Sunday, November 2, 2014

Amb. Sanders Keynotes @ Gannon University: Importance of US-Africa Relation, After Historic US-Africa Summit


US-Africa Relationship: Its Elements & Why It is Important

Gannon University

Erie, Pennsylvania, Wednesday October 29, 2014

 The New Global Community
It is said that every decade or so our world creates a new global order – as generations shift, leaderships transform, visions change, and creativity and innovation force us all to live our lives better, longer, differently and certainly with more challenges. Today’s global landscape is much, much different than it was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or even earlier this year.

If you are following the international news today you can see how much the world has changed just this year with the surge of the Islamic State, the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and the continuing conflicts in Syria, and Libya.   

We are living in extraordinary times as world challenges are increasingly more daunting, but equally so are the enormous opportunities to make a positive difference, and further expand positive US relations at a time when a segment of the world views our superpower status as a negative, or a clash of civilizations -- contrary to their socio-political perceptions or extremism. Unfortunately in the last few years some of these issues have manifested themselves into horrible acts of terrorism.

However, there are new partners and friends, political and economic, out there for the U.S. to further engage with during these turbulent times and beyond. I would also argue that Africa is one of those world regions.  I believe the U.S. leadership is now focusing more on the region in a way that it has never done before – comprehensively and strategically – as was evident this summer by the first-ever U.S. Africa Summit August 4-6. 2014, hosted by a U.S. President, sitting or otherwise. So why is Africa important, you might ask, particularly in the global landscape I just highlighted for you?

Who are the New Emerging African Leader Nations?
So let’ start with answering these questions – why is this region important, and what does this region mean for and to the United States as a strategic political, economic, or cultural partner. In other words: What are the important elements of a US-Africa relationship?

If we look at the three themes from the historic US-Africa Summit this summer, I believe you will see why the Africa Region is vital to the U.S. now and over the coming years

The themes were:
-- Investing in Africa’s future;
-- Peace and Regional Stability; and,
-- Governing for the Next Generation

Africa’s population today is reportedly 1.1 billion and it is on course to reach 2.4 billion people by 2050.  Its current average yearly growth rate is 2.45 per cent, which might remain constant or even grow higher over the next decades, increasing that 2.4 billion number.
The most significant figure, within the population numbers I just cited, is the youth figure (ages 10-30), representing about 50 percent  of the region’s population now, and will cross over that 50 per cent mark in the next two decades.

These stats will move Africa from the second most populated region in the world to the largest. However, most will remain below the poverty level if current development doesn’t triple since the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) will not be met by most countries next year.

Here are the reasons I see that make the points I just described and the type of relationship that the U.S. forges with the Continent over the next decade -- increasingly important.

I am arguing that demographics and geographics are strategic issues for the United States as it looks forward in the 21st Century for: 
  • New Allies, 
  • Partners on political and economic policy, culturally; and especially in,
  • International arenas such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization, Organization of  Islamic States, African Union, G-77, Arab League, etc.;
  • Africa is the now the new frontier for these policies, business, emerging markets opportunities, and counter terrorism partnerships.
The above elements are all wrap-up, in my view, in the two strategic points of demographics and geographics as they impact today's geo-political relationships and outcomes on:
  •  Economic disparity and population breakdowns by age and gender to;
  • World resource locations (where is the oil, where are the minerals, jobs, lack of jobs,  land and water resources etc.); and,
  • Religious differences or groups that might impact world views, encourage conflicts, affect perceptions of an action or statement, particularly by the U.S. Government.
In essence what are the human, regional, or country cultural differences about which we need to be aware and better understand.  All of these elements fall under my demographic and geographic umbrella of issues as they affect geo-political and economic relationships, and world views which can be very different from our own. Therefore, since I want to leave the global leaders at Gannon University something to think about -- you as future leaders will have to take these elements into account. And, certainly many others.
So what are the next steps?  How do we address the elements highlighted above, build on the US-Africa Summit that I mentioned, add new elements, particularly the role of the African Diaspora (1.6 million, U.S. Census 2014 figure for African-born immigrants), in helping to ensure we have a positive relationship with the Continent, particularly since half of the region’s large population will be under the age of 30 ­– prime education; prime wage-earning years; prime years to be influenced as partners.

