It’s difficult for many Americans to understand why Africa is an essential long-term strategic partner for the United States of America (U.S.) and that they have an untapped goldmine of experts living among them.
Africa is essential to American interests because it’s home to more than 1.4 billion people, making it the world’s second-most populous continent after Asia. That matters because more people mean a larger market for American exports, which helps create jobs at home.
Africa is also an important source of raw materials essential to the American economy. The continent has an estimated $24 trillion in natural resources, including oil, gas, gold, diamonds, platinum, and other minerals.
In addition, Africa is a key partner in the global fight against terrorism. The continent has been a target of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. These groups have launched attacks in Africa that have killed American citizens, such as the 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya that killed more than 60 people, including six Americans.
The United States is also vested in promoting stability and democracy in Africa. The continent has several fragile states at risk of collapse, which could lead to a humanitarian crisis or provide safe havens for terrorists.
The Scale & Scope
More than 350 million people identify as part of the African Diaspora living outside of the African continent worldwide. That is more people than the entire population of the U.S.
World Atlas reported, “The United States has an African Diaspora population of over 46.4 million people, about 13.6% of the entire country’s population.” This includes people born in Africa as well as those of African descent born in the United States. And as the population of Africa grows, this number will only increase.
This population just isn’t living among us; they’re in politics, teaching, practicing medicine, and representing citizens in court, a vital part of the U.S. economy.
In 2020, it was reported that nine Nigerians were on U.S. ballots around the country.
Three Nigerian-Americans, Esther Agbaje, Oye Owolewa, and Nnamdi Chukwuocha, won their electoral bids in 2020.
In 2021, Ron DeSantis, Florida Governor, U.S. appointeda Nigerian-American, Joseph Ladapo, as Florida Surgeon-General and Secretary of the Department of Health.
These are just a few examples. There are many more making an impact in the U.S.
This is why the African Diaspora needs to be recognized and their knowledge tapped into so that we can continue to build a stronger relationship with Africa and more opportunities for African-Americans in the U.S.
One success is the African Diaspora Investment Symposium (ADIS) which is one of the largest forums for connecting the diaspora with business and investment opportunities in Africa. The symposium is organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce and held every two years.
However, where the U.S. is failing, according to a report by the Brookings Institution, is in “connecting the diaspora’s prodigious human capital to U.S. foreign policy goals in Africa.”
The report states that “the U.S. government does not have a comprehensive strategy for engaging the African diaspora in America nor has it adequately resourced the few programs that exist.”
The report also found that “African diaspora organizations in the United States are often unaware of U.S. government initiatives and, when they are, find them difficult to access.”
Leaning Into The African Diaspora Community
In marketing and branding, when something isn’t working, you pivot. You don’t keep doing what doesn’t work, over and over, until you go out of business. The same is true for foreign policy. If something isn’t working, change course.
There are three things the U.S. can do to start to correct course:
1) Appoint a senior-level diaspora official within the White House or State Department who will be responsible for diaspora engagement that actually takes public-facing action, which leads to goal-driven results.
When President Biden was running for office, he released the “The Biden-Harris Agenda for the African Diaspora.” Since taking office, that plan has not been put into action.
2) Convene an annual summit of African diaspora leaders in the United States to discuss shared priorities and identify opportunities for collaboration.
Currently, the U.S. hosts an African Diaspora Summit every four years and an Annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration. This is not enough to create the relationship needed between the U.S. and the rapidly growing diaspora population.
3) Increase investment in data collection on the African diaspora in the United States by government agencies and research institutions to better understand the community’s needs, preferences, and contributions.
In 2019, Cowan Amaye-Obu wrote and published The African Diaspora Census of 2017-2018: The African Population Boom At Its Roots. The book analyzes the 2017-2018 African Diaspora census, which is the most comprehensive study of the African diaspora to date, but it’s only 24-pages and not enough to provide the in-depth analysis needed.
In 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau Released Key Stats on the Nation’s Black Population, but that is only from the 2019 Census and not specific to the African diaspora.
Even without an organized effort, the Diaspora community will continue to grow and integrate into American life. The question is whether or not U.S. leadership will take a more active role in realizing the potential of this community or remain on the sidelines.