Africa: The Democratic Candidates on Africa's Growing Population

U.S. Democratic Presidential candidates who responded to questions on foreign policy from the Council on Foreign Relations

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) invited the Democratic candidates to articulate their positions on twelve critical foreign policy issues before the second set of presidential debates. The questionnaire was sent to all candidates on July 8. To date, CFR has received responses from nine candidates: Senator Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Representative John Delaney, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Representative Seth Moulton, Representative Tim Ryan, Senator Bernie Sanders, former Representative Joe Sestak, and Marianne Williamson. Candidates' answers are posted exactly as they were received.

[Responses to the one question on Africa are posted below.]

Question:   By 2050, Africa will account for 25 percent of the world's population according to projections by the United Nations. What are the implications of this demographic change for the United States, and how should we adjust our policies to anticipate them?

Cory Booker Senator, New Jersey

As the Ranking Member of the Africa Subcommittee on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have had a chance to see first hand the U.S.-Africa relationship's importance to our future. Africa is the epicenter of the youth bulge - its population is projected to double by 2050, and already, almost 70 percent of the population is under the age of 30. The U.S. has an interest in a stable, prosperous Africa that is able to meet its governance goals with an economic environment that attracts U.S. companies and creates the good jobs that are needed for the millions of young Africans who will enter the workforce every year. We need to allocate more resources at the State Department and USAID to focus on Africa and develop and execute strategies to reduce poverty, improve quality of life, and strengthen democratic institutions.

Read all of Cory Booker's responses.

Pete Buttigieg Mayor of South Bend, Indiana
Africa is not a country, it is a diverse and multifaceted continent of states with rich and proud histories, great successes, and significant and varied challenges. On that continent, the winds of change are sweeping aside old regimes and certitudes. In Algeria, a new generation has risen up against a sclerotic government. In Sudan, women have led a revolt against a criminal one. And in Ethiopia, we have seen what can look like when hope triumphs over hostility.

By 2025, nearly one-fifth of the world's population will live in the nations of a rising Africa--60 percent of whose people are now under the age of 25. Our priorities should include cooperation on helping our African partners manage that population growth: accountable governance, climate change mitigation and conflict prevention.

We must also prioritize building shared prosperity that can assist new generations in having a viable and productive future. That continent now boasts some of the fastest- growing economies in the world, which have lifted millions out of poverty and into the global marketplace. Sub-Saharan Africa represents one of the biggest opportunities for new markets for US goods and investment. And as African peoples demand greater accountability and transparency from their leaders, the United States must stand ready to put our values into action, to promote empowerment alongside economic engagement.

Read all of Pete Buttigieg's responses.

John Delaney Former Representative, Maryland
Africa's expected population boom will bring new challenges and opportunities to the continent. With half of the population in sub-Saharan Africa expected to be under 21 years old by 2035, there will be a need to create educational and job opportunities for the young population. If jobs are not created, a rise in unemployment could lead to social and political instability and increase the chance of unrest.

The United States can become a key partner in supporting economic growth in Africa by expanding trade agreements (such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act) and increasing U.S. foreign direct investment to promote manufacturing, infrastructure, and innovation of local industry. U.S. economic investment is critical as China is heavily investing in the continent through its Belt and Road Initiative, often through predatory behavior. The U.S. can adjust policies to (1) offer the U.S. as an alternative option (as opposed to China) for countries looking for foreign investment to create jobs, (2) support democratic initiatives and good governance policies, including election monitoring in support of free and fair elections, improving revenue collection, effective policymaking and implementation, and (3) be a helpful partner in providing resources to support economic growth that is less dependent on fossil fuels. With the stakes as high as they currently are for our climate, we must anticipate the growing population's effect on the environment. A larger population and rapidly developing economy are both common causes for negative environmental outcomes.

Read all of John Delaney's responses.

Kirsten Gillibrand Senator, New York
We must recognize the enormous potential of the young generation growing up in the fifty-four countries in Africa. For far too long, we have ignored the opportunities, focusing only on the risks emanating from the continent. Yet with better diplomacy — one that recognizes the value of those countries, rather than insulting them as President Trump has — and with more trade, investment in rule of law, and policies to address climate change, we can foster the opportunities that this young population will have and contribute to greater global stability. China has recognized and worked to leverage these opportunities for its own benefit through the Belt and Road Initiative.
America should lead, based on respect for the rule of law, and likewise compete for the hearts and minds of the people in these countries.

Read all of Kirsten Gillibrand's responses.

Seth Moulton Representative, Massachusetts
As we approach 2050, the United States should work to help build the next generation of leaders in Africa by partnering with governments, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders throughout the continent. President Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) was a model for how to do that by sponsoring educational and professional development opportunities.

The U.S government should also work directly with entrepreneurs overseas, especially in Africa's developing countries, to provide access to technology, private sector relationships, and training that can help their businesses grow. This is particularly important for the growing number of women leaders in the region.

