• Climate Change
    What Climate Change Means for the Horn of Africa, With Michelle Gavin
    Michelle Gavin, the Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the impact of climate change in the Horn of Africa. This series is made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
    Low Expectations for Secretary Tillerson’s Trip to Africa
    Rex Tillerson will make his first trip to Africa as Secretary of State between March 6 and March 13. He will visit five of Africa’s fifty-four countries—Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria. The trip hardly appears to be a “reset” by the Trump administration in its approach to Africa. The State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert, when announcing the trip, said that its purpose was “to further our partnerships with the governments and people of Africa.” She also said that the Secretary would be discussing how the United States “can work with our partners to counter terrorism, advance peace and security, promote good governance, and spur mutually beneficial trade and investment.” This rhetoric implies little change in the U.S. agenda in Africa since the end of the cold war and may reflect apparent White House disengagement and disinterest in the world’s second largest continent.  The selection of countries the secretary will visit indicates a strong emphasis on security issues. Djibouti is the site of the only U.S. base in Africa. Nigeria and Chad are deeply involved in the struggle against the Islamist, anti-western Boko Haram, which involves limited U.S. military training and equipment sales. Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti are also involved in the struggle against al-Shabaab, the terrorist organization centered in Somalia, where the U.S. military also has assumed a limited support role.  Chad, Djibouti, and Ethiopia are backsliding with respect to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Kenya faces unresolved issues related to its recent contested presidential elections. Ethiopia’s strong-man prime minister abruptly resigned in February, resulting in a care-taker government that is set to elect a new prime minister soon. Nigeria, the giant of Africa, has established itself as a credible democracy, but goes into a 2019 election cycle that could be violent. Secretary Tillerson’s itinerary does not include what is in many ways the most successful African state, South Africa. It has the continent’s largest economy and is a functioning “non-racial” democracy. Its new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, provides the possibility of a reset in the bilateral relationship, which at present is no more than “cordial” and “correct.” The secretary’s trip is unlikely to advance the United States relationship with sub-Saharan Africa in any meaningful way. The focus is on security, not economic development, trade and investment, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Further, the Trump administration has yet to articulate a distinctive policy toward Africa. U.S. engagement, limited though it is, appears to be more military than diplomatic, reflecting the Trump administrations security preoccupations. There is still no assistant secretary of state for Africa, no U.S. ambassador to South Africa, and numerous other Africa-related positions remain unfilled. Certain authoritarian African leaders, like Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, have made positive statements about President Trump. Democratic leaders on the other hand, notably Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, were deeply critical of the president’s public denigration of Africa and Haiti. With the U.S. recessional from Africa, save for security issues, African states are turning to other partners, notably China, France, and the EU. In a thoughtful article, John Stremlau, an American visiting professor at Johannesburg’s prestigious University of the Witswatersrand, suggests that, for the time being, growing the United States relationship with sub-Saharan Africa may rest more with the legislative branch than with the executive branch and the secretary of state. He points out that since the 1990s Congress has consistently supported closer economic and political partnerships with Africa, reflecting the big American business, philanthropy, and civil society constituency for Africa.  
  • China
    China’s New Military Presence in Africa
    Allen Grane is a research associate in Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Recently, the Chinese government closed a deal with the Djibouti government to build its first international military base. The deal grants the Chinese government land rights for ten years, and has abruptly sparked debate over Chinese military interests in Africa. Commentators’ fears have focused on the threat of China’s military expansion in the region. The new base, however, reflects China’s long-term economic goals in Africa more than its current military objectives. It is important to put Chinese investment in context. According to the Brookings Institution, Chinese investment, primarily in extractive industries, equals between 3 and 4.4 percent of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa. This is behind France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and even South Africa. However, Chinese investment in Africa is growing. As one foreign observer has noted, China hopes that in the Africa of the future, Africans will be sleeping on Chinese mattresses, using Chinese cell phones, and driving Chinese cars. African governments have been very receptive to working with China, increasing the incentive for Chinese investments; and Africans view Chinese investors more positively than people in Europe, Asia, or Latin America do. Not all stories about China’s investment in Africa have been positive, however. China has been accused of exploiting African countries for natural resources (including wildlife), importing its own labor, and keeping its African employees in poor working conditions. As the Chinese move away from commodities investments, they are still investing heavily in infrastructure projects. In recent years, China has invested in a number of major infrastructure projects across Africa, including a ten billion dollar port project in Tanzania, a multi-billion dollar bullet train in Nigeria, and a new parliament building in Zimbabwe. The new Tanzanian port, located in Bagamoyo, will be the largest in East Africa. Most recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged sixty billion dollars in assistance and loans to Africa at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in South Africa. (We are yet to see if China will follow through on this promised assistance.) It is no surprise that the Chinese would place a military post in Djibouti. They have been known to protect their African assets before. For example, China deployed a battalion of peace keepers to protect its oil assets in South Sudan at the end of 2014; in addition, like the U.S. military, they have run anti-piracy operations around the Gulf of Aden for years. The Chinese will be on the ground along with a number of French and Japanese troops who operate out of the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport and some 4,000 U.S. military personnel located at Camp Lemonnier. (The United States is currently expanding Camp Lemonnier and in 2014 signed a twenty year deal to continue operating there.) The base will serve a number of different functions: as a logistics hub for naval operations to support Chinese anti-piracy operations, as a staging point for operations similar to the deployment in South Sudan, and a means for ensuring that Chinese infrastructure investments are safe. The Chinese military serves the very real purpose of protecting and securing China’s trade and economic development, and as Chinese economic interests expand it is likely that their military presence will grow as well. The United States should remain cognizant of the potential for the base to serve a more combative role in the region. In the meantime, however, Washington should see the new base as an opportunity to begin working with the Chinese in Africa and build a platform for future U.S.-China cooperation.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
    The U.S. Military Presence in Africa: Myth and Reality
    On June 26, in public remarks at a training seminar, current US Africa Command (AFRICOM) commander Gen. Carter F. Ham provided a detailed review of his command’s activities in Africa. While I do not necessarily share all of his conclusions, he has done a service by providing a comprehensive overview that should be an Africa watcher must-read. Of particular importance is his reaffirmation that the United States does not seek “a large, permanent military presence in the continent of Africa.” He confirmed that the largest U.S. military presence is at a base in Djibouti where about two thousand U.S. military personnel support AFRICOM and the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), which is focused on the Middle East and the Indian Ocean. Otherwise, the U.S. military presence in sub-Saharan Africa consists of the attaches and the offices of security cooperation that are attached to U.S. embassies. In addition, there are small, temporary deployments for purposes assisting African military exercises and the provision of other training opportunities. Subsequent to the 2008 standup of AFRICOM, Africans often presume that the United States has a large military presence in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, as Gen. Ham usefully reminds, it is small and mostly transient.