US policy in Africa in 2017: Stay the course
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Familiarity is said to breed complacency, hence people’s penchant for reinventing themselves in order to adapt to changing circumstances. Likewise, in terms of U.S. engagement with Africa, a sense of lackluster has set in, necessitating a vigorous make over. 

A possible explanation for this may be in having been outperformed by the attention-grabbing rise of China’s role in Africa; though, for those of us engaged in African affairs, Chinese involvement in the continent ceased being an enthralling topic some time ago. Even taking into consideration the downturn in the Chinese economy, the depth of trade between China and Africa now surpasses that of the U.S. and other nations to such a degree that we’re but a blip in the rear view mirror.

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Nonetheless, the dynamism between the U.S. and the nations of Africa must remain strong. Unfortunately, under the Obama administration’s watch, important matters such as trade, investment, and diplomacy with the continent have stagnated.

In large part, U.S. trade and investment in Africa is under-performing owing to lackadaisical promotion. This can be easily remedied, but entails top-down instigation. 

One practice that the next U.S. president should continue in regards to Africa is in building upon the accomplishments of his or her predecessors. George H.W. Bush achieved notable success in working to resolve long-standing conflicts in places such as Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique. Ensuing administrations further cemented these achievements. Bill ClintonBill ClintonHouse lawmakers pitch ban on North Korean tourism GOP frustrated by slow pace of Trump staffing Bad intel from Russia influenced Comey's Clinton announcement: report MORE signed into being the African Growth and Opportunity Act that has been a boon to African economies for over 16 years and has been extended until 2025.

George W. Bush brought into being the highly successful, country-led model of distributing foreign aid via the Millennium Challenge Corporation, from which many African nations have benefited, in addition to his signature global health initiatives in combating HIV/AIDS and malaria.

The Obama administration has, to its credit, kept these missions in place, and so should the 45th U.S. president.

Obama has attempted to create his own lasting legacy in Africa via the Power Africa initiative that seeks to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. Though a laudable undertaking, it thus far has not materialized to the degree envisioned. Regardless, the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue should continue to nurture this effort.

It’s an under appreciated fact that the quality of governance in Africa has risen substantially in recent years. As a champion of democracy it’s in the U.S. interest to lend encouragement to governments that are responsive to the needs of the people. What we should not do is be overly headstrong in focusing on and demanding adherence to arbitrarily-set electoral timetables.

If something’s working, don’t mess with it. The U.S. should respect the ability of African’s to make their own decisions regarding the electing of their leaders. 

Though we live in an age in which expertise is looked down upon, whoever occupies the White House, come January 2017, needs to staff the National Security Council and other relevant policy offices, with qualified decision-makers. These individuals must be experienced, battle-tested adults given that one of the long-running knocks against the current administration has been its habit of assigning grossly unqualified, often sanctimonious 20-something year olds, plucked from the ranks of the political campaign, and tasking them with the formulation of international policy.

To Africans, for whom the wisdom of gray haired elders is highly venerated, this does not sit well.

Another area in which the Obama presidency should be commended for its leadership, and any succeeding administration must emulate if not expand, is in establishing stronger military to military relationships throughout Africa. This has been especially crucial in combating ISIS, al-Qaeda, and al-Shabaab elements across the Sahel and in Somalia, and in taking the fight to Boko Haram in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria. 

Not only are U.S. military capabilities essential to counter-terrorism but also in tackling pandemic disease. The U.S. military demonstrated amazing readiness and adeptness in the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Furthermore, the U.S. military, in cooperation with African governments as well as our NATO partners, can play an important role in better managing the monumental migration flow that has been impacting Europe.

As a continent ever-more at peace, enjoying the world’s highest economic growth rates, now is the time for us to speak of a coming golden age in U.S.-Africa relations.

As said by Pliny the Elder, during the time of the Roman Empire, “There’s always something new out of Africa.” It was as true then as it is today, and American relations with Africa must be refashioned, repackaged and retooled to adjust to the realities of Africa’s rapidly changing landscape.

Rosenberg is a political and foreign affairs writer in Arlington, Virginia. He recently served as Africa advisor on the national security policy team of the Kasich for America presidential campaign.


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