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Departures Podcast with John Campbell

For many years, Africa’s natural resource wealth, young population, and vibrant societies have raised many hopes for a rapid emergence on the world’s stage – but the development of these opportunities has often slow and uneven. So what is holding the region back?

John Campbell, a former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of multiple books on the region, joins Departures this week to discuss a wide range of trends he sees taking precedence, from Nigeria to Kenya to South Africa.

Looking at the relatively disappointing results of President Muhummudu Buhari in Nigeria, Ambassador Campbell points to the country’s unfortunate history. “Nigerians like to say that the present government is a colonial government. The only difference is that instead of being run by the British, it is run by a homegrown elite,” Ambassador Campbell says.

Speaking about how the African public views the recent protest movements over racial inequality in the United States, Ambassador Campbell says it depends which audience you are talking about.

“African elites by and large, don’t like demonstrations. The kind of demonstrations that have taken place in Washington and other American cities, if that were to happen in Africa, they would turn against the government very fast,” he says. But others feel encouraged that mass movements can be for good causes that they clearly understand. As one Nigerian said to him, “Well, ‘black lives matter’ in the United States, but in much of Africa, no lives matter.”

Lastly, when speaking about the ongoing rot of authoritarianism in Africa with regimes like Museveni in Uganda and Biya in Cameroon, Ambassador Campbell warns against the US overemphasizing “stability.”

“We’ve made this kind of mistake before and it always ends up to be extremely costly. Whenever we violate our ideals, we end up paying a heavy price for it,” he says.