Meet the Olivia Pope of Kenya ( - August 1)

PR is invaluable for changing the African narrative, according to Christopher Harvin, partner at PR firm Sanitas International and co-founder of Vanguard Africa, a pro-democracy nonprofit. “It’s critical,” he says, “to navigate the next steps of economic and social development as the continent strives to elevate its global standing, shape its brand and offset its critics.”

Ugandans Protest after President Imposes Social Media Tax (Washington Times – July 17)

Hilary Matfess, who has written on the radical Islamist movement Boko Haram, and Jeffrey Smith, head of the pro-democracy group Vanguard Africa, say African nations such as Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Zimbabwe are following in familiar footsteps in their bids to curb critical debate on the internet.

“Tanzania and Uganda are the latest nations to fall victim to a wave of internet censorship that has been inspired and exported by autocratic powers such as China and Russia, as well as totalitarian regimes like North Korea …,” they wrote recently on “Across sub-Saharan Africa, free expression is being unjustly curtailed, and the internet is increasingly being used by authorities to censor and surveil citizens.”

Autocratic Togo is out of Step with West Africa. Will It's Neighbors Take Action? (World Politics Review – July 12)

“Togo is such an outlier, and it really casts a negative light on a region that has quite a bit to highlight and to tout internationally,” says Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a Washington-based nonprofit group that supports free and fair elections and pro-reform leaders. “It’s a tragic situation for Togo and for the region, which should be recognized for its tremendous democratic advancements.”

‘It’s just barbarity.’ Togo’s Political Prisoners Describe Torture in Police Custody (Los Angeles Times – June 3)

“It’s a military regime with a civilian figurehead at the top effectively doing their business for them,” said Jeffrey Smith, the founder of Vanguard Africa, a Washington nonprofit that works with Togolese pro-democracy activists. Gnassingbe “is putting a patina of legitimacy on an otherwise illegitimate military regime,” he said.

Gambia: The ‘Star Performer’ in Democratic Transition (Democracy Digest – May 31)

“It’s clear the new government is genuinely resolved to make a clear and unequivocal break from the dictatorial past,” says Jeffrey Smith, director of Vanguard Africa, a pro-democracy outfit. “But the perception is that much of that goodwill has yet to be translated to on-the-ground results.”

Gabon’s Bongo Bids to Entrench Power Before Parliamentary Vote (Bloomberg News – May 29)

“Rather than a rebuke of the government’s failure to hold overdue legislative elections, this is merely a dubious measure to strengthen the president’s weakened hand,” said Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that monitors elections in Africa.

Canada denies visa to famed anti-corruption campaigner Rafael Marques de Morais (Globe and Mail – April 27)

Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that works for free elections in Africa, said the Canadian decision to reject the visa application is “a disservice to the decades-long selfless sacrifices that Rafael has made.”

How Tanzania’s Government is Trying to Dismantle the Free Press ‘Piece by Piece’ (World Politics Review – April 20)

In an email interview, Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of Vanguard Africa, and Vincent Mashinji, secretary general of Tanzania’s main opposition party, CHADEMA, discuss Tanzania’s assault on the media and how the government is “promoting authoritarian rule, rather than the rule of law.” 

Can This Pop Star Topple Uganda’s Strongman President? ( – April 4, 2018)

According to Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the pro-democracy nonprofit Vanguard Africa, this demographic tension bodes well for Kyagulanyi. “If he’s able to build a campaign structure to effectively channel this energy,” says Smith, “Uganda’s ruling class could be in for a shock.”