileged white minority. Blacks also suffer very high unemployment rates (36% in 2011), and have far less access to education. Shortages of quality housing, utilities, and social services in townships—the vast, high-density housing settlements where many of the poor live—spur ongoing social and political tensions. Other key problems include public corruption and widespread violent crime, notably rape and armed robbery. Vigilante justice and mob violence is not uncommon, and heavy-handed police tactics sometimes result in human rights abuses. South Africa also suffers high rates of HIV/AIDS.

In late 2012, the governing African National Congress (ANC) party, despite some reported internal divisions, reelected as its president Jacob Zuma, ahead of national elections in 2014. Zuma was elected to his first term as president of South Africa by the country’s parliament in 2009. The ANC government faces the substantial challenges noted above, along with others, including labor unrest, rising dissatisfaction within key labor constituencies, and dissatisfaction among youths. Youth populations face particularly high jobless rates and may lack older generations’ continuing allegiance and gratitude to the ANC for helping to end apartheid. To address these diverse challenges, the government is investing billions of dollars to upgrade infrastructure and improve public service delivery, but is likely to face continuing challenges in meeting popular expectations.

Date of Report: July 1, 2013
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: R43130
Price: $29.95

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Senegal: Background and U.S. Relations

Alexis Arieff
Analyst in African Affairs

Successive U.S. Administrations have viewed Senegal as a democratic leader in Africa, an anchor of regional stability, and a partner in addressing development challenges and combating transnational security threats. Senegalese President Macky Sall met with President Barack Obama at the White House in March 2013, and President Obama is expected to visit Senegal in late June. A small, arid nation on West Africa’s Atlantic coast, Senegal has struggled with widespread poverty and a long-running, low-level separatist insurgency in its southern Casamance region. Still, the country’s democratic continuity and military professionalism have stood in stark contrast to near-state collapse in neighboring Mali (previously also considered a democracy), and to unrest and instability elsewhere in the region. This regional turbulence presents security, political, and economic challenges to Senegal’s leadership and population.

President Sall was voted into office in early 2012 in an election widely seen as free and fair, defeating incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade, who had been in office since 2000. Wade’s decision to run for what would have been a third term in office was extremely controversial within Senegal, provoking protests and sparking concerns over potential instability. Such concerns prompted officials in the Obama Administration and some Members of Congress to appeal to Wade to withdraw his candidacy. Wade pursued his campaign nonetheless, and criticized what he described as Western interference. In the end, Sall’s electoral victory, and Wade’s peaceful concession, renewed many Senegalese and international observers’ faith in the strength of Senegal’s democratic institutions.

Since his election, President Sall has focused on reforming Senegal’s bloated civilian administration, pursuing investigations into corrupt practices under his predecessor, and making a renewed push for peace in Casamance. While these initiatives appear to be popular, Sall faces stark challenges, including public expectations that he will deliver rapid economic dividends to Senegal’s largely impoverished population. It is also unclear how far Sall can pursue allegations of corruption under his predecessor without implicating himself or close allies, as he and others served in senior positions under former President Wade.

Congress plays a role in shaping U.S. policy toward Senegal through its authorization and appropriation of foreign assistance, and through its oversight of executive branch policies and programs. In addition to bilateral aid totaling $109.6 million in FY2012, Senegal is the beneficiary of a five-year, $540 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact signed in 2009. Some Members of Congress objected to the decision to award Senegal an MCC compact in light of concerns, at the time, over corruption and political trends under then-President Wade. In the conference report accompanying P.L. 112-74, the FY2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act, appropriators directed the Administration to allocate at least $50 million in development aid to Senegal, while also expressing concern over Senegal’s failure to bring to justice former Chadian president Hissène Habré, who lives in Senegal and has been accused of crimes against humanity. Some progress has since been made toward a possible trial for Habré.

Date of Report: June 20, 2013
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: R41369
Price: $29.95

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