Africa Program

Photo Courtesy of Glenna Gordon based in Monrovia, Liberia

The core mission of the CSIS Africa Program is to conduct sustained and timely research and analysis on the major elements of U.S. policy toward Africa, with the aim of substantially shaping discourse in Congress, the executive branch, and among the broader policymaking community. The program also provides a platform to African opinion leaders and seeks to integrate African perspectives into the Washington policy dialogue.

Recent Highlights

Rethinking Engagement with Fragile States Rethinking Engagement with Fragile States

Instability in fragile states is a frequent source of conflict and humanitarian crisis within countries, a driver of displacement and massive refugee flows, and often a threat to the stability and security of neighboring states. Jennifer Cooke and Richard Downie, the Director and Deputy Director of the Africa Program respectively, outline their recommendations for external engagement with fragile states using four case studies: Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, and South Sudan. 

President Obama's Engagement with Africa: Managing Complex Relationships 

U.S. relationships with Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia during President Obama's time in office have exemplified the complexities and contradictions of U.S. policy towards Africa in general. Richard Downie, deputy director of the Africa Program, writes that the U.S. must craft mature, country-specific policies in Africa that balance complex interests, priorities, and principles.

Obama's Chance to Revisit Kenya

President Obama must tread carefully, but not silently, when addressing fundamental issues of democratic governance during his trip to Kenya, writes Ambassador Mark Bellamy, CSIS Africa Program senior adviser, and Ambassador Johnnie Carson, USIP senior adviser, in a New York Times op-ed on the themes of the president's upcoming trip to Kenya and Ethiopia. 

Building on Success: Advancing Electoral Reform in Nigeria

A major threshold was crossed in Nigeria during the 2015 elections and transfer of power. In 2015, because of a well-led Electoral Commission, a revitalized and coherent political opposition, dedicated civil society groups, and a determined electorate, Africa’s largest nation was able to produce a fairly-elected government. As important as these gains were, however, Richard Downie shows how much remains to be done to construct a fully-effective electoral system.

Africa’s New Energy Producers: Making the Most of Emerging OpportunitiesAfrica’s New Energy Producers: Making the Most of Emerging Opportunities

New oil and gas discoveries across Africa have raised hopes among governments and citizens alike of significant investments and revenues that will drive economic growth and development well beyond the energy sector. The recent collapse of oil prices and broader uncertainty in energy markets leaves the timetable for capitalizing on these discoveries uncertain. But even when prices eventually rebound, there are significant hurdles to be overcome if governments are to maximize the potential benefits of these new-found resources. There are few good examples among the more established African producers.

Can this time be different? Will the harsh lessons of Africa’s more established producers and the continent’s previous energy booms be absorbed? If so, are there practices that producer states, partner governments, companies, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can apply to succeed where others before them have failed? The CSIS Africa Program and the CSIS Energy and National Security Program gathered African and global energy analysts, representatives from oil and gas companies, NGOs and advocacy groups, and officials from several branches of the U.S. government to study these questions.

Background to Nigeria's 2015 ElectionsBackground to Nigeria’s 2015 Elections

The national elections in Nigeria, scheduled for February 2015, come at a critical point in the country’s history. The vote carries high stakes for governance, security, and the economy and will have ramifications for Africa as a whole. Nigeria is the continent’s most populous country, with an estimated 170 million inhabitants, and its largest economy, with a 2013 GDP of $509 billion. This election primer provides an overview of Nigeria’s political history, major parties and candidates, and electoral process and outlines what is at stake and what will decide the upcoming elections.

Countdown to Nigeria's ElectionsCountdown to Nigeria's Elections: Minimizing the Dangers

Elections have always been high-stakes affairs in Nigeria, but the buildup to the 2015 elections has been accompanied by unprecedented levels of tension and anxiety. Two closely matched parties—the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of President Goodluck Jonathan and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) led by General Muhammadu Buhari—appear confident of securing victory. Inflammatory rhetoric and violence have already marred the campaign period, and a six-week postponement of the polls, ostensibly to better secure the country’s North East against the predations of Boko Haram, has deepened the opposition’s distrust in the integrity of the process. It is still possible for Nigeria to build upon the democratic progress made in 2011, but in order to do so, all the main stakeholders must perform with diligence, professionalism, integrity, and—above all—respect for the process and Nigeria’s democratic future.

Current Projects and Focus Areas


  • Photo courtesy of wikipedia

    Supported by the Ford Foundation, the series will bring Nigerian officials, civil society activists, and opinion leaders to Washington, D.C. to engage with U.S. policymakers and Africa experts on how best to ensure that Nigeria's upcoming elections are peaceful, credible, and free.

  • Completed projects, past events, and publications from the CSIS Africa Program

  • photo courtesy of Kipp Johns

    Supported by Luce Foundation, this project examines the ways in which the religious and political spheres intersect in African contexts.

  • photo courtesy of wikipedia

    The CSIS Africa Program is undertaking four high-level Africa Energy Forums to examine new energy trends in Africa.

  • photo courtesy of DFID

    The Resilient Africa Network (RAN) is a partnership with Makerere University, Tulane University, and Stanford University focusing on identifying and supporting sources of resilience in various African communities.

  • photo courtesy of Ossy - traffic jam Im in - luanda, angola nov. 2008

    Current areas of focus of the CSIS Africa Program

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