Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Smart Power Doing Smart Things in Africa

As we've covered here and on Midrats through the years, the economic and demographic challenges of sub-Saharan Africa will be - and in many ways already is - one of the primary drivers of national security concerns as we approach mid-century.

Though this so far has failed to break through to the general discussion, where it counts evidence shows that many long-term focused professionals see it.

Of our friends, France sees it most clearly, and we are next in line. On the surface it may seem like wanting to help African nations join the 21st Century's promise - and in many areas it is - but the primary concern is to promote stability and growth to blunt the irresistible desire to migrate north to Europe and all the instability that has already brought with it.

European and North American nations will not be the ones that keep Africa from anarchy and collapse in the face of - what on paper at least - seem like unmanageable challenges, it will be the Africans themselves.

As African GenX and younger leaders start to get hold of levers of power, much of the stale and failed post-colonial, Marxist infused taint that infected so many of the late 20th Century leaders will fade even more. With that, modern ideas and relationships can develop.

That is what the West hopes. Of course, China and Russia are pushing in to Africa as well. Their drivers are more from the last century; power and resource extraction.

It isn't hidden, and it appears that the locals see it.

Good read in the Washington Examiner by Abraham Mahshie,
Forty-two African military chiefs joined U.S. Army officials in Ethiopia for the African Land Forces Summit that ended Friday, underscoring what generals say is the United States's edge over China and Russia in the war of influence playing out on the African continent.

“Partnerships are key to security and stability in Africa,” U.S. Africa Command chief Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, told military leaders at the event’s closing ceremony in Addis Ababa, underscoring that the terrorism fight in East Africa requires partnerships.
...according to AFRICOM leaders, the U.S. has a head start countering adversary influence on the continent and helping African nations put down terrorist groups trying to gain a foothold in ungoverned spaces of East Africa.
When U.S. and partner nations bring their expertise to the table to meet face-to-face, he (U.S. Army Africa commander Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier) explained, they build relationships and develop solutions together.

They also show America’s presence on the continent is about more than economics.

China has wooed African nations with an estimated $5 billion per year, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Cloutier said the influence of American efforts on the continent is working, telling journalists a story about a recent meeting with a ground commander in Africa who highlighted relations with Russia.

“The senior ground commander said to me, ‘You know what? We've had a longstanding relationship with the Russians,’” he said. "'We know what capability the United States military has. We know what you stand for, and we want to become closer partners with you.'"
Yes, skepticism is in order ... as it always is with such PAO cleared statements, and yes, African military senior leaders do not have the best track record - but this is important.

This effort must continue, European nations should continue to support France's efforts in the Sahel, as should we, even with setbacks and frustrations that always come with operations in Africa.

As long as we do it right and on African terms and timetables, we can mitigate what is coming this century.

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