On January 31, 2023, representative Ilhan Omar from Minnesota announced the creation of the U.S.-Africa Policy Working Group. This group “will endeavor to be a clearinghouse for active, sincere and consistent engagement with experts and policymakers working with and in Africa,” a press release highlights, in order to further the growth and prosperity of the continent. Omar said in her press release that she plans on holding regular briefings with officials from the Biden-Harris administration, organizations and journalists and looks to understand the points of view of the very people that U.S. policy affects.
Goals of the Group
Omar stresses that the main focus of the group will be addressing the current conflicts and crises in Africa. Of particular concern is the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia, a culmination of multiple factors.
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy says, “the combination of armed conflict, climate shocks, disease outbreaks and the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 have led to the deterioration in humanitarian conditions in the country.” As such, in 2023, 28.6 million people, equal to more than a fifth of the country’s people, require urgent humanitarian aid.
About 9.9 million Ethiopians are in need of food aid and 2.9 million children and pregnant/lactating women need critical nutrition interventions to prevent malnutrition. This crisis is also affecting children and their education. In September 2022, UNICEF estimated that 1.14 million students were susceptible to disenrolling from school.
Furthermore, at the start of the 2022/2023 school year, about 13 million Ethiopian children had not enrolled in school. With COVID-19 cases nearing 500,000 as of February 7, 2023, and diseases such as cholera becoming more common on top of widespread violence throughout the country, it is crucial for the U.S.-Africa working group to make the crisis in Ethiopia a priority.
Applauding Africa’s Triumphs
Besides focusing on the various issues that the African continent contends with, the U.S.-Africa working group also looks to focus on the triumphs of Africa, such as “Senegal’s extraordinary leadership in global health” and the human rights advocacy across Africa.
An important part of the plan is to include Africans so that the world can also hear perspectives on global issues from Africa. “It is my sincere hope that it will become a central player in creating lasting partnerships and building up a base of expertise so that Congress can be more actively involved in U.S. policy in Africa and help move the conversation forward for many years to come,” Omar said in a statement about the U.S.-Africa working group.
Because there are many issues currently happening in the world, it is important to consider input from multiple outlooks. The U.S.-Africa Policy Working Group will increase engagement with Africa and allow the world to gain insight directly from the continent’s experts and leaders. Learning about African interests globally will allow the U.S. to develop policies that directly address the needs of the people, especially considering that the extreme poverty rate in sub-Saharan Africa stood at 38.9% by April 2022, equating to 420 million people.
The unique perspectives that come along with this can also give the United States a broader view of different global issues, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and ongoing crises elsewhere. Keeping a working relationship between the United States and countries in Africa is vital to understanding how policies in the United States affect different regions and countries.
– Olivia MacGregor