Overall there has not been much news on President Trump’s Africa policy and all of us who are Africa hands, who care about the Continent, and who have worked on Sub Saharan Africa issues over the years have for the most part been pleased that the region in recent years has been a policy area of important bipartisanship, especially legislatively on things like AGOA, and better partnership engagement in a range of areas from business to development - all expanding and extending with signature programs like PREPFAR (HIVAIDS) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in earnest under President George W. Bush, with President Clinton in his second term opening the door with his six-nation tour of the region in 1998.
Right now, the US is losing out big time in the region to China on all fronts, particularly as Africa becomes the largest market for goods and services (hello US Rust Belt!) and business opportunities on top of becoming home to the world’s largest working age population. Thus, whoever ends up leading the Africa Directorate at the National Security Council (NSC), where I served as a Director, as well as have many other esteemed Africa experts, will need to know the region well not only politically and economically, but be more than mindful of how important the role of culture, mutual understanding and respect are in building the right kind of relationship with the region, its leaders, its business community, and its burgeoning young population - in addition to realizing and taking advantage of the enormous business potential of Sub Saharan Africa. We would be making a mistake and losing out even more to China in the region if we boil our engagement down to harking back to the 1960s and Cold War days of seeing Africa solely through a military lens. Make no mistake, however, that Africa will also be a good partner on the fight against terrorism, but that should not become the only center of our relationship with this dynamic and important region of 1.1 billion people. Thus, whoever is appointed the new NSC Senior Africa director should have the qualifications, experience and breadth of regional knowledge on top of the leadership role within the U.S. Government interagency process to ensure that all of these fundamental policy areas - business, development, particularly in power, energy, education, and health, and security - continue to shape our relationship with the region. The talent of Republicans who have these skills sets, knowledge, and expertise about Africa are many and all of us who work on Africa, as well as Africans in the region, would like to see one of them in this critical position.