Nicholas Westcott

A regular blog from RAS Director, Nicholas Westcott.


Thursday, 24 August 2017
Written by Richard Dowden
Angola is different. The clues are in the names. Check the names of the Central Committee of the ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Out of its 47 members, only 10 have African-sounding names. The rest, including President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, have what derive from originally Portuguese names. Several of them do not speak an African language but use Portuguese.   These families have lived in Africa long before European imperialists took over Angola... more
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Written by Richard Dowden
In the debate about future trade deals post Brexit one destination has been almost completed ignored: Africa. China and India are the targets for future UK trade but why is Africa off the list? Too poor? Too strange? Too corrupt or violent? Mainstream media content reflect images of poverty, disease and war and Africa sometimes throws up some real horrors. That reflects a reality but it is not the whole story of Africa. It is the most diverse continent on the planet. Snow on the equator, dense... more
Monday, 28 November 2016
Written by Richard Dowden
In Cuba it seems there will forever be two histories of Fidel Castro. One is the revolutionary who succeeded and became the guiding star for all who saw the world through the lens of Marxist Leninism. The other is the brutal dictator who suppressed democracy and kept his country poor. There is one place where Castro undoubtedly made a difference: Angola. In 1975 a military coup in Portugal overthrew the dictatorship of Antonio d’Oliveira Salazar. The country was tired of fighting wars in... more
Friday, 26 August 2016
Written by Richard Dowden
Ethiopia seems to be heading for another breakdown. Since the war with Eritrea ended - or maybe paused in stalemate - the country has developed rapidly. The level of poverty fell from 44% to 30% between 2000 and 2014 falling and a new dynamism emerged in the cities. But most Ethiopians are still subsistence farmers and the economy is not changing fast enough to provide jobs for the millions of school leavers and graduates.  Ethiopia, one of the world’s oldest nation states, has been... more
Friday, 19 August 2016
Written by Richard Dowden
John Campbell’s new book Morning in South Africa ends with a simple judgement: “On balance even with the clouds, it is morning in South Africa.” Having cited and analysed the failings of the ANC government, the paragraph that precedes this judgement gives a balanced assessment of South Africa’s remarkable transformation, listing “a consistent pattern of credible elections… a range of political vices are heard… freedom of speech in absolute... more