U.S. Africa Command Staff
If 2020 has taught Africa — and the world — anything, it’s that it is crucial to be prepared for everything.
That means scanning the threat horizon and getting ready for what is coming next. It also means thinking about unseen possibilities and preparing for them. The year has shown that threats come in all shapes and sizes, seen and unseen. If those threats have one thing in common, it’s that they require a coordinated response to ensure safety and security.
This year’s threats also have taught something else: African nations have learned from their experiences to build effective institutions, capacity and knowledge to meet a range of security challenges. Nowhere is that more evident than in the continent’s response to the coronavirus disease known as COVID-19.
With the lessons of the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola crisis fresh in their minds, African health, political and security leaders are stepping up to meet the challenge of COVID-19.
Infrastructure left over from Ebola outbreaks and the fight against diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS provided a framework for responses and testing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Nigeria and South Africa. The African Union and regional economic communities also were early to sound the alarm about COVID-19’s deadly potential.
In the midst of the worldwide pandemic, Africa has not been exempted from other ongoing threats. Wildlife poaching, which fuels a lucrative global trade, continues apace. But nations such as Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have found success in using trained dogs to deter, track and apprehend poachers who stalk and butcher the continent’s wildlife treasures.
In Africa’s territorial waters, international fishing vessels from China, Russia and elsewhere have stolen untold quantities of fish on which artisanal fishermen depend. One tool, the international Port State Measures Agreement, is gaining support among African coastal nations and would limit or refuse port access to those vessels that fish against the rules. Port and other maritime authorities in Liberia and Sierra Leone trained separately on the provisions of the agreement in February 2020.
Perhaps most important, African security professionals continue to meet and exchange ideas and experiences in forums such as the African Land Forces Summit, held this year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and in professional military education institutions. These arenas will help forge Africa’s approach to the challenges of the future.
Hardships can’t be prevented, but they can be faced. African nations are showing the willingness and capacity to confront challenges — together.