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October's Last Word

Steve McDonald

By Steve McDonald

We have just finished our first two months on line with the Africa UP Close blog.   That month has been eventful, with a number of wonderful postings from our wide and diverse network of friends, associates and colleagues in Africa and with whom we work on Africa.  We have just begun to tap our immense potential for Africa UP Close to bring unique views, unconventional insights, and new "voices" to issues about Africa and US policy towards it.  Postings ranged from a discussion of peace education in Burundi secondary schools, to the dire situation in Mali and the Sahel, to lessons learned on capacity building and training programs, to Africa as a testing ground for US security interests, to a comparison of African and European integration.  We featured other news items, but did not, and will not, regurgitate American and European reporting on Africa.  Rather we will feature African reports from sources such as the Kenyan Standard, South Africa Business Day, and  We will continue this coverage of alternate, Africa based sources for our American readers, sources normally not available to them.   Finally, we list coming events.  For the most part, at this stage, these have been Washington and East Coast based events, but we will continue to research and expand the list, to include other American and international events of interest to our readers.   We would ask you to contribute announcements of events that your organizations are staging, or about which you have heard and feel we may not be aware.

We are already pleased with the response.    Since inception, we have had 872 page views from 23 different countries.   Some of these took place before we finalized our upgrades and got fully functional, so our tracking system has now changed and will be more accurate.  But, even considering these start-up hiccups, this is a pretty impressive record on which to build, as the public becomes more and more aware of Africa UP Close as a resource that is unique.   Comments are only now starting to come in, but we invite you to take advantage of that interactive component to inform and guide us on our quality, diversity, accuracy, and focus.

We will keep you abreast of the metrics of our readership and outreach, but I will also begin to offer some insights on U.S. policy priorities and considerations towards Africa.  It is tempting now to compare candidate strategies for Africa from the Republican and Democratic sides, but we will know who the new president is within the next two weeks, and I can be a bit more precise in assessing the way forward for the new administration then.  Of course, the fact that during the October 22 debate on foreign policy, the word "Africa" was only uttered once by President Obama in a general reference, and Mali once by Governor Romney as he spoke about terrorist threats,  while no discussion or analysis of issues outside of Libya was offered, does not augur well for where sub-Saharan Africa will stand in either administration.   A Romney win means a whole new team, with all its unknowns.  But, by the same token, an Obama win probably has the same uncertainty.  I know that Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson will not continue in office under a second Obama term.  He has chosen to finally retire after a long and distinguished career.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has supported Assistant Secretary Carson in his efforts and been as attentive of Africa as was humanly possible under her global obligations, with two extended trips to the continent, as well as several brief visits for AU summits or other bi-lateral encounters, will also be moving on.   So, whatever happens in US electoral politics, we will have a new day, new key players, and, of course, new opportunities to advance the agenda of African development, sustainable peace, and economic progress.

Interesting times ahead, indeed!  Stay tuned to the pages of Africa UP Close for insight and analysis to follow these developments.

About the Author

Steve McDonald

Steve McDonald

Former Director, Africa Program, Woodrow Wilson Center
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Africa Program

The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and U.S.-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial U.S.-Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in U.S.-Africa relations.    Read more