Between August 4-6th, 2014, President Obama convened most of the heads of state of the 54 nations of Africa in Washington, D.C. for the first-ever summit between U.S. and African leaders. In anticipation of the summit, the United States Institute of Peace hosted a conversation on “U.S. Policy Today for Africa Tomorrow.” The panel of experts included Ambassador Johnnie Carson (former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (2009-2013)), Ambassador Princeton Lyman (Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan (2011-2013)), and Ambassador George Moose (former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (1993-1997)).
Panel discussion focused on themes that could, and should, be prioritized in the summit, as well as strategies for strengthening relations between the U.S. and Africa. As Africa increasingly continues to gain prominence on the agenda of world powers, U.S. policymakers are becoming pressed to draft policies that address Africa’s most pressing needs – burgeoning economies and brutal civil conflicts both provincially and regionally – and overall U.S. interest on the continent.
During the panel Q&A, mentions of keystone U.S.-Africa initiatives such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), Power Africa, and Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) were referenced. Off-the-cuff acknowledgment of current shortcomings and challenges were brought to the table via Amb. George Moose. The senior diplomat talked on why it is key for U.S. policies to abandon messaging with contradictory action steps. “If the goal is to build civil society capacity,” says Amb. Moose, “…then it needs to be reflected in the programs.” The Ambassador referenced current reports and approaches that show action steps to be focused more on military support and less civil societies and governance.
An overarching consensus from the panel circulated the issue of how institutional weakness remains a preeminent struggle in Africa policy and development. The African Leaders Summit ought to address the ongoing violence in the continent, and combat skepticism on the tangibles of summit objectives. With corruption continues to hamper the African growth story, (noticeably higher in oil rich/producing countries), how the U.S. approaches relations with Africa compared to Europe, China, and other world powers brings to light the need for policies focused on coordinated global efforts in addressing open and inclusive African political economies.
This Summit could be an opportunity to establish a foundation in collective development strategies from government stakeholders. What didn’t get addressed however, was the perceived/future role of AID and non-governmental organizations in facilitating innovative capacity building for economic growth, civil societies and democratic governance in Africa. These are essential U.S.-Africa policy capabilities and enhancing them will mitigate and resolve conflict, open markets and trade, and reinforce America’s image as a global force for peace.
Mariel Kanene is Founder and Editor of TheArtOfPersptive.co and lead storyteller with a focus on music, startups and travel. His passion for storytelling was born in Kinshasa, Congo and bred in Washington, DC where he resides. By day, Mariel spends his days slowly trying to change the world—one meaningful interaction at a time. He loves reading factual-fiction, good podcasts, traveling, health and fitness, foreign languages and good conversations over good coffee and even better rum. He hates talking about himself in third person.Thanks for stopping by. Always appreciated. Find me on: Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin | Website.