Category Archives: Nigeria

Food Insecurity

This report indicates there are 108 million people facing extreme food insecurity. Famine is possible in North (Muslim) Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. Security issues are driving hunger in Iraq and Syria. Less familiar to me are the troubles in Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Somalia’s troubles are due to persistent drought and there is similar news for Malawi. Zimbabwe, the perpetual poster child for poor governance, also has drought driven food troubles. Rapidly developing South Africa declared drought disaster in five of its nine provinces two years ago.

People do things when they don’t get enough to eat, as we saw in the Maghreb in 2010. The link between water, food, and conflict is one that appears here fairly often. We noted that Syrian Wheat Becomes Strategic back in 2013 and Lebanon’s Record Drought appeared in 2014.

The Mideast and North Africa are full of fragile states, places where too many humans have too little water.

The grim (but necessary) calculus of Functional Triage is still a forbidden topic; we can’t admit that boundless growth in our sealed environment of a single planet is a bad idea, and with that fundamental ideological barrier, we are cut off from discussing everything else that flows from that simple, objective fact.

I don’t hate any of the 400 million people in North Africa, nor and of the similar number of folks in the Mideast. But we are at a place where we must stop pretending and start dealing with reality. This is a troubling paragraph to write, because the areas where there will be trouble happen to align with … Trump’s laptop travel ban.

 

 

Low Oil Prices, High Geopolitical Risk

There are times when an infographic is so compelling I take a screen shot of it. Previously such an image would have been the ‘seed crystal’ for an article here, but now I’ve found one I want to duplicate using Tableau. This came from a LinkedIn post entitled Welcome to the new normal. Clock’s ticking, Venezuela, by Eurasia Group.

 

LowOilHighRisk.png

So what are we looking at here? I see the following:

  • An X-Y graph of log population vs. years to deplete oil reserves AND sovereign wealth funds.
  • Pie charts of oil and other income per nation
  • Pies sized by government revenue in billions.
  • A dividing line separating those who are stressed from countries which are considered more robust.

There are some textual or implicit characteristics of this infographic:

  • Oil prices are $50/bbl over the long haul.
  • Each country’s break even cost per barrel known, but unstated.
  • Countries maintain export to internal use ratio, avoiding the Export Land Model trap.

 

There are some other issues that matter when considering the implications of $50/bbl oil. Sixteen years of oil prices and oil rig count are an instructive visualization.

OilPriceRigCount-2000-2016.png

The global oil industry has crashed hard, down to less than $30/bbl this spring. The reasons are more geopolitical than economic – Syria, Saudi Arabia, Russia – go nose around and see if you can detect the calculus behind prices and production volume.

Another interesting graph is the long term Baltic Dry Index, and we’re going to start watching the container oriented HARPEX, too. All we need for the moment is the BDI, which is a proxy for global trade. The DJIA is a measure of investor sentiment and we’ve all seen multiple bubbles in our lives, but it takes a really big one like 2008 to drag the BDI higher. As a rule, people don’t rent dry bulk freighters and pay in advance, hoping to rent them to others at a higher rate.

BalticDryIndex-2000-2016.png

 

What does that infographic tell us? It separates those with small sovereign wealth funds OR oil that is costly to produce from those who are either savers or cheap producers. But I really question its accuracy, because …

  • Why is Libya in the safe zone, when it basically no longer exists as a country?
  • Oman’s government leans heavily on oil, but it’s diversified aggressively.
  • Why isn’t Algeria listed, because they’ve got ISSUES.

I’m not suggesting this is a bad infographic, to the contrary, it neatly sums up some serious issues from the perspective of an analyst that knows oil production. But it does show the hazards in trying to abstract nearly a dozen dimensions of information into a flat 2D representation.

My initial thought was to replicate this work, but having critiqued it, I’m not sure I’m willing to spend the time, given how quickly things are moving in the Ethereum realm.

U.S. Drones In Africa

U.S. Military Presence in Sub-Saharan Africa

U.S. Military Presence in Sub-Saharan Africa

Washington Post provided MAP: The U.S. military currently has troops in these African countries earlier this week. This is interesting to compare to the map of drone bases in U.S. Military In Africa, which I posted just over a year ago.

U.S. Bases In Africa

U.S. Bases In Africa

Time For Congress To Build A Better Drone Policy was posted eighteen months ago. This OpEd originated with Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison and it focuses on legality, oversight, and how we are perceived overseas. While those are very important political considerations, drones aren’t going away, but our doctrine needs to change.

There are two types of drones that do most of the damage. The first is the MQ-1 Predator. We have 360 of these and their performance is roughly equivalent to a World War I fighter. They can carry two of the AGM-114 Hellfire or the newer, smaller AGM-176 Griffin, which was created to do what the Hellfire does, but with reduced collateral damage.

MQ-1 Predator

MQ-1 Predator

The second type is the MQ-9 Reaper. We have 104 of these and their performance is similar to a World War II attack plane. They can carry four of the AGM-114 Hellfire and two GBU-12 Paveway II, a 500 pound laser guided bomb.

