The Africa Center’s 2011 Introduction to African Security Issues 4-day seminar was attended by nearly 40 participants from various U.S. government institutions including the Departments of Defense, State, and Agriculture. Participants chose to attend the seminar in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the key threats and challenges that dominate the African security landscape as well as a more detailed understanding of U.S. interest, policies, and programs towards the continent. All participants work on some aspect of U.S.-Africa security policy; many have previous experience on the continent.
Following an overview of the Africa Center’s mission and programs, participants spent a day discussing Africa’s history and politics, as well as the economic challenges the continent faces.
Dr. Gwendolyn Mikell, from Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, reviewed Africa’s five cultural zones and the legacies of colonial rule. Dr. Joseph Siegle, Research Director at the Africa Center, discussed governance trends on the continent and current trends in democratization. Siegle and several other presenters observed that 2011 is being hailed as “the year of elections in Africa.”
Dr. Todd Moss of the Center for Global Development discussed the impact of the global economic crisis on Africa and the macro and micro constraints on the continent’s economic development.
The second day of the program focused on providing a firm understanding of the contemporary African security environment. Topics covered included conflict, human security threats, and transnational threats and challenges, including terrorism. Day three focused on providing an overview of U.S. policy towards Africa. Speakers were drawn from AFRICOM, the Africa bureau at the U.S. Department of State, and the Office of African Affairs, Office of the Secretary of Defense. There was also a discussion of the role that the African Union and regional economic communities are playing in managing the continent’s security affairs. The final day of the program focused on explaining the role of other actors on the African continent, including the United Nations, the European Union, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), and non-governmental organizations.
Participants left the 4-day seminar with a much better understanding of the political, social military, and economic aspects of security in Africa.
The Africa Center will continue to reach out to these and other program participants to build upon the dialogue and to foster a sense of partnership.