Monday, August 9, 2010

Africa's Future Rest With Next Generation: Addressing the FEEEDS™ Issues

This week President Obama hosted a landmark event to celebrate the future of Africa -- a Continent that will have a population of over 1.5 billion in the next several years. He met with Africa's next generation of leaders in a unique forum -- Africa Young Leaders' Forum -- that brought together 115 young African men and women, from 40 countries, embarking on making a difference in their their nations... by focusing on the importance of transparent election, good leadership, creating new businesses, and developing initiatives to address Food security, Education, the Environment, Economics, Democracy and Self-help, or what I like to call the FEEEDS™ issues, an acronym representing these key global issues. The FEEEDS™ issues are ones that all developing countries should address in order to move their nation forward. In Africa particularly, there is a current downward trajectory on the FEEEDS™ issues in many countries; this needs to change and new paradigms need to be developed. The Obama Administration is doing this with signatures initiatives on food secuirty and the environment.

In 2010, 17 African nations will celebrate 50 years of independence -- a half century -- and it is time to take stock of what the next 50's years will look like. Who better than the Obama Administration than to have that discussion with the next generation of leaders? This is what the Obama Administration was bold enough and wise enough to do! So to those who saw the Forum differently -- you missed the point! Yes there's a need to put down markers with current leaders not doing right by their people, but the larger point is to build bridges with Africa's next generation. (

Recently, the U.S. has been engaged in Africa in an unprecedented manner with signature initiatives that focus on the FEEEDS™ issues with the President working with African leaders to help move their nations forward. Why discuss Africa's future with future leaders? Because more than half the Continent is home to people under the age of 25 right now! Because the future for change on the FEEED™S issues rest with them! And, because Africa's future strength can make America stronger as we forge partnerships and strategic relationships on global issues from development, human rights, and nuclear cooperation.

Democratic change in Africa is important. Look at the positive outcome of the Kenya referendum this week when violence marred the previous election. We cannot afford not to engage, and certainly we cannot ignore the generation in Africa that will be America's partners in the future. Our behavior during the immediate post-Cold War years should have taught us all that! As an example, for Nigeria's future, the USG has established a Bi-National Commission (BNC) focused on many of the FEEEDS™ issues addressed at the Obama Africa Forum. We are focusing on Nigeria's democracy and providing technical support for their Must-do Right critical elections in 2011. The BNC's Governance, Transparency, and Integrity group has met twice with the next session August 24-25 in Abuja, Nigeria, on Nigeria's elections. The BNC Energy and Investment group met in August. Next up: The three young Nigerians who participated in President Obama's Forum will discuss their views on the FEEEDS™ issues in an U.S.-Embassy supported roundtable in Abuja, Nigeria on August 12. We will be looking to hear from them on how they plan to engage the Nigerian Government.