Africa: National Security Review 30: American Policy Toward Africa in the 1990s-Key Findings

3 January 1993
Africa News Service (Durham)

Washington, DC — The Bush administration has prepared a presidential directive that may shape the initial Africa policy of the new Clinton team. Prompted by the crisis in Somalia and a number of other thorny African issues, the Bush administration four months ago began the first comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward Africa in more than a decade.

"With the end of the Cold War, we had to figure out how to improve relations with African countries and how to define and pursue our interests in Africa," said a senior White House official, describing the policy study, known as National Security Review 30 (NSR 30).

The study was conducted by an interagency task force, with participation from the departments of State, Defense, Treasury and Commerce, and from the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of Management and Budget, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export Import Bank, and the Peace Corps.

A classified intelligence assessment, prepared as part of NSR 30, concludes that the current rapid pace of change in Africa offers both "significant opportunities for and obstacles to U.S. interests." The end of the Cold War has opened new possibilities for settling long-lasting civil wars, but "coping with disorder will remain a major challenge to many African states," the assessment says.

A nine-page confidential summary of NSR 30, reprinted below, outlines the key findings and recommendations of the interagency study: the conclusions became the basis for a presidential directive that would make the recommendations official government policy. The campaign schedules of President Bush and his top aides delayed final approval of the directive. But officials say it still could be signed before Bill Clinton's inauguration on January 20, laying the groundwork for a more coherent Africa policy than any administration has had in recent times.

"If signed, the directive would establish a new Africa policy that would stand until overridden," says one official involved in the process. "NSR 30 seems perfectly compatible with what Clinton has been saying," the official says. "It could obviate the need to do this wide-ranging exercise all over again."


The dramatic changes underway in post-Cold War Africa present unprecedented opportunities and obstacles. Africans are seeking economic progress and democracy. Beset by ethnic tension, economic decline, and new threats from AIDS and narcotics, Africans increasingly look to the United States for assistance and mature partnership while taking more responsibility for solving their own conflicts and problems. The United States can best support reform and avoid the costs of instability and humanitarian relief through an agenda of active diplomacy.

Key Findings and Policay Recommendations

U.S. interests include promoting peaceful change and conflict resolution, democracy and improved governance, sustainable development, and effective African action on transitional issues, such as AIDS, population growth and terrorism.

Civil wars and ethnic strife are likely to increase in the years ahead. U.S. active engagement in conflict resolution and prevention must be coupled with more emphasis on assisting indigenous peacekeeping/making mechanisms, such as the OAU. For political as well as economic reasons, we should assist in reducing and rationalizing Africa militaries.

Given continuing instability and need for access to Africa for contingency operations, U.S. security policy and military programs should complement popular democratic reform and maintain adequate contact and influence with African military counterparts.

Africans have increasingly adopted the long-term goal of democracy and improved governance but require support to stay the course. U.S. assistance should help create viable civic societies.

Sustainable development requires a thriving private sector supported by good governance in a participatory political system. U.S. assistance programs should encourage countries committed to these objectives. Debt relief can be an effective and necessary development tool for reforming countries.

U.S. exports to and investment in Africa require an appropriate business climate as well as nondiscriminatory treatment. We should improve both in Africa.

Africa's problems require a concentrated and coordinated effort by the United States and will help limit demands on U.S. resources.

An active policy in Africa presents no risks to U.S. national security, opens new opportunities for reform and trade, and reduces potentially great costs for relief efforts by eliminating the causes of crises.

American Policy Toward Africa and U.S. National Interests

To advance our national interests, the United States should maintain its active involvement in Africa. These interests include promoting peaceful change and the resolution of conflict, democracy and improved governance, sustainable development, and resolution of transnational issues. They reflect our long-term political, economic and humanitarian concerns that can be best served through an agenda of active diplomacy. An activist policy presents no risks to our national security and can save resources by confronting problems before they become costly to ameliorate and intractable to resolve.