Keep in mind my introductory comments as to the current challenges the U.S. has today with some in this age group in certain parts of the world (and even lately within the United States with the  young girls from Colorado, and others from Alabama, Minnesota, North Carolina, United Kingdom and other places being attracted to join groups like the Islamic State, Somalia’s Al Shabaab, or terrorists groups such as AQIM or AQAP).

We have to begin to address further why this age group, in some parts of the world, is feeling disenfranchised enough to be attracted to these terrorists groups which also see the U.S. system, its benefits, and our way of life as enemies to how they see the world or their communities.
Given that Africa will be the largest populated region in the world, with the largest group of people from ages 10-30 years of age for the foreseeable future, we have to find ways to change this.

So I want to give you some additional context as to the challenges and positives we can build on:

-- 75 million – current number of young Africans looking for work now, out of the 1.2 billion working age population world-wide looking for work;

-- 10 million – number of young Africans of working age added yearly to the 75 million already seeking jobs/employment according to the African Union (Political Body of African States);

-- 547 million – number of Africans living without electricity and energy;

-- $1.25 – average amount many Africans live on per day, with no hopes to change this, and few opportunities to improve the quality of life for their families, have access to education, clean water, and face the challenges of poverty every single day;

-- 847 million/1.2billion – number of current hungry people/ people in fear of hunger in the world of which 239 million of those live on the African Continent. (A bit of good news is this 847 million figure is 209 million less than two years ago);[i]

-- 3 per cent number of African adults with credit cards; only a quarter of African Adults have accounts at a formal financial institution;

-- I would be remiss if I didn’t mentioned Ebola for the West Africa Region as thus far the virus has cost the economies of the 3 countries involved more than $807 million to date, and taken the lives of 4,000 people.[ii]

-- 9-10 - number of countries FEEEDS Initiative counts with terrorism challenges.

 The Positives:

Today many Africans see the U.S. in a positive light particularly 15 of the key economic  or political powerhouses such as  Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Mozambique, and many others; But we will need to work harder to keep their interest;

-- 7 out of the 10 fastest growing economics in the world are in Africa (although these economic gains are yet to reach the masses, however, the lives and prospects of some are changing because of these improvements, and producing a growing middle class).Trickle down economics must come into play more to change the lives of the masses;

-- 31 of the top 1000 Banks in the World on the “This Is Africa,” list are African Banks;

-- 90 million people in the middle (or consuming) class, largest number the region has ever had, up by 31 million in last 10 years;

-- 39 African countries are democracies or evolving democracies, using AGOA guidelines, out of the 48 in the Sub-Saharan Region;

-- 650 million – represents the number of mobile phones in Africa of which Nigeria has 100 million. (NB: World Bank notes six billion mobiles world-wide of which 5 billion are in the developing world, combining Asia, Africa, and Latin America);

-- 18 countries have GDP’s of 5 per cent or higher (US 3rd quarter GDP is about 3.6 per cent)

-- Last but not least, the region has collectively a $50 billion[iii] dollar economy – making it one of the largest potential markets for U.S. goods, services, investment, trade, and business relationships.
I have pointed out these positives and challenges because, as the global landscape continues to change rapidly, we need to not only build on existing friendships, but also ensure that the next generation of young Africans sees the U.S. as a friend and a partner even when and if we differ on policy points

So what can the U.S. do to help further build this relationship, this partnership that I am talking about so we have friends that we know, and that know us, in this large population, including expanding our part in their emerging market growth, and assisting those in the Sahel Region in the counter terrorism fight?
 So What Can the US Do?
I believe we can help on: 

-- Poverty Solutions - combating poverty and its elements (hunger, food security, education, particularly for at-risk groups such as women, girls, youth, the disabled, and elderly);

-- Use Information Technology to develop “work around solutions” to social and political challenges -- using the 650 million mobile phones, and other appropriate technology, on the Continent to do so, particularly as regards to financial literacy (see Operation HOPE), and empowerment;

-- Assist with climate smart food security solutions, and developing climate smart energy answers to bring electricity and energy to the many Africans without it today;

-- Help with the housing deficit (if you are poor you are also likely not to have good shelters or shelter at all);

