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Paralleling the continent’s economic growth has been a strengthening of democracy in many African nations, and a corresponding reaction from extremist Islamic groups which threaten American security and global interests. To combat this, the US should do everything to facilitate the deployment of America’s strongest tool for peace – its business sector. Congress needs to return to its bipartisan support for a strong and sustained strategic and economic partnership between the US and Africa to facilitate the financial flows, technology transfer, and human capital mobility to build strong societies that are poor breeding grounds for terrorism and political instability.
The question is no longer whether the US should make its relationship with Africa a top strategic priority, but whether Africa will pick the US as a partner over an increasingly sophisticated and accommodating China. Will the Obama Administration and Congress use the summit to once again seize the initiative in Africa, recognizing the economic and strategic importance of the continent to America’s future? Will they recognize the potential of Africa as an allied voting bloc in global arenas? Or will they remain blind to the seismic changes happening in Africa and once more consign Africa to a strategic backwater?
This time Africa won’t wait.
Rosa Whitaker, president and CEO of the Whitaker Group, previously served as the first-ever Assistant United States Trade Representative for Africa under the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.