The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) has briefed security leaders on the new US strategy on sub-Saharan Africa at its Africa Center Seminar in Arlington, Virginia.
The ACSS opened its annual Senior Leaders Seminar on June 18, during which keynote speaker Amanda J. Dory, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Africa Policy, for the first time in public discussed the White House’s newly updated policy for sub-Saharan Africa, which was released on June 14.
“This seminar comes at a very timely moment,” said Ambassador (ret.) William M. Bellamy, director of the Africa Center in his welcoming remarks. Bellamy said the 14th edition of the Senior Leader Seminar also comes at a time when Africa as a whole is doing pretty well economically. The average growth rate for the last decade has been more than 5 percent, and there is a growing middle class on the continent. The steady and strong economic growth also gives African a new sense of confidence about the future.
However said Bellamy, political reforms have not kept pace with economic growth. The recent military coups in Mali and Guinea-Bissau, as well as the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire show that governance remains a major challenge.
“The great security challenge you will have to face over the next decade will have to do with governance,” he told the participants.
Keynote speaker Dory, who coordinates the Pentagon’s African affairs policy, spoke for the first time since the White House issued its new strategic document regarding Africa.
“This is my first chance to roll out the new Presidential Strategy for Africa,” she told the Senior Leaders Seminar attendees. “The opportunity couldn’t be better.”
Building upon the new Presidential Policy Directive, Dory recalled the four strategic objectives for U.S. engagement in Africa, and provided an overview of U.S.-Africa relations, from the Department of Defense’ stand point.
“The U.S. is more secure when our friends around the world are more secure. … The new strategy calls upon us to be proactive in Sub-Saharan Africa,” she said.
Dory also said the U.S. government perceives Africa as a critical stakeholder in global security. She went on to detail U.S. government initiatives in helping its African partners to face security threats, especially from terrorist groups.
Dory said the U.S. government is focusing on information sharing, reform of institutions, training, and capacity-building for African security forces. She said local governments and regional economics communities have the lead in this approach, and the U.S. administration is committed to providing a continuing support to its African partners in this regard. She finally emphasized that the American government prioritizes partnership with regional economic communities and the African Union.