The end of the Cold War coincides with the emergence of significant new voices across Africa which are less encumbered by the baggage of statism, anti-imperialism, colonial and post-colonial struggle. They are more inclined to look for a mature partnership with the United States, whose world role and historical experience afford it a unique position of influence in its relations with Africa. Increasingly, Africa seeks to build democracy and market economies, exemplifying values we view as essential for peace and cooperation globally. This is a rare window of opportunity, which may slam shut if we cannot help Africans demonstrate that economic development and political pluralism are not antithetical, but indeed complementary and mutually reinforcing.

Africa's global political role is disproportionate to its economic or military strength. In a world increasingly receptive to collective security, Africa accounts for one-third of the UN's membership and fills three of the nonpermanent Security Council seats. Within Africa and internationally, America's willingness to utilize our comparative advantages in promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts will be seen as a key indicator of our resolve for continued world leadership.

Domestically, the growing cultural and political awareness of Africa among African Americans requires a long-term, continuing involvement with the region. Moreover, the humanitarian imperative to help alleviate acute suffering from natural and man-made disasters will continue to draw strong public support. In particular, U.S. public concern over the devastating effect of AIDS on the continent will grow and lead to demands for more effective action. Meanwhile, Africa's mineral wealth, its actual and potential markets for our products, its accessibility to promoters of terrorism, drugs and other transnational threats, as well as its role in the global ecological jigsaw puzzle mandate continuing strong U.S. involvement.

In pursuit of U.S. interests and concerns our associated policy objectives should be:

Promoting Peaceful Changes and Conflict Resolution

A continued active U.S role in conflict resolution, including possible border adjustments, and the creation of indigenous peacemaking and peacekeeping mechanisms.

Access to selected African air and naval facilities, air space, and sea lanes for U.S. military contingency operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

Democracy and Good Governance

African acceptance of basic human rights, worker rights, good governance, the rule of law and democratic political pluralism.

Downsizing African militaries to smaller, more economical force structures with rational missions, and to make them more responsive to democratic values.

Sustainable Development

Sustained development and reduced reliance on external aid through market-based economic reforms.

U.S. access to markets, investment opportunities and resources.

Pursuit of Transnational Goals

Elimination of narcotics trafficking, prevention of the spread of terrorist activities to Africa, and the containment of the influence of nations and ideologies inimical to our interests.

Effective efforts to confront issues of environmental degradation, human health, including AIDS, population growth, refugees and women's status.

Support for U.S. positions bilaterally and in international fora.

Africa offers opportunities for collective engagement with G-7 and other partners on behalf of these objectives. Indeed, such cooperation is mandated by many factors: a dwindling U.S. resource base for assistance, the established interest of European (notably French, British and Portuguese) allies, the expanding purview of the EC, Japan's growing involvement on the continent, Africans' own efforts to revitalize the OAU, and the already heavy participation of the UN and international financial institutions. However, the need for cooperation should not limit an energetic pursuit of other goals, such as increased U.S. economic activity or opposition to terrorism and the expansion of Libyan influence. Collective engagement among Africans, such as for peacekeeping efforts and economic development, should be both a goal of U.S. policy and a modality for pursuing our interests.

The issue of South Africa is sui generis and requires special attention. The question of black-white racial attention there is perceived as so analogous to our own national drama, though in reality it is quite different, that the end of apartheid and the creation of a new South African society will continue to be an issue of high domestic concern warranting an activist policy.

Conflict in Africa is likely to increase over the next decade as governments and elites will be challenged further, and the very existence of many African states will be threatened by centrifugal forces of ethnicity. States may dissolve; new nations may form and old borders change. Struggle and chaos are likely, and while the United States should not become physically involved in these conflicts, a strong diplomatic presence to preempt and mediate strife is called for. Additionally, instability will encourage the rise of negative trends, including radical political Islam. In dealing with ruling or other political groups of any ethnic or religious background, our relationship should be predicated on that group's demonstrable commitment to democratic norms and political pluralism. We should not allow our own tolerance for diversity to enfeeble us when confronted by those whose support for democracy is tactical and whose victories are likely to destroy political pluralism.

