Seeing it Through: Continuing Commitments in Sub-Saharan Africa

June 20, 2012 By Nicholas Rogacki

Sub-Saharan Africa currently boasts some of the fastest growing economies in the world, several emerging democracies, and an astounding expansion of mobile technologies.  It’s perhaps not surprising then that the Administration announced last Thursday a new Presidential Policy Directive on Sub-Saharan Africa, which seeks to advance U.S. interests in the region.

In line with the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development issued in 2010, the new Directive focuses on four strategic pillars, including strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth and trade, advancing peace and security, and promoting opportunity and development.  These pillars, underscored by efforts to further engage young leaders and expand public/private partnerships, represent an effort to address the increasing strategic importance of Sub-Saharan Africa to U.S. national security and economic interests.

The region is poised to be the development community’s next success story.  For the first time in five years, Sub-Saharan Africa is no longer the least peaceful region in the world, according to the Global Peace Index released last week.   Economic growth in the region is strong, with 17 countries having maintained rates of economic growth of five to seven percent per year for the last decade.  Foreign direct investment is on the rise, with the second highest levels in the region’s history.  Global health numbers in the region are also improving.  Thanks to programs like the President’s Malaria Initiative and Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, rates of malaria and HIV/AIDS are down and life expectancy is up.

The U.S. has made significant investments to aid emerging democracies in Sub-Saharan Africa including Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Guinea, and Benin.  The Millennium Challenge Corporation presently has ten Threshold Program grants in Africa created to target corruption, improve governance, and foster a closer dialog with the U.S. government.  USAID’s Strengthening Multi-Party Democracy program recently finished its four-year mission to promote peaceful political competition in Uganda, and U.S. assistance to Kenya has helped promote a new constitution and more stable market for American goods along the African coast. President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative represents a $3.5 billion investment in famine-struck places like Somalia and Kenya to increase crop yields and sustainable food security.

Last week’s Presidential Policy Directive on Sub-Saharan Africa represents a continued commitment to promoting development through economic growth.  By using all of the tools of national security – diplomacy and development, alongside a strong defense – the directive builds on a range of American initiatives in the region to help ensure that U.S. leadership will continue in some of the world’s most dynamic nations.