Why Africa Matters to U.S. National Security - An Evening with Grant Harris

Monday, March 5, 2018
Grant Harris

On Thursday, March 1st, Grant Harris shared with the UC Berkeley community his insights on why Africa matters to US national security.

Why Africa matters to US National Security

On March 1, 2018, Grant Harris returned to his alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley, to address the question of why Africa matters to the national security of the United States. Speaking to an audience of students, faculty, visitors and community members in the Chevron Auditorium at the International House, Grant Harris highlighted three reasons for the importance of Africa to the national security of the United States: transnational threats; economic competitiveness; and how the US sees itself and acts in the world. A military response alone is inadequate, Harris argued. Rather, the United States requires a holistic strategy that is committed to the long term, includes a focus on health and development, and in which diplomacy, both political and commercial, is central. The US needs to engage with African countries as other world powers, including China, the European Union, the Gulf States and Brazil are. Indeed, the US can collaborate with African countries to affect a range of global issues.

After his remarks, members of the audience asked questions. The discussion was wide ranging. The topics included the role of girls’ education and family planning as a response to rapid population growth in the Sahel; corruption, transparency, governance and the rule of law; views on the political upheavals in Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia; the Obama administration's policy towards Sudan; and insights on foreign policy processes within the White House. The final topic highlighted the significance of the Black Panther movie.

Grant Harris

Grant Harris is CEO of Harris Africa Partners LLC and advises companies on doing business in Africa. From 2011 to 2015, Harris served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the White House. Harris previously worked at the White House under President Bill Clinton and served twice at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Harris holds a J.D. from Yale Law School, an M.P.A. from Princeton University, and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley. Bkeley alumni Harris was the student body president at Cal in 1996-1997.

While Harris was in the White House, he helped shape and launch the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI), a program inspired by President Obama’s firm belief that the US has to be engaged with and support Africa’s next generation of leaders. Part of the YALI initiative was tYALI logohe Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, which President Obama announced on June 29, 2013 in South Africa. In summer 2014, the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy first hosted 25 emerging leaders from sub-Saharan Africa Africa through this program and, continued doing so each year through to 2016.

YALI and MCF Scholars in front of Goldman School of Public Policy

Harris also conceived and was the primary architect of the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, signed by President Obama in 2012. During his time at the White House, Harris also oversaw U.S. efforts to create and implement the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, and led the U.S. response to various peace and security crises across Africa.

Grant Harris in Oval Office with Barack Obama

This talk was co-sponsored with the Center for African Studies by the Institute of International Studies, the Department of Political Science and the Institute of Governmental Studies.

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