U.S. Policy in Africa in the 21st Century

Phillip Carter, III
Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Washington, DC
February 9, 2009

Good morning. It is an honor to be here with you today -- I will discuss the outlines of U.S. policy in Africa, and six priorities that I see as important in the relationship between the United States and Africa. This seminar, organized by the African Center for Strategic Studies, is consistent with the US Government’s ongoing efforts to support the professionalization of Africa’s security sector, and we are proud to be part of that effort here at the Department of State. I want to leave time for your questions and comments so that we can engage in a clear dialogue about relations between the United States and Africa. I am here as much to learn from you, and to hear thoughts that may be different from those I hear everyday in Washington.


Let me say up front that I believe firmly that the one foreign policy success of the previous administration is Africa, although even there we have met with challenges and frustration.

For too long Africa has been an afterthought in U.S. foreign policy interests. In World War II, Africa was a strategic stepping stone to the places that mattered in Europe. In the Cold War, Africa was a pawn in East-West struggles. Even as we Americans set in place well-intentioned economic development policies, it was too often with the idea of trying to do good for Africa, rather than to do good with Africa.

This has changed. Instead, the U.S. has implemented a strategy to operate more effectively in a world where non-state actors and illegal trans-border activity can pose major threats to even the most powerful of countries.
The goal is to develop a network of well-governed states capable through responsible sovereignty of protecting themselves and contributing to regional security. By so doing, they also protect the international system. Our new Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, last week reaffirmed the extremely high priority of security. She said that, “…we all know that there are real threats to the United States and our friends and allies around the world. And the State Department has an important role to play…to be a good leader and a good partner…” In a word, this means partnership. This vision supports African leaders as strategic partners and seeks to build up Africa's institutional capacity. In other words, doing things with Africans, not for Africans.

We believe these sentiments coincide with Africa's own growing emphasis on the values of freedom, the rule of law, and collective security, as embedded in the African Union's New Partnership for African Development. The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) Peer Review mechanism reinforces African leaders' own efforts to promote democracy and good governance among their peers.

The U.S. understands that there are new, rising strategic powers around the world, including Sub-Saharan Africa. Nations such as South Africa and Nigeria have used their diplomatic, economic, and military power to shape the continent for the better. Mali, Mozambique, Liberia, Ghana, Botswana, Benin and many other African countries are leading the way as examples of the power of democratic rule of law.

We are pursuing the shared goal of ending conflict in Africa by supporting African conflict mediation and strengthening African capacities to mitigate conflict and carry out peace support operations. To do so, we work directly with lead African mediators, bilaterally with African Governments, and multilaterally with the African Union, the United Nations, and African sub-regional organizations. To put it more simply, we want to support African leadership and African solutions to African problems.

There is considerable evidence that this approach works. We've had success working with African partners in ending seven major conflicts in the past seven years: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, North-South Sudan, Ethiopia-Eritrea, and Angola. Although the current peace is fragile in several of these countries -- and challenges persist in Darfur, Eastern Congo and Somalia -- Africa has demonstrated that it is committed to resolving conflict and promoting stability.

Let me now focus on four U.S. priorities in our relations with African nations:

Our first priority is providing security assistance programs that are critical to securing the objective of a peaceful African continent. We are working with our African partners to build capacity at three levels: (1) at the level of the African Union, (2) at the sub-regional level, and (3) at the level of individual states. At the level of the AU, we are supporting the Strategic Planning and Management Unit at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa with advisors and equipment. At the sub-regional level, we have provided assistance to peacekeeping training centers in Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, Mali, and Kenya. The United States provides a peace and security advisor at ECOWAS headquarters, and continues to support the ECOWAS logistics facility in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

An important step was taken in early 2007 when the decision was made to create a Department of Defense Unified Combatant Command for Africa – the U.S. Africa Command, or "AFRICOM." This decision to create AFRICOM marks the beginning of a new era where African security issues can be addressed from an Africa-centric perspective. AFRICOM is a new type of command that will focus on building African regional security and crisis response. Its objective is a more secure Africa, but it is not expected to have any assigned forces to the African continent. Rather, AFRICOM is a headquarters staff that coordinates the kind of support that will enable African Governments and existing regional organizations to have greater capacity to respond in time of need.

Through programs like the International Military Education and Training (IMET) Program and the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) Program, we are working to build the capacity of the African militaries to respond to African problems. Over 100,000 African peacekeepers have been trained by ACOTA or by ACOTA-trained trainers, and eight African nations are now in the top 20 of all contributors to UN peacekeeping operations. African states are contributing peacekeepers to missions not only in Africa but also to UN operations in Lebanon and Haiti. We will continue to work with the AU, sub-regional organizations, and member states as they work to stand up the Africa Standby Force. This includes civilian aspects of the African Peace and Security Architecture, such as the Continental Early Warning System and Panel of the Wise.

In Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and southern Sudan, we are helping to rebuild professional military forces for these post-conflict states, and are looking to engage in similar Security Sector Reform (SSR) activities in Somalia as soon as the situation will permit.

In addition to long-term capacity building, we are working to provide logistics support and equipment for African peacekeeping units deploying to Darfur and Somalia. The United States has supported the deployment of additional infantry battalions to the UN-AU Hybrid Mission in Darfur, with more than $100 million in peacekeeping operations funding for equipment and training. The United States has made the largest contribution of any international donor to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and will continue to provide equipment and logistics support to troop- contributing countries in the future.

We will continue to work with our African partners to build the necessary sustained capacity to disrupt and ultimately eliminate the ability of terrorists to operate in the region and secure safe havens, recruits, popular support, finance, and freedom of movement across borders. The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) and the East Africa Regional Security Initiative (EARSI) are two initiatives that seek to identify resources throughout the United States government to support specific areas of cooperation identified by our partners in the region.

