The focus of last week's U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit—economic investment in sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa—has changed the narrative of how the United States perceives of and engages with the continent. However, the summit is missing a vital component to achieving its long-term goal of sustained growth and development. If the Obama administration is serious about the United States being "central" to the economic development of Africa, it should emphasize the important role of human rights behind closed doors after the Summit ends. While ignoring potentially controversial issues in the short-term will make for less contentious discussions, the long-term implications could negatively affect U.S. partnerships with African countries and drastically hinder region-wide progress.
Unfortunately, the United States has shown limited interest to destabilizing situations outside of terrorism-related countries—such as Somalia and Djibouti. Although the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) is complex and recurring, if affects the political stability and economies of the surrounding countries—including Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Chad, Republic of Congo, Sudan, and South Sudan. The United States should collaborate with CAR's neighbors, and other states with influence in the region, such as France, to facilitate a dialogue on how to address the humanitarian situation—first in surrounding countries, and eventually within CAR itself. This simple strategy of diplomatic facilitation, without an overt role of the U.S. military, is applicable in situations other than CAR as well.