There is little lost and much to be gained through an activist policy. Our enormous relief efforts could be lessened by actions designed to eliminate the causes - political, environment and economic - of the crises to which we must respond. A diplomacy aimed at prevention and resolution of conflict is the sine qua non of an effective pursuit of all U.S. goals in the region.

Achieving U.S. Economic Objectives

Sustainable economic growth in Africa is essential to the achievement of all of our other policy goals and objectives. The private sector must be the engine for this growth. Excessive government control of economic activity, inadequate infrastructure, mismanagement and corruption have too often limited growth. Our economic assistance and support must focus on the reforming countries which are committed to free market economic policies, progress toward democracy and greater reliance on the private sector.

An increasing number of African countries have instituted far-reaching changes. U.S. policy should support these changes, recognizing that only the Africans themselves can make the necessary difficult decisions. These will yield economic growth, reduce civil conflict, lessen aid dependence and expand markets for the United States.

The democratization process can complicate economic reform, but tough economic reform measures need the support of the people in order to last. The United States must support both economic and political reform, including a broader role for the private sector. This is a long-term process which will require persistence and patience.

U.S. Aid

This requires thoughtful application of good governance and structural reform objectives in our aid programs as well as in our stance toward programs of the international financial institutions. The Development Fund for Africa (DFA) is a unique, effective tool for promoting free markets and sustainable economic development in Africa. Economic performance, need and progress toward democracy, and good governance should be the primary factors used to allocate the DFA. Consistent with sound development policy, assistance must also support broad U.S. foreign policy objectives. The United States should be flexible in programming assistance in order to respond rapidly to important changes in Africa.

For development to be sustainable, our assistance must help Africans better manage population pressures. Our programs and policies must increasingly address environmental degradation and the problems of AIDS. All three of these problems undermine development and have global implications.

In addition to building the basis for long-term development, we have responded generously to urgent human needs in Africa. We must continue to respond, quickly and substantially, to the suffering caused by natural or man-made disasters.

Demobilization and Military Spending

Civil conflict throughout Africa has and will in the future create the need to effectively integrate former soldiers into ravaged economies. The United States, the World Bank and other donors have responded with a variety of programs, but we will need to be more attentive to this problem in the future. Associated with our support, an important reform objective should be to encourage African countries to reduce military spending to more appropriate levels.

Trade and Investment

Of increasing importance for U.S. development assistance to Africa is promoting continued growth in U.S. exports of goods and services as well as investment there. The most effective way to achieve increased U.S. trade with and investment in Africa is by improving the climate for the private sector by ensuring nondiscriminatory treatment for U.S. interests and by enhancing private sector support and services needed to sustain trade. The United States and its representatives in Africa must insist on equal access for American products, services and investors. Increasing U.S. exports in the context of expanded, private-sector-led trade and investment complements the overall goal of our assistance to Africa - sustainable economic development.

An open trade and investment regime is especially important for the future of South Africa. The United States should work with all parties there to bring about free-market trade and investment policies and growth through a broad-based private sector, the only effective means to attain a more equitable distribution of wealth.

To enhance U.S. exports of goods and services to Africa the United States should encourage governments to bring their trade regimes into conformity with GATT provisions and play an active and constructive role within the GATT. African countries should be urged to institute world-class intellectual property rights regimes, conform to nondiscriminatory investment policies and support trade in services provisions of the Uruguay Round. Liberalization of trade, especially in agriculture and textiles, is in Africa's long-term interest as well as ours, and African voices should be heard. In addition, African countries should be encouraged to afford internationally recognized worker's rights.

American exporters as well as the Africans themselves need larger integrated markets. The African countries will first have to make the hard decisions on ceding national sovereignty, but the United States should support viable, GATT-consistent regional economic groupings as appropriate.

Renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programs beyond 1993 would underscore that growth through trade can lead to less reliance on assistance. The United States should liberalize products covered for the world's least developed countries, for example, to include some unprocessed foods.


External debt in sub-Saharan Africa averages over 100% of GNP, the highest of any region. In Africa, rescheduling debt frequently prolongs the problem and increases the stock of debt. U.S. forgiveness programs for development and food aid debt for the poorest reforming countries did not require a budget outlay until the credit reform act took effect in FY 92. These programs directly supported economic reform at little real cost, given poor prospects for actual payment. Under the new legislation, the few countries which have subsequently made a serious commitment to economic reform were unfairly disadvantaged.

No new authorizing legislation would be required to continue these programs. The budget impact would be minimal, given the high risk of default and the limited number of countries which could become eligible. Appropriate agencies should find funding to continue food and development assistance debt forgiveness for the least developed, reforming countries.

Other creditors forgive a percentage of all official debt for least-developed countries on IMF reform programs. For the United States, this would require legislation and budget outlays. Globally, the budget impact could range from a little over $100 million to nearly $400 million. Debt forgiveness as a development and policy reform tool can be effective, and appropriate agencies should explore legislation and funding sources to shed these bad debts at an appropriately reduced rate.


Accomplishing our economic, assistance and commercial objectives should not require, in the aggregate, additional resources. In fact, vigorous promotion of democratic values and free market principles will lower the costs the United States inevitably bears as the result of civil conflict and humanitarian crises in Africa by reducing their likelihood and intensity, and will foster sustained economic development on the continent.

Achieving Our Transnational Objectives

Just as achieving our political goals depends upon Africans attaining sustained economic growth, there are several transnational issues which will in turn either permit such growth or cause Africans, and ultimately aid donors, to suffer the consequences.

Regional Organizations

While none of Africa's regional or sub-regional organizations has fully lived up to its objectives, each has potential utility for the achievement of U.S. foreign policy objectives. The effectiveness of such institutions is often limited by lack of sufficient political will, management skills and resources. When the United States has an interest in a multilateral regional approach to an issue, it must be prepared to assist individual member states to address the underlying weaknesses of these organizations through training and technical assistance.

The OAU is Africa's most comprehensive and important organization. The issue on which we have the greatest identity of interest with the OAU is regional conflict resolution.

In cooperation with other donor nations, the United States should support OAU initiatives to enhance its capability to conduct conflict resolution by assisting the OAU in developing a modest communications infrastructure for use in monitoring cease-fire and demobilization scenarios.

Beyond the OAU, U.S. assistance should be given to those bodies which currently or with assistance have the best prospects for achieving U.S. objectives. As in the case of Ecowas intervention in the Liberian civil war, modest U.S. support through regional or sub-regional organizations may represent an economical alternative to more costly direct intervention by the UN or the United States itself.


An estimated 8 million African adults (approximately 70% of the worldwide total; one in every 40 adult Africans) are currently infected with HIV. During the 1990s, as many as 10 million African children under ten years of age may be orphaned as a result of one or both parents dying from AIDS. By 1995, AIDS will increase the mortality of African adults aged 15 to 49 years by 33%. An increase of this magnitude in deaths among young adults will have adverse effects on economic, political and military/security stability throughout Africa. It is particularly tragic that the most modern, potentially productive sector will be hardest hit.

The United States should support African leaders in implementing the OAU Council of Ministers' Action Plan on AIDS (June 1992). U.S. assistance should focus on developing comprehensive HIV prevention programs in both civilian and military medical systems, on transferring knowledge and technologies to prevent HIV infection, and on providing technical assistance to strengthen local capacity to provide cost-effective care for infected individuals. Prevention and control efforts should extend beyond the health sector and be addressed in programs for education, industry, agriculture, population and private enterprise. Finally, U.S. development programs should identify strategies for mitigating the impact of AIDS.

