U.S. Africa Policy Should Focus On, Engage With Local Civil Society, Religious, Traditional Leaders, Says Opinion Piece

Foreign Affairs: U.S. Africa Policy Needs a Reset
John Campbell, Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations

“…U.S. Africa policy does need a reset. For decades, U.S. diplomacy has falsely assumed that Africa comprises traditional nation-states whose governments control their territories and speak for their people. With the exception of a handful of postcolonial African states, that has never been the case. As a result, U.S. diplomacy has focused too much on national-level elites and the elections through which they maintain power and not enough on local leaders and priorities. A better approach would engage with civil society, religious, and traditional leaders, and prioritize issues such as the rule of law that are more popular with African people than with African governments. … [W]hichever U.S. candidate wins [the upcoming election in November], Africa’s future will remain largely in African hands. For good or for ill, the United States does not wield as much influence in Africa as the former colonial powers. Its ties to the continent have traditionally been shallow, and U.S. businesses have been timid about investing and trading in Africa. Popular U.S. support for greater involvement in Africa is limited, and U.S. policymakers have been slow to recognize the continent’s growing importance. Nevertheless, African demography, security, and health issues will mandate greater U.S. diplomatic engagement. To be effective, the next administration’s policies toward Africa must reflect African realities” (10/12).

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