Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Biden’s National Security Strategy: Hitting the Right Notes on Africa
Biden’s National Security Strategy: Hitting the Right Notes on Africa

Biden’s National Security Strategy: Hitting the Right Notes on Africa

Bottom Line

  • The Biden administration’s National Security Strategy echoes in large part its previously-issued strategy towards Sub-Saharan Africa
  • The document recognizes Africa’s potential impact on world affairs now and in the future because of its youthfulness and level of education and technological expertise, and that the fifty-four countries of Africa comprise one of the largest voting blocs in the United Nations. Africa’s growing population and vital natural resources, when combined with the African Continental Free Trade Area, give Africa the potential to be a transformative driver of global economic growth
  • The Biden administration has committed to enhanced US-Africa partnerships to address global issues such as climate change, pandemic preparedness, violent extremism and terrorism, and global health


Editor’s Note

This is the fifth article in a series on the Biden administration’s National Security Strategy. Please read our previous essays on President Joe Biden’s overall grand strategy and strategy toward Asia, Eurasia, and the Middle East.

Acknowledging African Agency

When it comes to US policy toward Africa, the Biden administration’s new National Security Strategy goes a step or two further than the Africa-specific strategy. It directly mentions the importance of supporting women’s rights—albeit in connection with countering terrorism. The strategy underscores the importance of Africa in world affairs and commits to working with individual countries, such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, as well as regional groupings like the Africa Union, civil society, and the diaspora, in a spirit of partnership, and in line with the goals of Africans themselves, while at the same time continuing to push for respect for human rights, curbing corruption, and addressing autocratic behavior. The strategy also promises support to African-led efforts to address ongoing conflicts, increasing terrorist activity, and humanitarian crises in places like Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, and the Sahel and to work with African and international partners to deal with the root causes of terrorism.

The administration commits to supporting economic growth in Africa through private sector investment, including working with African governments to create business- and investment-friendly environments that are essential to attracting investors and creating jobs across sectors. This also includes efforts to bolster US-Africa trade and create new opportunities for American companies.

The Proof, However, Is in the Implementation

Like the Africa strategy, though, the proof will be in the implementation. The issues of staffing of US embassies in Africa must be addressed, and the potential of economic programs like Prosper Africa, Feed the Future, and Power Africa have to be operationalized and implemented on the ground. The United States also needs to be acutely aware of how its actions are interpreted by Africans. For example, the statement in the National Security Strategy that the United States will continue to press partners about human rights, corruption, or authoritarian behavior and impose costs for coups and press for progress on civilian transitions, is weakened when Washington continues its close relationship with autocratic leaders, such as the president of Equatorial Guinea, in order to counter China’s moves in his country.

It’s too early to do more than say that the strategy says all the right things. Now, we wait and see if the administration does all the right things.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan organization that seeks to publish well-argued, policy-oriented articles on American foreign policy and national security priorities. 

Image: Defense Department