Senior Leaders Seminar Participants Discuss Transnational Issues

By Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Updated: 06/23/2011


 On Tuesday, June 14, Senior Leaders Seminar participants attended two plenary sessions about transnational issues. Dr. Benjamin Nickels of the Africa Center and Ms. Laurence Aida Ammour from GéopoliSud Consultance presented on Transnational Crimes and Terrorism. Dr. Nickels described three transnational issues that he believes are important in Africa. The first, international terrorism, is most threatening in Eastern and North Africa. He explained that two terrorist groups, Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), pose the biggest terrorist threat to African security. Both of these groups have orchestrated or participated in numerous attacks. The second transnational threat, drug trafficking, is prevalent in West Africa, where the sub-region has become a transit point for drugs travelling from South America to Europe. A third issue is human trafficking and its ties to forced labor and sexual exploitation. Dr. Nickels explained that South Africa is a hub for this activity. Dr. Nickels argued that while it is difficult to define transnational threats, they can be understood as threats that transcend national borders and have been exacerbated by the growth of globalization. Transnational threats are often ambiguous and complicated, and they may require solutions outside of the military.

Following Dr. Nickels, Ms. Ammour discussed terrorism in the Sahel in greater depth. She explained that we have reason to be both optimistic and wary regarding this issue, which has escalated significantly over the past decade. The good news is that Sahelian nations such as Mali have begun to proactively attack terrorism using numerous tools such as diplomatic negotiation, military attacks, and regionalization. The bad news, however, is that terrorism and AQIM are expanding into Libya due to the turmoil there. Since 2003 AQIM has expanded from southern Algeria into the Sahelian nations and has recently turned to criminalization. Ms. Ammour explained that AQIM and other terrorist groups have become involved in drug trafficking, human smuggling, and other transnational crimes, supporting and allying themselves to criminal organizations. Ms. Ammour concluded her presentation by examining the developments in Libya and how government weapons caches have been looted and weapons are now proliferating around the Sahel and into the hands of many terrorist operatives. However, she believes that the Libyan crisis has fostered greater regionalization and cooperation among the Sahelian states.

The second session of the day featured Andrea W. Lockwood, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for Eurasia, Africa and the Middle East, who gave a presentation entitled, Managing Natural Resource Competition. Ms. Lockwood discussed how Africa is rich in energy resources and how these resources will play a large part in Africa’s growth in the coming years. According to Lockwood, the U.S. wants to facilitate education in effective and clean energy use and development. She discussed the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a program that assists and encourages states to provide transparency vis-à-vis their energy use, production, and extraction. She explained that many African countries are already members with many more candidates for membership. Lockwood emphasized that the U.S. Government encourages African governments to reinvest their natural resource revenues in infrastructure, so as to improve access to power and energy—key catalysts for economic growth. Ms. Lockwood concluded her presentation by stating that the United States remains committed to assisting in energy development on the African continent.