Sustaining Reliable Partnerships: Progress after the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

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Publication Date: 
August 2014
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Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
The first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in August 2014 provided a high-profile platform to showcase the breadth of U.S. engagement in Africa - across economic, development and security issues.  Yet, these engagements are often dependent on partnerships with African governments lacking strong governance foundations. Only a fifth of the roughly 50 states represented at the Summit could be considered genuinely democratic and the norm of personalistic, big man politics persists even among leaders who are democratically elected. This is coupled with a worrying trend of increased restrictions for civil society and media in Africa. Meanwhile, many African governments continue to be ranked among the most susceptible to corruption globally. Governments lacking in legitimacy and transparency tend to be more volatile, facing the internal threats that typify the gamut of security challenges facing the continent. While there is pressure on the United States to relax its invocation of democracy and human rights issues in Africa on economic and security grounds, it is through its support for these principles that the United States has the best chance of advancing sustained economic and security progress and stronger U.S.-Africa relations more generally.