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On My Wish List for the Next Administration: A US Africa Policy Worthy of Africa

Precisely as Africa is rising on the radar screens of investors and security types, it seems to be falling off the US foreign policy map. With the exception of Governor Romney’s mention of Mali (twice!) in the third debate, Africa hardly featured at all. That’s a shame, since Africa is both a growing opportunity and will become a greater threat if neglected. I’ve been deeply disappointed to see the United States reduce its engagement with the continent under the current administration, losing ground on the progress made under Presidents Clinton and Bush. Regardless of who wins on November 6, the scope for doing better—and more without more money—is obvious.

The following originally appeared on October 1 as “Missing in Africa” on ForeignAffairs.com.

Taxing Kenya’s M-Pesa Picks the Pockets of the Poor

Kenya has instituted a new tax that affects users of M-Pesa -- a widely popular phone-based money transfer service used by more than half of Kenya’s adult population. The new 10 percent excise duty on fees charged for money transfer services applies to mobile phone providers, banks, and other money transfer agencies. Operated by Safaricom, the largest mobile network operator in Kenya, M-Pesa accounts for the largest share of users of money transfer services. Users of M-Pesa products will therefore bear most of the impact of the tax.

Latest AGOA Delay Comes from a Surprising Source

This is a joint post with Jenny Ottenhoff.

Last month, one of us wrote that Congress seemed to have compromised and reached a bipartisan deal to extend the rule (known technically but awkwardly as the third-country fabric rule) that allows poor African countries to export clothing to the United States duty-free under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. We should have known better. This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was finally ready to bring a package of trade items, including the rule extension, to the floor for passage by unanimous consent when two senators put holds (subscription required) on it over completely unrelated issues – despite the fact that they actually support the extension.

Was the Charles Taylor Trial Worth the Price Tag?

This is a joint-post with Alaina Varvaloucas. Varvaloucas is a student at Yale Law School and formerly worked for Oxford University’s Centre for the Study of African Economies, based in Freetown.

Yesterday, after 9 years and nearly $250 million dollars spent, the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Hague sentenced former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison after convicting him on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Taylor's trial has been an important milestone in the struggle to end impunity for tyrants and mass murderers. But the international community's guilt-ridden obsession with pursuing the Charles Taylors of the world is skewing the allocation of resources in war-torn countries toward celebrity trials and away from poor people with limited access to justice.

Africa’s Child Health Miracle: The Biggest, Best Story in Development

If you’re sick of the sad, hopeless stories coming out of Africa, here’s one that made my year. New statistics show that the rate of child death across sub-Saharan Africa is not just in decline—but that decline has massively accelerated, just in the last few years. From the middle to the end of the last decade, rates of child mortality across the continent plummeted much faster than they ever had before.

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