Population Growth

Africa has the highest population growth rates in the world (average: three percent), and 50% of Africans are less than 15 years old. At present rates of growth, the population of the continent will double in approximately 25 years.

America's $1 billion annual economic development assistance spending in Africa is thwarted by population growth which exceeds the economic rate of growth. Without access to adequate housing, meaningful employment, health care and other basic services, youthful populations are likely to become turbulent forces of economic and political instability. Slowing population growth is essential if Africa is to achieve sustainable development.

The United States must continue to support comprehensive health care and family planning programs in Africa.


Environmental degradation in Africa (declining soil fertility, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, declining fishery production, and increased pollution from municipal and industrial wastes) is accelerating rapidly, undermining prospects for the continent's future development. These changes will inevitably degrade the global ecosystem.

U.S. development assistance efforts should continue to focus on assisting African countries to develop institutions and capacities to promote sustainable agricultural practices as well as improved management and conservation of tropical forests, biological diversity, fisheries and coastal resources.

U.S. assistance should also address urban environmental problems and the promotion of pollution prevention and clean, energy-efficient technologies. Debt-for-nature swaps and other innovative financing should be considered. These activities should be coordinated with National Environmental Action Plans and with the environmental programs of Unep, UNDP, FAO, Unido, WHO and multilateral development banks.


In the 1980s, African involvement in drug trafficking increased dramatically. Nigerians and Ghanaians have been identified as major traffickers. Much of the heroin entering the United States is carried by Nigerians.

Although it has been primarily a transit continent, Africa produces cannabis and small amounts of opium poppy. Energetic African trafficking organizations may try to profit from locally weak law enforcement and prevalent corruption by "vertically integrating" their businesses in coming years through the cultivation of poppy and coca. U.S. counter-narcotics goals in Africa should be:

Encourage non-signatories to support the 1988 UN Vienna Convention which criminalizes drug trafficking and encourages multilateral cooperation in drug law enforcement.

Engage in direct bilateral discussions with countries which tolerate traffickers and, as required, apply stronger measures to include counter-narcotics de-certification and air carrier sanctions.

Fund, for major drug transit country governments, purchase of drug control equipment and strengthened regional training programs for drug control officers.


One-third of the world's refugees and an even greater share of the world's internally displaced people are Africans. The political and ethnic persecution, human rights abuses and internal conflicts which produce millions of refugees are not merely internal domestic matters - they become transnational issues when neighboring states suffer destabilizing effects as they become the often unwilling hosts of substantial numbers of needy people.

Continuing tensions (especially ethnic ones), human rights abuses and the competition for resources coupled with the easy availability of modern weaponry can be expected to generate substantial numbers of additional refugees. Committing increased resources to conflict resolution should therefore be a high priority. Coupled with adequate aid for those returning to their homes, such a commitment could make voluntary repatriation a reality for most of today's African refugees.


As civil order breaks down in African states, the resulting turmoil provides opportunities to terrorists and their state sponsors. There are indications that Iran is seeking recruits within the Islamic community in many African states (notably Sudan, Sierra Leone and Senegal), and security services are often ill-equipped to deal with these. Libyan subversion has long been a problem throughout the continent; Africans recruited by Libyan intelligence were used in the bombing of UTA 772 over Niger in 1989.

In the case of Libya, the remedy lies in pressure on the source. In the case of Iran, we recommend greatly expanded leadership intelligence briefings and activist diplomacy to alert African governments to the threat and to help them counter it.


Women play an essential role in the actual management of natural resources, including soil, water, forests and energy. They are responsible for 70% of all staple agricultural production. It is precisely their responsibilities as day-to-day environmental managers that make women both victims of and contributors to the natural environment's degradation and pollution. U.S. policy in Africa should emphasize women as key to more sustainable programs of economic development. Greater technical assistance and training should be provided for women, especially in the areas of resource management and alternate energy sources; women must be integrated into all of our Africa projects, especially those concerned with population and the environment.