Lastly, while extreme poverty has fallen worldwide, too many Africans still struggle to get by on less than $2 a day—conditions that are unlivable and drive people to extremism. So as these populations continue to grow, we must also help these countries grow their middle classes.

Read all of Seth Moulton's responses.

Tim Ryan Representative, Ohio
The United States has historically not paid nearly enough attention to Africa. It is time for this to change, for the benefit of both Africans and Americans. African population growth presents an incredible opportunity for America as we seek new markets abroad for American products. I believe that America needs to rebuild its manufacturing sector and needs to do so in a way that creates the technology and implements for the production of green energy. Africa is going to need incredible investments in infrastructure, water, sewer, power, pipelines, roads, bridges, trains and consumer products. There is no reason that America can't be helping Africa by supplying those badly needed resources.

We also need to understand geopolitically, that if the United States doesn't step in to invest and work with the Africans in the crucial years ahead, the Chinese will, and, in fact, already are. But, with their heavy-handedness and the fact that their economic

investments don't often bring returns for many Africans, the United States has a particular moment at hand to make inroads on the continent.

Read all of Tim Ryan's responses.

Bernie Sanders Senator, Vermont
America must create room for Africa to play a greater role in setting the global agenda or else we will repeat the colonialist/imperialist history of the 19th and 20th century that suppressed African opinions and impoverished Africa. Our global institutions, like the IMF, World Bank and UN Security Council (which we lead) must reflect the changing global demographics and add Africa to leadership roles. For too long we have been comfortable with Africa taking a back seat in setting the global agenda and being responsible for world peace. The US is about 5 percent of the world's population and consumes about 25% of the world's resources to live the way that it does. We must invest in making Africa more efficient than the rest of the world in order to avoid resources wars, which are already happening. Supporting the UN sustainable development goals is a critical part of this. We can explore tax breaks to these sort of Sustainable Development Goal investors who are investing in making the world more efficient.

Read all of Bernie Sanders's responses.

Joe Sestak Former Representative, Pennsylvania
 Not only will Africa account for 25 percent of the world's population, but with the world's fastest-growing middle class, by 2050 Africa will be much more of an economic powerhouse. With most of the continent still just decades removed from colonialism, and many countries still in the grip of post-colonial dictatorships and civil wars, firmly establishing democracy across Africa is still a major challenge. We must not turn our backs on civilian populations at risk of oppression by corrupt and violent forces, as we did in Rwanda and Darfur. We should also prioritize our diplomatic engagement with African governments, because for too long we have ignored them, and primarily engaged with African countries through our military (across Africa military attaches and personnel in embassies outnumber those in our diplomatic corps). And because engagement is the best way to identify and work with centers of excellence and enhance our relationships, our efforts in Africa are severely lacking due to the dearth of economic, development, and diplomatic personnel. Africa will be a powerhouse one day soon, and Africans will remember who was there for them. We must double down on meeting the continent's needs – from addressing poverty and infrastructure to developmental aid and education – or we risk losing influence in Africa to China and other countries that are not aligned with our values.

Critically, we must also offer much more economic, financial and diplomatic support to the developing economies of Africa, and incentivize US companies to get engaged in fair, just ways because in our absence China's "Belt and Road Initiative" is building roads and bridges and other infrastructure, buying up African farmland, and settling Chinese workers across the continent. The result is almost a "neo-colonial" relationship as nations accept loans and investment from China, in exchange for their own sovereignty — such as when Djibouti gave China its first overseas naval base because Chinese debt has enslaved its economy and government budget. We cannot allow China to build an illiberal world order by turning African countries, and others elsewhere in the developing world, into vassal states.

We also must recognize that Africa is a region ripe for increased violence and strife as the climate changes, and that African advancement also threatens to further drive climate change. Take note, for instance, that only 8% of the tropics has air conditioning right now — but a majority soon will in the decades to come. That is why I strongly support ratifying the Kigali Agreement, which regulates the use of the potent greenhouse gases known as HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons). We must move the world toward greater energy efficiency. If African countries and other tropical countries were to broadly adopt air conditioning without using the most energy efficient types (which use one third of the energy of the average air conditioning unit), it would spell more disaster for the climate; but if it did adopt with our leadership the most efficient of today's standards, it would be equivalent to reforesting two-thirds of the Amazon.

Read all of Joe Sestak's responses.

Marianne Williamson Author
We are wrong to ignore Africa because it is the continent with the fastest growing population. In a generation, Nigeria may have a larger population than the US. While some African countries manage their economies well, others have poor economies and risk becoming failed states. Failing states can become grounds for terrorist groups such as Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, for epidemics as was seen with the Ebola virus in Eastern Congo or sources of refugees seeking political asylum. Ignoring Africa means ignoring real risks to our security.

At the same time, a growing Africa also means opportunities we should not ignore. Angola has a president who is reversing decades of corruption. Algeria and Sudan are seeking peaceful transitions or power, and South Africa is struggling to re-establish economic growth and build opportunity for its people. In each case the United States could have been involved in these positive developments but was not.

Read all of Marianne Williamson's responses.

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