Shah @CGD: Shared Vision for US-Africa Engagement

July 15, 2013

This is a joint post with Will McKitterick.



Success has many fathers. So too does the administration’s new vision for US-Africa engagement.  At a packed CGD event with USAID administrator Rajiv Shah on President Obama’s recent trip to Africa and the new Power Africa energy initiative, CGD president Nancy Birdsall called it “the Shah vision.” Shah was quick to call it “the Obama vision.” I suspect others are applauding OPIC, MCC, and the African Development Bank, too. It’s good to see pride and shared ownership for the new effort, but who will see it through?

In conversation with Birdsall, Shah hit all the expected talking points about the trip’s focus: economic growth, trade, and investment; democracy gains, youth and women’s empowerment; and the global health and food security initiatives. The emphasis, of course, was on the new Power Africa initiative that aims to double access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa, largely by linking US government efforts with African-led policy changes to attract business investments.

My colleague Todd Moss explains why he is borderline-ecstatic about the announcement. The new initiative also incorporates almost all of President Obama’s global development policy’s criteria for where and how the United States should prioritize investments: it focuses on economic growth, links aid to trade and investment, leverages private sector investment, builds developing country capacity in public sectors and could include some game-changing innovations as it pursues geothermal, hydro, wind and solar energy.

It’s easy to see why there is shared excitement and a little jesting about whose good idea it was. But if experience is the mother of knowledge, we also know that implementing (and expanding) good development ideas is hard, especially when multiple government agencies are involved (think: Global Health Initiative, Global Climate Change Initiative, Feed the Future and New Alliance for Food Security). I’ll be watching to see who takes the next step towards implementing the good vision and whether this time next year there will be just as many agencies—or more—eager to take credit for what happens with Power Africa.

Watch the full video and additional clips on our events page.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.