from Africa in Transition

American Foreign Policy Toward Africa

January 2, 2014

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Sub-Saharan Africa

United States

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For many of us, the American lack of attention toward Africa is short-sighted and frustrating. It is to the great credit of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy that it has devoted the entire November-December issue of its journal, American Foreign Policy Interests, to “Africa’s Conflicting Challenges: Security vs. Modernization.” The guest editor of this special issue is Herman J. Cohen, a former assistant secretary of state for Africa.

The lead articles are by Macky Sall, who was elected president of Senegal in 2012 in free and fair elections and born after the colonial era was over, and Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state for Africa throughout President Obama’s first term. President Sall argues for a new U.S.-Africa partnership based on trade and investment, while Ambassador Carson details the successes (often quiet and not dramatic) of the Obama administration’s Africa policy.

In contributions by other authors, Sudan and South Sudan receive detailed attention. Ambassador Princeton Lyman, ret., analyzes South Sudan’s unresolved issues, especially timely given the current fighting there. Ambassador Dane Smith, ret., looks at the governance challenges and their contexts in Khartoum. Col. Laura Varhola and Col. Thomas Shepherd look at the U.S. and Africa from a military perspective, while I question whether Washington’s approach is becoming too influenced by military considerations related to terrorism. Ray Leonard, a president and CEO with extensive experience in the hydrocarbon industry, looks at the future of African oil production. The issue concludes with Ambassador Cohen’s review of Richard Dowden’s important book, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles.

Ambassador Cohen’s introduction lays the table for the intellectual feast. His concluding “For the Record” gives high marks to the Obama administration’s Africa policy, with one glaring exception: it has been too silent on Rwandan and Ugandan intervention in the eastern Congo.

Too often an assessment of an administration’s Africa policy is based on a numbers game, how many visits an American president and a secretary of state have made to the continent, how many African heads of state have visited the White House. This volume is an important corrective to the view that somehow the Obama administration has "ignored" Africa.

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

United States

Heads of State and Government

Senegal

Development

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