Achieving Our Security Objectives

A vital element of successful U.S. diplomacy is an effective security policy and a program of military activities which directly supports conflict resolution and our other policy objectives in Africa. The United States has no vital (war fighting) interests in Africa, although protection of U.S. citizens could require the use of force. Change in many African nations presents opportunities for reforms which we wish to encourage more actively on the continent and globally.

U.S. Security Interests and Objectives

Access to selected African air and naval facilities, air space and sea lanes -

Secure lines of communication across and around Africa are needed for contingency operations in Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia. U.S. forces continue to require access to selected airfields, airspace, ports and sea lanes in order to respond effectively to crises. Current formal access agreements, such as the current arrangement for special facilities in the Seychelles, will be adequate for the foreseeable future. Informal access should be expanded where possible by cultivating cooperation with host country militaries. There is no need to permanently station troops or construct bases in Africa; however, U.S. forces should continue to train there for exposure and experience in the region. Access for such purposes will depend on the status of political governance there.

A continuing need also exists for sites from which to stage emergency evacuations of embassy staffs due to anticipated political upheaval and conflict. The growing prevalence of such instability over the next several years will require military assisted evacuations which depend upon on-site planning and access for their successful execution.

Downsizing African militaries -

Bloated, poorly trained militaries are a threat to public order and civilian rule. They also represent an unnecessary drain on national treasuries. Reducing the size of such militaries in impoverished African states and transforming them into apolitical cadres is essential to democratization and economic progress. Where appropriate we need a coordinated program which works with multicultural and private organizations, other aid donors and international financial institutions [is needed - sic] to work toward this goal. There is a parallel need to improve coordination among concerned U.S. agencies for integrating downsizing/demobilization as an important element of our programs for development and conflict reduction.

African military support for democracy, human rights and civilian control -

Responsive, apolitical militaries are key to political progress and economic development in Africa. Assisting those countries making progress toward democracy, better governance and improved human rights with their defense is a legitimate aim of military aid. Such assistance may at times include appropriate support for previously provided military equipment. Civic action programs, including health and humanitarian relief activities and other non-lethal assistance, can also effectively promote desired reforms and national development goals.

All U.S. military assistance program elements, IMET, exercises, etc., should be structured to promote the clear subordination of military to civil authority and military participation in national development.

Conflict resolution and African regional peacekeeping operations -

Regional peacekeeping efforts carried out by African forces offer a less costly alternative to UN operations. African solutions to African problems will ultimately prove effective and long lasting. Support is needed both for individual peacekeeping operations, such as Ecomog in Liberia, and for the development of African institutions for conflict resolution in organizations such as the OAU.

Conflict prevention and resolution are leading U.S. policy goals in Africa because they remain essential to any political reform or economic development. Active U.S. diplomacy and the encouragement of African initiatives to resolve conflict are both necessary to achieve our objectives.

Retaining sufficient U.S. military presence in Africa -

Attaining our objectives requires a U.S. military presence which will provide direct, personal contacts with African military leaders. Our policy should aim to build positive relationships with the military through maintaining an adequate presence and a pattern of activities. Such presence is particularly important for countries undertaking political and economic reforms.

Besides this small but effective permanent presence, on-site U.S. military training and exercises improve our capability to carry out contingency operations in Africa while signaling our interest in and commitment to the region. In addition, Africa provides a unique training environment from the point of view of terrain, climate and local culture for U.S. forces, such as special operations and medical/public health units.

Tools for Accomplishing U.S. Security Objectives

Where an American military presence is considered desirable, specific tools include: 1) an effective U.S. security assistance program, with emphasis on non-lethal development activities and international military education and training; 2) participation by U.S. forces in combined exercises, deployments for training, senior officer visits, port visits and humanitarian assistance; 3) well-trained and well-equipped U.S. conventional and special forces units available for regional contingencies; 4) cooperative security efforts with key allies who have interests in Africa.

From AFRICA NEWS, December 21, 1992-January 3, 1993

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