MQ-9 Reaper Used By U.S. Customs & Border Patrol

MQ-9 Reaper Used By U.S. Customs & Border Patrol

Our problem isn’t just overall drone policy, there is a much more specific issue – we need sensible rules of engagement for armed drones. We learned in Vietnam that we could not bomb our way to victory. We are repeating that experiment with the Predator and Reaper, and we are slow learners. Here is a starting point for such a discussion.

First, we used the 1980s vintage AGM-114 Hellfire because it was easy to adapt from helicopters to drones. The AGM-176 Griffin is half the weight of the Hellfire but it retains 65% of the explosive charge. This missile isn’t much of a downgrade in terms of explosive charge, it’s half the weight of the Hellfire due to thirty years of improved electronics and a reduced propellant load. The GBU-44 Viper Strike is the same size as the Griffin but with 15% of the explosive load of the Hellfire. If we truly are using drones just for high value targets this is the right tool for the job.

Second, drones can fill multiple roles. These include:

  • Eye In The Sky – like a satellite or forward air control planes such as the O-1 Bird Dog
  • Close Air Support – if we have ground forces in play no limit on weapon type or count
  • Aerial Sniper – the targeted kill job usually done by CIA or Special Forces

The Reaper had a failed add on package known as GORGON STARE, which was a video camera array. The execution was poor but the concept is excellent – set up a 24×7 watch on a problem area, figure out what is really happening. We’ll see another system like this eventually put into production. This is a natural role for aircraft that can loiter up to 36 hours.

No one is going to say a word if a fully loaded MQ-9 Reaper shows up twelve hours before a ground unit goes in and then lingers twelve hours after they withdraw. We have produced purpose built close air support planes for seventy five years, this is a natural evolution.

The drone attacks that make the news are these:

AfPak Drone Strikes

AfPak Drone Strikes

Helmand and Kandahar were always the most dangerous place for coalition troops, we now know that this was fueled by madrassas in nearby Quetta that were fostered by Pakistan’s ISI. Yet the drone strikes are inside Pakistan in the breakaway tribal area of Waziristan.

The wedding parties where dozens of guests are dismembered by Hellfire strikes are explained away as faulty intelligence. Collective punishment of the families of key leaders would be a more sensible explanation for the frequency of such ‘failures’, and I can see little difference between this and the manner in which Russia handles the families of Chechen separatist leaders. We ought to be better than this and if not, we ought to be wiser, because such a policy just drives further radicalization.

We are trying to draw a line in the sand, literally at the edge of the sand, where the Muslim Maghreb meets the Christian/animist sub-Saharan Africa. Oil rich Nigeria already has a de facto divide between the coast and the interior, but unlike Sudan did with South Sudan, they can’t just abandon the troublesome area. Boko Haram will keep showing up to ‘tax’ their neighbors, because terrorists mutate into insurgencies and those always become crime networks if their environment provides the opportunity.

The world has a multiplicity of troubles, but most stem from the iron triangle of collapse – economy, energy, and environment. There is little point in taking on COIN duties if neither we nor the state we are nominally supporting can do anything about the underlying issues that caused the insurgency in the first place. We do not have unlimited resources and we should be focusing what we have on taking care of home first.

Nigeria Maps

Spurred by this recent map of Boko Haram’s area of operations in a recent update from the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, I decided today would be a good time to collect some maps of the country.

Nigeria Boko Haram TRAC 5/2014

Nigeria Boko Haram TRAC 5/2014

You would need a TRAC subscription to read the article on Boko Haram’s diverse criminal enterprises, but I have been paying attention to illicit networks since I read National Defense University’s Convergence, and my own TRAC contributions are centered in this area.

I have seen speculative maps showing a three way partition of Nigeria. This is not unprecedented in African affairs – Sudan freed itself of constant counter-insurgency (good) but created an instant failed state in the form of South Sudan (bad). Just look at the distribution of people, oil, and Islam in the nation of Nigeria.

Nigeria Sharia

Nigeria Sharia


Nigeria Population Distribution

Nigeria Population Distribution


Nigeria Vegetation

Nigeria Vegetation


Nigeria Ethnolinguistic Low Resolution

Nigeria Ethnolinguistic Low Resolution


Nigeria Ethnolinguistic High Resolution

Nigeria Ethnolinguistic High Resolution


Nigeria Economic Activity

Nigeria Economic Activity

The single most important thing to understand about the Nigerian economy is oil production – happens in the ethnic Ijaw areas of the Niger delta, benefits the ethnic Yoruba capital, and has led to the formation of MEND – Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta. This map of piracy for 2013 shows a focus around Nigeria’s oil production and some of these are seizures of crew from offshore platforms. The entire energy industry exhibited a startle response about six years ago the first time MEND operated forty miles offshore. Since then they have nearly doubled the distance at which they can successfully strike.

Gulf of Guinea Piracy

Gulf of Guinea Piracy

Will Nigeria split into a Muslim agricultural savannah north and a Christian/animist coastal south? This appears to already be a de facto fission. I suspect that Boko Haram can extort and rob their southern neighbors, but not conquer them. This ‘unfinished business’ is probably the worst possible case – insurgencies always evolve into organized crime operations and such entities want weak, not entirely failed states. Warlords have peculiar banking requirements, arms dealers want to fly first class, and taxable extractive industries depend on enough of a state to secure their product, property, and workers.

