August 29, 2013

Commentary - Africa: A Continent of Opportunity

By Dan Glickman
Dan Glickman is Vice President of the Aspen Institute and Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. He is a co-chair of The Chicago Council's Global Agricultural Development Initiative.

I recently returned from a conference hosted by the Aspen Institute in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with a number of scholars and members of Congress. Over a period of several days we did an in-depth exploration of the myriad issues encompassing U.S. relations with the 54 nations of Africa.

One thing became clear: Africa is a land of opportunity and promise for its people and for the people of the United States. First, there is incredible economic potential waiting to be or already being unleashed across the continent. The IMF predicts that by 2017 11 of the world's 20 fastest growing economies will be African. As economies grow and opportunity spreads the potential for U.S. businesses is astronomic. As President Obama recently said, "The world is investing in Africa like never before... So I see Africa as the world's next major success story."

Some of that success is attributable to US investments in health care from HIV/AIDs prevention, malaria and tuberculosis treatments as well as maternal health. Particularly in HIV/AIDS the establishment of PEPFAR, a bipartisan Congressional accomplishment led and administered by President Bush, has saved literally millions of lives and changed the demography and future of numerous African nations. President Bush may be viewed as a polarizing figure in the United States but he is beloved by many African people for his commitment to health and the fight against HIV. This story of bipartisanship and the federal government often goes overlooked outside of African development professional circles but the tremendously positive impact US taxpayer dollars had on the lives of HIV positive or at risk Africans has been a resounding success.

Dan Glickman accepts friendship bracelet at middle school in Ambo, Ethiopia

One experience in Ethiopia that particularly affected me was a visit to a Peace Corps site in Amboo, a town of some 80,000 about two hours from Addis Ababa. Three Americans were working there as volunteers teaching in the local school, helping a health clinic treat disabled children and assisting subsistence farmers to increase their yields and have more success with their crops. There is an emphasis in the Peace Corps that volunteers bring their skills to bear where they serve to build lasting capabilities that will continue to improve the lives of the community where they serve. Americans from across the U.S. sign up for two-year commitments (though many often extend their stay to complete their work) and are totally cut off from their families and from amenities and comforts we take for granted in this country. Peace Corps volunteers are model citizens for their peers back home and excellent ambassadors of the hope, dedication and kindness that embody the spirit of the American people.

Seeing these volunteers commitment to service and to improving the lives of their fellow man was a refreshing reminder that, even though our system of government may be limping along and the mood in Washington is weary and bleak, out in the world the United States can still be a force for tremendous good.

This commentary originally appeared on the Huffington Post's Impact Blog.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA


| By Roger Thurow

Our New Gordian Knot

Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet. 

| By Janet Fierro

Guest Commentary - Rural Niger Women find Opportunity and Hope through Innovative Business Model

When researchers set out to find natural ways to manage a crop-destroying pest in sub-Saharan Africa cowpea fields they knew the results could have significant positive impact on smallholder farmers. What they may not have expected was the significance of the cottage industry it inspired and the entrepreneurial spirit of the rural women of Niger who led it.