-- Work with governments to continue to improve transparency, anti-corruption efforts, and the capacity of government institutions to respond and support the needs of its people;

-- Be creative on education (include vocational, add more entrepreneurial, SME training); and,

-- Help expand the number of Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) as this will grow the Continent’s middle class from its current 313 million. We all have heard that the 280 million SMEs in the US help make up our middle class and are the backbone of our society; for Africa that role would be no different.[iv]

As we in the United States lean forward, or look ahead far enough at these demographics and the array of geo-political issues they might present for us, we need to ensure that Africa continues to move up on our list of key places to be fully engaged at all levels (politically, economically, and even more importantly culturally). Thus, we need to:

  1.  Think about building more relations based on partnerships; and;
  2. Think about the strategic long term with these emerging African nations, its leaders, and its people.

So How Do We Engage Differently?

We must engage differently than we have in the past; we must listen more; understand the human cultural differences; and understand that each country may have its path to solidifying its own democracy; keeping in mind this means they must protect all human rights in the process. The question is how we assist, if asked to help, while also taking care of some of the same issues right here at home.

We can seek to share our values and principles without appearing heavy-handed, and unconcerned about the plight that everyday people face with the searing demographics I just mentioned.

 I do believe that there are global human values that most people hold dear: they want to be able to feed, clothes and house their families; live with dignity and respect for human rights; have access to affordable health care, and education for their children; earn a living wage through job creation or through entrepreneurial expression; provide a voice for the voiceless; encourage free press and good governance within recognized legal and transparent regulatory frameworks; and, a have reduction/elimination in corruption.

Although the U.S. Government has improved greatly over the last decade, with programs such as FEED the Future (Food Security), Power Africa (Energy), PEPFAR (HIV/AIDS), MCC (Infrastructure), etc., (all my favorites)  we need to continue to move away from providing our tacit support for some governments who are not doing the right thing in taking care of its people. In addition, as we encourage more peaceful, transitions to change from closed to open societies, this may sometimes mean a longer term processes without calling immediately for elections; we tend to think elections solve everything. Elections can only do that if the ground work is stable and strong; longer transitions (with the right democratic elements) may be needed to build a lasting enabling environment. The world is interconnected and what happens elsewhere, I think many Americans now are realizing, can and will eventually affect us.

In concluding,

To the Gannon University students here this evening knowing that your intervening college years will provide you with the building blocks to become global leaders, I hope in the midst of your time here integrity, fairness, and respect  are also the other take aways.
I, however, would like you to add to your list the need for a better appreciation of human and country cultural values (what I  have been calling in my lectures --  human cultural communication), and the demographics (many of which I mentioned here tonight and during my week-long lectures) that would go with them. 

It is a complicated, tough global environment, and players and challenges will constantly change. You will need to understand and try to address these changes without losing the sense of who we are as a nation.
We must fight enemies whenever and wherever we can, but not pick fights unnecessarily.  This includes being tolerant of others who see the world differently as long as they do not choose to do us harm, and are not committers of horrible human rights acts, and terrorism. We do not always have to agree but in the first order seek ways to work together for the greater good. 

President Eisenhower in the 1950s use to call this “thinking in time;” meaning[v]:
Thinking strategically about the times in which you live;
I would add to that today – to also draw on lessons learned from history in the process. Think smart about the global environment we are in as you will be part of the new global leadership.

So, Lead, Inspire, Reach Out, in shaping the new global landscape. I will be counting on you, America’s students today, to do this for our future and for our country’s tomorrow. Thank you.


[i] 9/19/14 CCTV TV live newscast, Miriam Kalma reporting)
[ii] CCTV 9/19/14 live TV newscast Africa Live Report
[iii] UN Week 2014, McKinsey Session on Nigeria, Remarks by Director Richard Dobbs, New York Palace Hotel, N.Y.
[iv] U.S. Small Business Regional III Advocate Official Speech, July 10, 2014, Gallup Headquarters, Washington, D.C. at the FEEEDS-Gallup & Partners,US-Africa Summit Forum
[v]  2012 speech, Commandant Eisenhower Resources College, National Defense University, Washington, D.C. on occasion of ICAF College name change