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

Religious Authority and the State in Africa Religious Authority and the State in Africa

Two important dynamics have driven political and social change in sub-Saharan Africa during the past 25 years. New religious trends have emerged within the main faiths of Islam and Christianity, in particular the emergence of more charismatic, assertive forms of religious expression. Meanwhile, political space has opened in scores of countries as one-party rule has given way to a process of democratization, yet to be completed. Based on their field work in each country, the authors of this volume, Jennifer Cooke, Richard Downie, Sebastian M. Elischer, M. Sani Umar, and David Throup, examine the various ways in which religious actors have chosen to engage with the state. They also consider how governments and political actors respond to and seek to manage these interactions. 

Drought in Ethiopia: Can a humanitarian disaster be avoided this time?
Recently returned from Ethiopia, Richard Downie reports on the country's worst drought in almost 30 years, and what's being done to mitigate it.

Ethiopia President Discusses Health Sector Development with CSIS
Richard Downie recently joined a CSIS delegation trip to Ethiopia, where delegates met with President Dr. Mulatu Teshome to discuss his country's health priorities and how the United States can support efforts to improve the health system.

Rethinking Engagement with Fragile StatesRethinking 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 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.

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.

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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