By Austin R. Cooper Jr.
The August congressional recess was a busy month of international travel for several Members of Congress. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), the ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs, led a bipartisan congressional delegation trip (CODEL) to the West African countries of Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and The Gambia. Sen. Coons was joined by delegation members Sen. Michael Bennett (R-CO); Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI); Rep. Lisa Blount Rochester (D-DE); Rep. Terrie Sewell (D-AL); Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA); Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA); and Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL).
Eleven months into the Trump Administration, the Administration’s policy towards Africa remains a work in progress. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley just concluded a trip to South Sudan, where she had to be evacuated during her visit to a displacement camp for security reasons, experiencing firsthand the challenges of those living in this fragile nation.
During the United Nations General Assembly, President Donald J. Trump hosted a luncheon for the leaders of nine African countries: Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda and South Africa. In his remarks, President Trump called on African countries to invest in the U.S. He also encouraged African leaders to help defeat Islamist extremists and counter threats from North Korea. However, no new U.S.-Africa engagement initiatives were proposed for the assembled Heads of State.
The past two months have also been a very busy time for IGD. We have been busy in the House and Senate advocating for an increase in appropriation funding for the AfDB and MCC. Particular attention is being given to Members serving on the House and Senate Subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.
Engagement on Capitol Hill
During the opening day of the IGD Frontier 100 Forum, top U.S. officials — Mark Green, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and former U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania and IGD President & CEO; Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; and Jonathan Nash, Acting CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) — presented their agency’s strategy for engagement with the private sector and Africa policy during a Fireside Chat at the Ronald Reagan Building. Newly-confirmed U.S. Executive Director to the AfDB Mr. Dowd was present and formally introduced to forum attendees, after being confirmed just several days prior.
A U.S.-Africa Policy Forum featured a panel of policy experts and legislative staff, including Algene Sajery, Democratic Policy Director, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations; Gregory Simpkins, Majority Staff Director, House Subcommittee on Africa; Scott Eisner, Vice President, Africa Business Initiative, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Merin Rajadurai, Chairman, Secretary of State Open Forum, U.S. Department of State, to weigh in on proposed budget cuts and the possible reorganization of foreign affairs agencies.
The Frontier 100 Forum’s evening reception on Oct. 12, recognized the African Development Bank’s progress on the “High 5s”. Mr. Charles Boamah, Senior Vice President, offered keynote remarks on behalf of the Bank. More than 125 individuals, including Frontier Leaders, congressional staffers, Members of the African Diplomatic Corps, and representatives from academic and nongovernmental organizations.
IGD organized a series of Hill visits on Oct. 13, on strengthening U.S.-Africa engagement, accelerating private sector development in Africa, and an update on appropriations levels for Africa-focused initiatives. The IGD-led delegation, which included IGD Frontier Leaders, met with Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), Ranking Member, House Subcommittee on Africa, Gregory Simpkins, Staff Director for the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights; and Sid Ravishankar, Legislative Assistant for Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX).
During the 2017 World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, IGD co-hosted a tour and breakfast forum designed to draw attention to the AfDB’s Young Agripreneurs and attract more young people to the agriculture sector. Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AfDB and the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate, delivered remarks on encourage the African youth to venture into agriculture . Just prior to the awards ceremony on Oct. 19, IGD arranged a meeting between Dr. Adesina and Congressman Steve King (R-IA), a member of the House Committee on Agriculture. The IGD team also met with Rep. King in Washington to follow up on the visit.
Austin R. Cooper, Jr. is the Government Affairs representative for Initiative for Global Development and President at Cooper Strategic Affairs, Inc.