To know Susan Rice, possible the next US Secretary of State, we have to follow her traces in Africa, argues former foreign correspondent Howard French in The Atlantic. Her legacy in Africa policy: stale and stuck in the past: unambitious, underinvested and conceptually outdated.
In any discussion of Susan Rice’s career, there is no escaping Africa. It is the place where she cut her teeth and built her essential record as a diplomat and national security official. Although there has been nary a hint of this in the fuss about Benghazi, I would go further still and say that one would be hard pressed to find anyone in American government who has played a larger and more sustained role in shaping Washington’s diplomacy toward that continent over the last two decades.
If Rice survives the current controversy over Libya and is nominated to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, understanding the details of her past work in Africa, and drawing her out about Washington’s approach toward the continent in the future, should be a matter of serious national concern.
Right now, Africa is changing with extraordinary speed and in surprising ways, but American policy there remains stale and stuck in the past: unambitious, underinvested and conceptually outdated.
This holds true at a time when the continent is growing demographically and urbanizing faster than any place before in history. Africa is booming economically as well, with an overall growth rate faster than Asia, and an emerging middle class larger than India’s.
China, the United States’ preeminent global rival, clearly gets this, and treats Africa not just as a place from which to extract mineral wealth — which of course it does — but also as a vital source of growth for the world economy going forward. China also views Africa as a geopolitical space of rapidly developing markets and huge business opportunities, including a nearly endless supply of new and underserved consumers.