World

OP-ED

The U.S. and Europe must work together with Africa

U.S. Senator James Risch (Supplied)

It is time for a collective transatlantic approach to cooperating with Africa, or our well-intentioned efforts to support Africa’s development will continue to fall short.

It is time for a collective transatlantic approach to cooperating with Africa, or our well-intentioned efforts to support Africa’s development will continue to fall short.

Two years ago, I released a report on the necessity of transatlantic cooperation on China’s malign activity. In that report, I recommended areas where the United States and our European allies can cooperate to form stronger alliances with our African partners, particularly as China continues its efforts to undermine prosperity, security, and democratic governance throughout the world.

Heads of state and government across the African continent convened in Brussels for a summit with the European Union this week. President Biden has announced a similar U.S.-Africa summit, the details of which remain vague. Engagements like these must occur through the lens of mutual economic and security cooperation and in the context of shared values: upholding individual rights and freedoms, advancing market-based economic prosperity, and safeguarding democratic institutions.

These are complex and difficult times, particularly in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic, educational, and public health shocks. Moreover, the demographic and other pressures Africa faces now, and will continue to face in the years ahead, will directly impact security and migration challenges that dominate the African-European relationship.

While the United States and Europe may have vastly different histories, priorities, and strategies for engagement on the African continent, there must be joint U.S.-Europe engagement and cooperation with our African partners. Such engagement begins with this type of summitry to convene African, U.S., and European leaders in one place to have necessary conversations on issues of concern that cross the Atlantic.

U.S. officials planning the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit should watch closely the issues discussed in Brussels and identify areas of cooperation where the United States can work together with our European and African partners to tackle the massive challenges and build on the enormous opportunities ahead.

For example, take the current security, political, and humanitarian crisis in the Sahel. No one partner or approach will alone resolve the myriad of worsening challenges in the Sahel, which is why the United States and Europe must come together to find common goals with each other and our African partners. Together, we must address the root of the issues that underpin the violent extremism impeding the region’s future development. France’s announced withdrawal from Mali during this week’s summit and recent coups in Burkina Faso and Mali serve as stark examples of the complex challenges we face.

While my report on transatlantic cooperation focused on China and the need for the United States and Europe to counterbalance its malign activities, we must also cooperate to find solutions to the increasing presence of actors linked to Russia, Iran, and other regional powers. These bad actors use weakened African governments as entry points to undermine democratic systems to serve their anti-democratic ways.

We must work with our European allies to reframe the transatlantic relationship to include African partners on or near the Atlantic coast. We need to ensure proper coordination on trade and investment to counter investments, often based on unbalanced terms, from countries like China. And we must align counterterrorism and development assistance to meet the on-the-ground needs of our African partners.

It is time for a collective transatlantic approach to cooperating with Africa, or our well-intentioned efforts to support Africa’s development will continue to fall short. DM

U.S. Senator James E Risch is the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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