US Air Force Brigadier General Leonard Kosinski, US Africa Command director of logistics, discussed the logistical challenges in Africa and the need to partner with commercial industry to help overcome challenges and leverage lessons learned.
He was speaking to international logistics experts during a webinar hosted by the Lexington Institute on 8 July.
“I believe a ‘whole of nation’ approach is needed in Africa and that includes involving private industry,” Kosinski said. “Many commercial businesses have found ways to overcome the logistical challenges of operating in Africa, and the US government can learn from their experiences and leverage their expertise.”
The US military’s engagements with African partners assist their efforts to respond to security issues in their countries. In turn, this creates a more secure environment, advancing African economic development and creating opportunity for American businesses to operate on the continent, he said.
Africa presents unique logistical challenges with its sheer size and population. The continent is more than three and a half times the size of the US and by 2050 it’s estimated that two billion people will live there.
“The tyranny of distance cannot be overstated,” Kosinski said. “Combined with population growth, lack of infrastructure, and the presence of violent extremist organizations and malign actors, coordinating logistics in Africa can be extremely challenging.”
Kosinski told the group that COVID-19 has created another logistical challenge—this is the first time since World War II that the US military had to address a “continent-wide” crisis.
US Africa Command has continued to support its African partners with regards to logistics. In April, the 86th Airlift Wing, based out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, delivered medical supplies to the government of Ghana to help support the country’s COVID-19 response efforts. Approximately 4 000 pounds of medical cargo and supplies provided by the Naval Medical Research Unit Three-Ghana Detachment were stuck in Manchester, UK, due to logistical disruptions caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The US Embassy in Accra, Ghana, requested support from US Africa Command to deliver three pallets of equipment to Ghana. Together a plan was developed to transport the supplies from RAF Mildenhall, UK, to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. From Germany, the supplies were then delivered to Accra, Ghana, after a brief stop in Niamey, Niger.
US Africa Command is no stranger to overcoming logistical challenges, it said. During the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, which struck Mozambique in 2019, the US military provided airlift support to the whole-of-government effort. Led by Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, the US military delivered 730 metric tons of emergency food and supplies to the over 130 000 displaced persons sheltering in 136 sites across Mozambique and provided a total of $15 million of command funds in support of moving commodities, equipment, supplies, and personnel.
“These efforts to assist our African partners can make a real difference,” Kosinski said. “Whether we’re helping transport medical supplies or responding to a crisis situation, the US military has a unique capability that makes us the partner of choice on the continent.”
Logistics plays a crucial role in executing the command’s operations. In East Africa, US Africa Command supports missions and the building, training and equipping of Somali combat units. This requires significant logistics operations, including airlift of supplies and equipment as well as navigation through dangerous conflict-torn and remote areas. In the Sahel, US Africa Command routinely shares assets, such as medical evacuation, logistics support, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and air refueling with French partners committed to addressing the terrorist threats in that region.
AFRICOM also works with international partner networks to meet US and partner logistics needs, it said. The command recently partnered with the multinational Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW) to deliver critical supplies to troops supporting operations as part of an effort to strengthen international logistics support in Africa. The HAW is based in Pápa Air Base, Hungary, and provides strategic airlift support for 10 NATO nations and two Partners for Peace. Partners for Peace is a program of practical bilateral cooperation between individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries and NATO. Africom relies on the HAW for special airlift missions, particularly for channel flights to West Africa. This mission marked an important milestone for the international partnership as it was the first time the HAW was leveraged to support logistics requirements in East Africa, Africa Command said.
“Working with this multinational HAW not only strengthens partnerships, but brings together collective international capability to support Africa,” said Kosinski, who accompanied the HAW on the mission.
Kosinski’s engagement with the Lexington Institute underscored the importance of leveraging the lessons learned from multiple government, international, and private sector partners while operating in Africa.
“Our partnerships are what enable us to meet our logistics needs,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to work together and develop new and innovative solutions to shared challenges in Africa.”