The Simmering Maghreb

Arab Spring

Arab Spring

Starting in Tunisia with the self immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi in late December of 2010, Arab Spring spread like wildfire, bowling over four governments and straining all their neighbors. Three years have passed and a wave of weapons from Libya, coupled with fighters from all over, have destabilized the ring of nations adjacent to those which have already revolted.

North Africa Islamist Troubles

North Africa Islamist Troubles

The nations in the next tier to the south are equally disturbed, with Boko Haram in Nigeria to al Shabaab attacks in Kenya, while the Central African Republic is melting down due to internal issues and unfinished business due to the separation of South Sudan threatens to revive their conflict with Sudan.

Central Africa

Central Africa

Imperial implosions are always messy affairs. North Africa bear the marks of lines that have been repeatedly redrawn over the last 1200 years. The continent had hardly finished digesting the 20th century collapse of the English and French imperial efforts before the Soviet Union took a tumble. The U.S. is in a similar position to what the Soviet Union faced in the late 1980s, militarily and financially exhausted, staggering home from long running low intensity conflicts.

I mentioned AFRICOM’s expansion in U.S. Military in Africa and 2014 will bring both a Quadrennial Defense Review as well as the second ever Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review. I am looking forward to comparing the 2010 documents to what will be presented for 2014, seeking clues as to what our stance will be in this region.

Reducing Infant Mortality With Social Network Analysis

My first experience with social network analysis was downloading the Maltego Community Edition software. I put in an email address, ran a transform, and it showed me the associated Twitter account. A few more clicks, and it showed me the account’s associates. I was immediately hooked – the system represented things on the screen the way I envision them in my head. That was November of 2010. Two years later I took the Social Network Analysis class from Coursera and I would say that this is now a pretty firm career direction for me. There are all sorts of things I have yet to learn, but the basics are in place.

One of the nice things with this course was that it got me out of viewing SNA as purely an opposition research tool. People use generalized network analysis for everything from protein structure to organizational analysis & development. This is the bright side of the SNA coin, and I just noticed Eva Schiffer’s work with Net-Map.

Their most recent project involves cutting infant mortality in rural Nigeria. SNA isn’t always poking around in social media – the practice got its start in the social sciences decades ago. People get trained in Net-Map and then they go out and collect information on organizations by hand, in this case visiting all the people who provide funds and deliver health services in the Nigerian state of Katsina.

Manual Net-Map

Manual Net-Map

This electronic drawing of the manual map shows what they are doing – identifying actors and the flows of money and influence that effect how health care is delivered.

Electronic Version Of Manual Net-Map

Electronic Version Of Manual Net-Map

The entire study is thirty one pages and it contained a lot of detail on how they sorted out the force vectors between nodes – in English, how they determined how much and what type of influence each of the various actors exerted on the others. The systems I am using right now have the ability to label, color, and weight links, and I have written a bit of code to include a time component to Twitter mentions, slowly aging them down to a minimal value, which produces a more accurate graph of current conditions.

A social network graph can save a mother and her child. Maybe next it can reduce the number of children she has from five to three, getting down towards replacement numbers. And another graph could help yield clean water, while a crop map made by a western built drone could identify troubles before they became food security problems. Many of the troubles on the maps I curate are related to having too many people and not enough water or arable land. If we can ensure the safety of infants and mothers that is a step towards ensuring the safety of whole societies. And that is a brighter future for all of us …

Libya Breaking Up Just As Sudan Did?

I saw Battle Of Control For Southern Libya this morning and I went digging. Recall that Sudan: Africa’s Yugoslavia? provided background on the breakup of Sudan, and in Nightwatch: Syria, Jordan & Mali briefly described the north/south split in Mali.

I found a high quality map of African ethnic groups and cropped the area of interest from it.

Africa Ethnic Groups

Libya Toubou Ethnic Group

And then I found a Libya specific map, which disagreed a bit on the extent of inhabited areas in southern Libya. White in the crop from the larger map indicates the area is uninhabited.

Libya Ethnic Groups

Then I found the oil map. This seems to me to be a bright spot – the Toubou were marginalized under the Gadaffi regime so they have neither a geographic claim on Libyan oil nor would it seem they’d have any expectation of benefit from it. The nature of the situation would seem to indicate that oil revenue was used to make their lives harder.

Libya Oil Map

Starting with Nigeria and Mali in the west and ending with Sudan and Somalia in the east, Africa is in chaos as the old dividing line between Arab Muslim Norther Africa and black animist or Christian Southern Africa.

The colonial lines on the map, created only a hundred years ago, are also becoming blurred, as both U.S. military power and European development funds dry up due to a variety of factors. The ethno-linguistic map above may be a better guide to understanding happenings in Africa than the formal lines on the map, which have been shifting and blurring since European colonialism’s peak a century ago.

Africa Partition-1885-1914