Leaders Discuss Threats to Africa and National Security Strategies During ACSS Program

By Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Updated: 03/27/2012

Dr. Nickels SpeakingView Photos of this Event.

Rising security sector leaders hailing from 37 African countries discussed current and emerging threats on the continent and best practices in developing national security strategies as part of an ongoing Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) conference on March 15, 2012.

During the three-week Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders Program, 42 participants are examining Africa’s security environment and ways to improve stability, security, and democracy. They are analyzing civil-military relations on the continent to determine the role and place of professional defense and police officers in advancing national security in democratizing states.

The event’s participants, African majors and lieutenant colonels, were selected by their countries to take the course because of their significant command experience or staff responsibilities as well as their recognized leadership potential. ACSS has hosted the conference at least once a year since 2005 to provide a venue for the continent’s most talented young security sector leaders to interact and learn from each other.

While speaking at the morning session on current and emerging threats, Dr. Benjamin P. Nickels, ACSS Assistant Professor of Transnational Threats and Counterterrorism, said Africa’s security landscape has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. The continent has seen significant economic development, democratization movements, and a reduction in conflicts.

“There has been a shift away from traditional threats and toward newer nontraditional ones,” he said. “A variety of agents— violent non-state actors—are mobilizing anger against demographic shifts, social divisions, and environmental challenges.”

Nickels pointed to clear trends of international terrorism in Africa’s east and north, drug trafficking in the west, and human trafficking in the south. He said terrorists, organized crime groups, pirates, and others are tapping expanding global interconnectedness and transportation networks for their own ends.

“Transnational threats the dark side of globalization,” Nickels said. “Non-state actors are being empowered by globalization to contravene the authority of nation states.”

A consensus on how to deal with transnational threats posed by non-state actors, who are using the most current technologies they can get their hands on, is slowly emerging among impacted states.

“These threats require a transnational response: a whole-of-government response combined with international cooperation and civil society participation,” Nickels said. “In the long run, finding the most effective way of developing and coordinating efforts will require us to depend on globalization and to collectively solve this problem for a brighter future.”

March 15 Participants

Later in the day, participants sat down to discuss the importance of creating national security strategies with leading experts.

One expert described formulating a national security strategy as an art that calculates a balanced relationship between ends, ways, and means. Its nature is dynamic, proactive, and anticipatory and it builds on trust fostered between a nation’s government, military, and people.

Attendees were asked to think about how the relationship between their countries’ objectives, national concepts, and available resources would affect their specific strategy formulation and the suitability and feasibility of implementing a national security strategy. They were also asked to consider the relationship of a possible grand strategy for their countries to their national military and security strategies.

“A national security strategy is nothing more than a rational way for society to mobilize and protect its interests,” said Colonel Gene McConville, ACSS Faculty Member and Military Advisor, one of the experts speaking at the plenary.