Maritime security is gaining in importance. For example, Nigeria has now surpassed Somalia as the most dangerous maritime region in Africa, with only Indonesia registering more incidents in 2007. The US Government will continue to work with African maritime security forces to secure their maritime domains from threats such as piracy, illegal fishing, and trafficking in persons and illicit goods. Through AFRICOM’s deployment of the African Partnership Station, we are building the capacity or West and Central African states to protect their territorial waters, respond to oil spills and other disasters, and patrol vital oil and gas platforms.

Our second priority on the continent is promoting democratic systems and practices -- we are engaged in supporting the rise of freedom and democracy on the continent. It is not enough to just end wars, but we must move beyond post-conflict transformation to consolidate democracies. Moreover, we must work with African societies on the critical issues of governance, transparency, and accountability as a means of helping establish pluralistic communities where open political dialogue is the channel for reform and progress. During the past two decades, progressive democratic reform has adapted to local values, customs, and practices throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Outgrowths of democratic, well-governed states that adhere to the rule of law, support the will of their people, and contribute responsibly to the international system are developing. One U.S. think tank that has studied Africa, Freedom House, has determined that three quarters of African countries are now “free or partly free,” as opposed to less than half the states in 1990.

Despite significant progress, the recent military coups in Mauritania and Guinea and the flawed elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe have hindered these advances. The international community is urging Mauritania to restore its democratically-elected government and is pressing Guinea to hold democratic elections this year. The Kenyan and Zimbabwean elections, marked by voting irregularities, contestable results, and post-election violence, demonstrate that the path to democracy is often difficult. As a result, we must and will continue to assist and encourage our African partners in building democratic institutions, conducting free and fair elections, and governing justly. This means providing support to civil society and media, strengthen political parties and elections monitoring mechanism, providing support to legislatures, building the capacity of key ministries, and encouraging political transparency.

Our third foreign policy priority is promoting sustainable and broad-based, market-led economic growth. While sub-Saharan Africa has experienced impressive growth rates in recent years, Africa can still be characterized as a rich continent in an impoverished state. The United States must help our African partners raise income levels, promote sustainable growth that benefits all in a society, opens markets for African exports, reduces barriers to investment, and identifies opportunities and comparative advantages.

Responding to this challenge, the United States implemented the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), a revolutionary foreign assistance program that seeks to reduce poverty through sustainable economic growth by awarding sizeable grants -- not loans -- to countries that practice good governance, seek to take responsibility for their own development, and are committed to achieving results. Of the 18 compacts signed to date, ten totaling over $3.8 billion have been signed with sub-Saharan African countries. Two other African countries, Senegal and Malawi are in the process of developing compacts.

The United States Government has also enacted the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a program that allows responsive and responsible partners in Africa to benefit from preferential access to American markets. With 40 countries presently qualified for this program, AGOA has become a cornerstone of our trade and investment policy in Africa. The United States has been in the forefront of efforts to forgive the debts owed by poor countries – but only if those countries’ governments first demonstrate their commitment to poverty reduction and good economic management. MCC and AGOA are important programs strengthening African economic health and underscore the cardinal interest of the United States in the continent’s economic affairs.

I should note that even in this tough time of economic recession overtaking the world, the United States does not anticipate any reduction in the support that we have provided to African nations. We want to continue to be a leader in supporting development on the African continent.

Related to this effort is our focus promoting enhanced food security and agricultural development. This means reducing poverty and hunger, raising agricultural output and reducing dependence on imported food, raising rural incomes, improving the livelihoods of women, children and families, and improving land management.

Between FY2008 and FY2009, the United States will have committed over $1 billion in food assistance worldwide, with much of this assistance focused on Africa. U.S. efforts in West Africa include programs designed to increase the productivity of staple crops, stimulate supply response, and expand the trade of staple foods. In East Africa, the United States has supported a targeted response to meet urgent food security needs and strengthen staple food markets. 

Our fourth U.S. foreign policy priority in Africa is promoting health and social development. As the leading cause of death on the continent, disease is one of the greatest challenges to Africa’s future. Rising to meet this challenge, the United States, through public health initiatives targeting the prevention, care and treatment of disease, is partnering with sub-Saharan nations to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The United States has responded to the severe and urgent HIV/AIDS crisis with the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. PEPFAR is the largest commitment ever by a single nation toward an international health initiative. Through PEPFAR, the U.S. Government has already provided $18.8 billion in HIV/AIDS funding, with a reauthorization of up to $48 billion for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria over the next five years.

Thus far, PEPFAR has provided treatment for 2.1 million people, care for more than 10 million people living with HIV/AIDS, including more than 4 million orphans and vulnerable children, and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission during nearly 16 million pregnancies, thus allowing nearly 240,000 children to be born HIV-free.

Responding to the malaria crisis, the United States launched the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) in 2005. The U.S. committed $1.2 billion in new malaria funding to reduce malaria-related deaths by 50 percent in 15 African countries. In 2007, the Malaria Initiative reached more than 25 million people with effective prevention and treatment interventions. Under this program we have virtually eradicated malaria from the island of Zanzibar and are making great strides in other places on the continent through aggressive indoor spraying, the distribution of treated bed nets, and the distribution of medication.

Through the prevention and treatment of disease, programs such as PEPFAR and PMI are touching the lives of millions. In collaboration with our regional partners, we will continue to develop sustainable healthcare infrastructure so African nations can address these challenges through their own national institutions.


I would like to now open the floor for a discussion and to answer your questions. As I have just outlined, the goal of the United States is to work with African nations to find solutions to the challenges and problems facing African nations. Working together, I believe that we will see more progress and less frustration, more peace and less conflict, and ultimately, more stability in the world.