The U.S. policy toward Africa has been mired in old thinking for too long. A combination of factors including low prioritization, an insular community of specialists, and deference to “bipartisan consensus” has resulted in policies and practices locked in amber. To be sure, continuity and consistency have their merits, but they also act as brakes on creativity, innovation, and fresh thinking. This policy drift leaves the United States ill-equipped for new challenges and discontinuities—such as a global pandemic, for example. It valorizes a decades-old playbook and reflexively dismisses recommendations that veer from the script. Major U.S. policy initiatives, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the U.S.-African Leaders Summit, and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) are exceptions to the rule and point to the potential for new policy breakthroughs.
The longstanding U.S. goals to advance democracy and governance; peace and security; trade and investment; and development in Africa remain valid. However, it is the pursuit of these objectives that has become unfocused and anachronistic. Over the decades, U.S. policy toward the region has become too encompassing, overstuffed with sub-objectives, and fixated with inputs, not outcomes. Moreover, it persistently treats Africa as a “region apart,” divorced from developments in other areas of the world. U.S. policy priorities toward Africa are almost exclusively about local issues on the continent and are often oblivious to Africa’s sway in the international system. A new policy framework must-see African expertise and influence as a critical part of a broader U.S. approach to tackling global challenges.200806_Devermont_USPolicyAfricanCentury_WEB
Judd Devermont, Director, Africa Program CSIS
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