The Pistorius Effect

Oscar Pistorius has put South Africa in the US media spotlight to a degree not seen since 2010. The coverage has been less flattering. The killing of Reeva Steenkamp is cast as a symptom of a nation in crisis.

Charlayne Hunter Gault occupies a special place in American journalism. In 1961, she became one of the first two African American students to attend the hitherto segregated University of Georgia.  For many years she was a correspondent and anchor on what was then the country’s most respected news show, the MacNeil/Lehrer Report.

Today she contributes regularly from South Africa to the New Yorker magazine,  whose website published her take on the shooting the weekend after it happened.  She saw it in the context of Anene Booysen’s rape and evisceration and of SA’s having, according to the World Health Organisation, the highest reported rate of domestic violence against woman and children in the world.

She  told her readers that while President Jacob Zuma had expressed horror at the savagery of Booysen’s butchers,  “he himself was once charged with rape and testified that it was his duty as a Zulu man to satisfy the woman who accused him.” Continue reading “The Pistorius Effect”


US-Africa 2012 Trade Highlights

Sub-Saharan Africa’s exports to the US, which had begun to pick up after plunging in the wake of  Wall Street’s 2008 implosion, dipped again  in 2012 — this time by 34 per cent — and do not look like recovering any time soon.

This is not something US trade policy, in the form of  the African Growth and Opportunity Act’s  preferential tariff treatment for most African products,  can do much about in the immediate term, even if the act is made more generous when it comes up for renewal in 2015.

It’s a problem of waning demand. Oil is the primary US import from Africa. The US thirst for imported oil (other than Canadian) is fast diminishing. Blame increased domestic production, the shale gas boom and improving energy efficiency.  Last week Citigroup issued a report predicting “North American energy independence” by 2020. Continue reading “US-Africa 2012 Trade Highlights”

Converging on immigration

“The biggest threat to American soft power is the backlash against immigration,” writes the Economist’s Robert Guest in “Borderless Economics”, a highly readable paean to the power of diaspora networks. If so, it’s a threat that looks to be receding.

Immigration is now one of the few issues on which Democrats and Republicans seem able to have a fruitful conversation.  Last week saw  eight senators, four from each party, announce an agreed set of principles for fixing a system all agree is broken. A day later, President Obama  re-unveiled his own set of ideas on the subject, first launched in May 2011. On the whole they converged.

Why now? A lot of it has to do with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney winning only 27 per cent of the Hispanic vote after suggesting he would require illegal aliens to “self-deport” or else.  Add to that projections the Hispanic share of the vote will be 2 per cent bigger in 2016 than it was in 2012.
Continue reading “Converging on immigration”