More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa

by Christine Todd Whitman Anthony Lake

Book cover for More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa

This Council-sponsored Independent Task Force Report argues that Africa is becoming steadily more central to the United States and to the rest of the world in ways that transcend humanitarian interests. Africa now plays an increasingly significant role in supplying energy, preventing the spread of terrorism, and halting the devastation of HIV/AIDS. Africa's growing importance is reflected in the intensifying competition with China and other countries for both access to African resources and influence in this region. A more comprehensive U.S. policy toward Africa is needed, the report states, and it lays out recommendations for policymakers to craft that policy. Ideally, readers will take away two enduring impressions from this report. First, Americans must pause and reflect on how Africa has become a region of growing vital importance to U.S. national interests. It is outdated and counterproductive to assume that Africa is simply the object of humanitarian concerns or a charity cause. The need for a broader approach exists even while the United States should and does stand ready to answer Africa's urgent humanitarian needs. Nevertheless, steadily in recent years, and with an accelerating pace post-9/11, other newly emergent U.S. stakes in Africa have become apparent: energy, terror, and HIV/AIDS. As these interests have grown in importance, Africa has become a more competitive environment, in particular with China's rapidly escalating engagement and quest for Africa's energy and other natural resources. These new realities challenge our thinking and our policies. Second, a more comprehensive policy is needed. Such a policy is essential for the United States to operate effectively in the increasingly competitive environment in Africa. A broader policy framework is needed to correct U.S. intelligence and diplomatic weaknesses. Such an approach would bind the diverse and promising recent U.S. initiatives-in counterterrorism, HIV/AIDS, and the reward of good governance and economic reform-that today operate in relative isolation of one another into a coherent, dynamic policy. It would recognize the growing capacity of African leaders and institutions working to improve economic performance and governance, to promote democracy, and to resolve conflicts. Finally, this more comprehensive approach will strengthen the U.S. response to Africa's humanitarian needs, not weaken it. The results will not end poverty in Africa, but they will raise hope within the bounds of realism. Once in place, the policies, the programs, and the organizational improvements this report recommends should together enhance our position in Africa, deepen the understanding of our intentions, and increase the hopes for Africa.

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