Submitted by Sharon Cromer
Today I had the opportunity to take part in a panel on Africa’s role in world security at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Conference. Security is a required precursor to development. You cannot attain economic growth, better health and education, and good governance without it. But while the number of armed conflicts in Africa have decreased since the 1990s, violence and political instability remain a reality of every day life for many Africans. In conflict-affected areas—such as Somalia, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Mali and Niger, the Niger Delta of Nigeria, Darfur and the Three Areas in Sudan, and the Casamance region of Senegal—the capacity of governments and people to engage in sustainable development has plummeted.
That’s why USAID partners with the U.S. Africa Command on the continent. We share common objectives and coordinate our work to multiply our impact on the ground. For instance, across the Sahel, where the specter of violent extremism threatens stability and security, USAID works closely with AFRICOM on an integrated approach to support host nation efforts to counter radicalization, recruitment, and support to violent extremist organizations. On the one side, AFRICOM supports trainings in our partner nations on preventing terrorism and enhancing stability; at the same time USAID focuses on groups most vulnerable to extremist ideologies by supporting youth employment, improving access to education, and strengthening local government capacity to manage resources.
Although USAID and AFRICOM bring two very different work cultures to the table, it is these different approaches that can create a dynamic, multiplied result. And despite any challenges, there is clear and direct evidence of the positive results that stem from our civilian-military cooperation. International actors can make a major positive impact in mitigating conflict in Africa when they present a united face in support of a just peace and deploy sufficient resources to achieve progress.