A soldier with the Georgia National Guard practice establishing drop zones with the Ugandan People's Defense Forces during an exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Africa.

A soldier with the Georgia National Guard practice establishing drop zones with the Ugandan People's Defense Forces during an exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Africa. U.S. Army Africa by Sgt. 1st Class Brock Jones

The U.S. Needs a New Approach to Security in Africa

The time is now and Africa is the place to adopt a more comprehensive approach to security that serves as a model for American global engagement in the 21st century. By Scott Bates

Kidnapped girls. Spreading diseases. Coups, civil wars, and genocide. The security threats of Africa are often framed as transient to Western audiences, displaced from the news cycle by events closer to home—geographically or emotionally—rather than given the full exposure and attention that they might deserve.

Yet Africa is making the news this week, and with more positive headlines. Over 50 African leaders have travelled to Washington, D.C., for the first ever U.S.-African Leaders Summit. With six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies, the primary focus of the summit’s discussions is to be investment. And that’s good news for those interested in strengthening the security situation on the African continent.

The time is now and Africa is the place to adopt a more comprehensive approach to security that can serve as a model for positive and sustainable American global engagement and leadership in the 21st century.  By using the 4D strategy—equally focusing on democracy assistance, development, diplomacy, and defense cooperation—we can engage with African partners in a way that strengthens their capacity and advances our mutual interests.  Investment, good governance, and security form an interdependent cycle. Conditioning investment and aid on inclusive, stable governance opens the door for political reform. That reform, in turn, can produce societies that provide the stability and security necessary for not only human capital development but favorable conditions for further investment. 

In contrast to the benefits of this long-term approach, consider the Chinese model of engagement with Africa. Chinese state-owned companies are draining natural resources to fuel their country’s insatiable economic growth with no preconditions of reform. The benefits are minimal for everyday Africans, who see their potential wealth being rapidly extracted in return for little in the way of infrastructure or even employment (due to Chinese migrant workers) to show for these deals.  

While U.S. trade with Africa has stagnated and declined in recent years, China’s trade volume with Africa is “now as large as 2.5 times that of the United States.”  This should be troubling news for those who know that security ties often follow economic interests. It is also not encouraging news for those who fight for reform, transparency and good governance in Africa. All the more reason that a 4D approach to U.S. engagement with Africa promises longer term strategic benefits for the U.S. and our African partners while being true to our values.

Some question the president’s timing for a focus on Africa, given the tumultuous security situations in other hotspots Americans are so focused upon like Iraq, Israel-Palestine, and the former Soviet bloc. The fact of the matter is, however, that the security situation in Africa does not go away when ignored by American audiences. The bottom line is that American engagement—military, diplomatic, and economic—is needed to address the serious challenges facing the continent today.

The Defense Department has bought into the summit’s agenda. According to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Amanda Dory, the political fallout from recent French intervention in Mali has provided the necessary momentum to inspire the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC). The ACIRC will be a permanent coalition military force acting at the behest of the African Union (AU), with troops from South Africa, Ethiopia, and Uganda already pledged to participate.

Terrorism remains a very real threat; attacks by armed extremists are most deadly not in Afghanistan but in Nigeria, where the brutal tactics of an expanding Boko Haram result in an average of 24 deaths per event. An ongoing AU mission in Somalia continues to fight against the insurgent group Al-Shabab. However, Africa holds unconventional global security implications as well that make it relevant far beyond its borders. Weak states present tremendous threats in terms of fostering extremism, mismanaging resource scarcity, and diseases that can impact global health.

Ultimately, the U.S.-African Leaders Summit offers a critical opportunity for the kind of partner capacity-building that transnational threats require. Security operations in Africa should not be an afterthought relegated to the bottom of the newsfeed but rather a pressing example of areas in which the United States can work to build up institutional capacity and provide for long-term, comprehensive solutions rather than simple Band-Aids. 

For this reason, all who are concerned with global security should applaud the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and support a new and promising strategy for American global engagement.

Scott Bates is president of the Center for National Policy and former Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee. He recently worked in the Niger Delta on a democracy assistance and development project.

NEXT STORY: 4 Rules of War from Al-Qaeda

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.