Today’s global landscape is much, much different than it was 5 years ago, or even earlier this year with the surge of the Islamic State, wrath of Nigeria’s Boko Haram, Crimea’s annexation, and continuing Syrian and Libyan conflicts.
These are extraordinary times as world challenges are increasingly more daunting, but equally so are the enormous opportunities to expand positive US regional relations. Africa is one of those world regions. The U.S. is focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa (SSAfrica) in a way it has never done before – more comprehensively and strategically – as was evident by the first-ever U.S.-Africa Summit, August 4-6, 2014hosted by a U.S. President, sitting or otherwise. So why is Africa important and how does the U.S. capitalize post-Summit?
Africa Today; Next Steps Post Summit
Let’s start with answering this question – What does the Region mean to the U.S. as a strategic political and economic partner? Looking at Summit themes, you will see why Africa is vital over the coming years:
— Investing in Africa’s future;
— Peace-Regional Stability;
— Governing the Next Generation.
Africa’s population is 1.1 billion, on course to reach 2.4 billion people by 2050, based on a 2.45 per cent yearly growth rate. The significant range is the youth figure (ages 10-30), representing about 50 percent of the population.
Thus, demographics above, and points below craft the elements of what’s involved for the U.S. to forge a strong partnership over the next decade. Africa’s demographics and geographics are national security and strategic issues for the U.S. as it looks forward in the 21st Century for:
• New Allies
• Partners politically, economically, and culturally; especially in International arenas such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization, Organization of Islamic States, African Union, G-77.
Africa is the new frontier for policies, emerging markets, and counter terrorism. How we handle the elements above will impact US outcomes to address:
• Economic disparity;
• Resource allocations (i.e. where is the oil, minerals, lack of jobs, land and water resources);
• Religious differences that might impact world views or encourage conflicts.
How do we address the points above; and particularly include Africa’s 1.6 million Diaspora in these efforts? Remember, half of the Region’s will be under age 30 – prime education, wage-earning years; and years to be influenced as partners. There also are additional challenges and positives that add context and need to be address to help pull in Africa’s 10-30 year olds.
75 million – young Africans out of work now, out of the 1.2 billion world-wide unemployed;
10 million – young Africans of working age added yearly to the 75 million already unemployed according to the African Union;
547 million – Africans without electricity;
$1.25 – amount many Africans live on daily;
847 million – hungry people in world, which 239 million live in Africa. (847 million figure is 209 million less than two years ago);(endnote 1)
3 per cent – African adults with credit cards; only a quarter of African adults have bank accounts;
$807 million – Ebola’s economic impact on three affected countries, taking 4,000 lives;(endnote 2)
9-10 – countries FEEEDS Initiative counts with terrorism challenges.
7 out of the 10 fastest growing world economies are in Africa (gains are yet to reach masses, but spurring a growing middle class);
31 of top 1000 Banks in world on “This Is Africa,” list are African Banks;
90 million people in consuming class, largest number ever for region, up 31 million in last 10 years;
39 African countries are democracies or evolving democracies, using AGOA guidelines;
650 million – mobile phones in Africa of which Nigeria has 100 million. (World Bank: six billion mobiles world-wide, 5 billion in developing world);
18 countries have GDP’s of 5 per cent or higher;
$50 billion – collective size of economy, largest markets for U.S. goods, investment, trade.(endnote 3)
Coming out of US-Africa Summit we need to:
— Reduce challenges the population faces;
— Capitalize more on positives, so next generation sees U.S. as key partner.
We do not need constant agreement on every issue to be good partners, but we need to respect human cultural differences and Africa’s “new global think” on key international issues, so we have a better idea of how to achieve goals, remembering dialogue is a two-way street.
So What Can the US Do?
— Address further Poverty Solutions on hunger, education, women’s issues, clean water, etc.;
— Use Information Technology for “work around solutions” to social and economic challenges;
— Assist with climate smart food security and energy;
— Address housing (if you are poor, you likely do not have basic shelter);
— Combat corruption more, and increase institutional capacity;
Increase Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) growing middle class from313 million. The 280 million SMEs are backbone of US society; for Africa that role is no different.(endnote 4)
How Do We Engage Differently?
We must listen more; respect human cultural differences; encourage more peaceful closed-to-open societies; appreciate that each country may have its own path to solidifying democracy as long as human rights are protected; support longer pre-election transition so societies and institutions can find their rightful footing.
We can share our values without being heavy-handed, or appearing unconcerned about the plight of everyday people, keeping in mind the global human values most people hold dear:
Feeding, clothing, and housing their families; living with dignity; having affordable health care, educating their children; earning a living wage; having a free press and good governance; and, combating corruption. This includes ending tacit support for countries failing all of the above.
*Huffpost. Amb Sanders is Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria & ECOWAS;CEO-FEEEDS