I

Under the Radar
In 2006, the Council on Foreign Relations published a report of an Independent Task Force on U.S. policy toward Africa, cochaired by Anthony Lake and Christine Todd Whitman. The Task Force report, More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa, identified several factors that make Africa of increasing strategic importance to the United States, including some trends that had not yet captured public, or in some cases, policy analysts’, attention. In this section, ‘‘Under the Radar,’’ the Council calls attention to the fact that, as one observer has noted, ‘‘Africa is in play.’’ With the rapid growth in the economies of Asia and in some countries of Latin America, Africa has become the focus of investment, trade, and political outreach from a host of countries not previously so active on the continent. China stands out in this regard. As China moved from self-sufficiency in energy to a major importing country, it has reached out across the world for access to energy resources through a combination of investments, aid, high-level political attention, and promises of future largesse. In Africa, Angola recently passed Saudi Arabia as China’s major source of imported oil. Sudan provides China with about 7 percent of its oil imports. India, South Korea, Malaysia, Brazil, and other countries are following China’s lead in Africa, using the same mechanisms and pursuing many of the same resources. China poses a challenge to the United States’ objectives in Africa because China pursues its aid and investment programs without attention to issues of governance, human rights, or the environ[1]
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Under the Radar ment. It uses competitive practices not available to the United States or American companies. But China and the other newly active countries also offer Africa a welcome new source of investment and trade. The challenge is to create a new consensus on how these opportunities can be harnessed to benefit Africa in sustainable ways, not as South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki warned, leading to a new ‘‘colonialism.’’ The Independent Commission report on Angola and Robert I. Rotberg’s Special Report on Nigeria pick up on the theme of Africa’s growing importance as a supplier of oil. The reports focus attention on how the United States needs to respond to countries in Africa that are of increasing importance to the world’s energy supply but that are subject to civil strife, poor governance, and deep poverty in spite of record levels of oil earnings. In the case of Angola, traditional sources of leverage and influence, such as foreign aid, are of limited value, for oil wealth makes Angola independent of not only aid but of the influence of such institutions as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Angola is not only important as a source of oil, however—it is also important to stability in central and southern Africa. Largely neglected in U.S. foreign policy since the end of the civil war in that country, Angola is an important case study in how the United States needs to develop a productive and mutually beneficial relationship to not only Angola but other oil-producing countries with similar characteristics in Africa and elsewhere. Much of the public’s attention on Africa focuses on conflict and humanitarian emergencies. But just as important are the emerging trends toward democracy and better governance over the past twenty years that are transforming many African countries. Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, and the fifth-largest source of U.S. imported oil; it is in many ways the bellwether of these trends. The report on Nigeria provides insights into the struggle for democracy, development, and stability taking place there. After returning to civilian elected rule in 1999, Nigeria undertook significant reforms in managing the economy, fighting corruption, and eliminating its debt. The elections of 2007 were a critically important test of whether Nigeria’s democracy could then make the important [2]
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Under the Radar transition from one elected administration to another. The elections were not well conducted, leaving a pall over the country. But other problems face the newly elected government as well. Rotberg’s insights into the election dynamics of 2007 and the challenges facing Nigeria provide a valuable look at how strong and sustainable the positive trends of the past few years may be. A different scenario is playing out in South Africa, the scene of one of the most dramatic stories of the twentieth century. In 1994, after decades of apartheid and much violence, longtime political prisoner and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela was elected president and a new and strong constitutional democracy was born. Today, South Africa is the strongest economy on the continent and a leader in African diplomacy, peacekeeping, and development. In his retrospective, Princeton N. Lyman, who was U.S. ambassador to South Africa during the transition to democracy, looks at how well the institutions of democracy, good governance, and the economy have performed and the problems that South Africa still faces. Africa’s strategic importance and future will also be shaped by a curious phenomenon that demographers call a youth bulge. In the final piece of this section, Council International Affairs Fellow Michelle D. Gavin provides a close look at the political engagement and political agendas of the youth in sub-Saharan Africa, arguing that the demographic power of young Africans is bound to have political consequences, and exploring the ways in which youths’ quest for empowerment can make them significant catalysts for positive change.

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