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Senior Leaders Gather to Address Logistics Challenges
Security interventions, peace support operations, and humanitarian assistance in Africa all require a strong logistics network. That is the ultimate goal of the group of leaders and experts who gathered this week in Addis Ababa for the Africa.

Successful security interventions, peace support operations, and humanitarian assistance in Africa all require a strong and adaptive logistics network.  That is the ultimate goal of the group of senior leaders and experts who gathered in Addis Ababa for the Inaugural Africa Logistics Capacity Development Forum (ALCDF), April 27-30.

About 42 leaders and logistics experts from African partner nations Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, and Djibouti met counterparts from the U.S. government, European Union, United Nations, France and the United Kingdom and were welcomed to Addis by Amb. Taye Atsekesellasie, Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the African Union.

The  ALCDF represents a milestone for those who planned and participated in the event because it is the first time that “action-oriented logistics” has been the central focus for any gathering bringing together senior leaders and experts from across the continent, the U.S. and Europe.  Many lessons captured from the international community’s support to operations across Africa highlight the need to synchronize and optimize common logistics activities.  Expeditious and effective responses to contingency, peacekeeping, and humanitarian relief operations depend heavily on partner nations’ logistics capability to procure, move, receive and distribute supplies to sustain necessary operations.  Limited resources and logistics capability both pose extreme challenges to mission effectiveness.  International partners and non-governmental organizations are more than willing to assist however, efforts can also be duplicative.  Faced with this challenge, U.S. Africa Command partnered with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) to develop and execute a recurring program to specifically address logistics capacity development at the strategic level.

Why focus on logistics?

Logistics is the backbone of any successful operation.  It is the ability to get the right people, equipment and resources to the right place at the right time to affect desired outcomes.  When absent or insufficient, the lack of effective logistics turns the tide in favor of opposing forces and can result in extended human suffering.  U.S. AFRICOM has made it a priority to strengthen defense institutions among its partners.  Efforts like the ALCDF are a key step in ensuring logistics shortfalls are addressed first at the strategic level to enhance national willingness to resource logistics and then at the operational level to ensure the solutions developed actually make a visible effect.

A key participant in the seminar was Brig. Gen. David Baburam, Director of the Mission Support Unit in the Peace Support Operations Division of the African Union (AU) – the AU’s senior logistician.  General Baburam provided remarks at an icebreaker session to kick off the event where he strongly stated his expectation that the group develop simple and actionable solutions to logistics challenges facing Troop Contributing Countries (TCC) supporting AU or UN missions in Africa. “This is a very constructive platform to discuss candidly – we’ve not seen this before.  We need our partners to understand what we need here in Africa.  And, we don’t really know each other, so this has been an opportunity for us to know who is who,” said Baburam.

“We did not know until this event about all the logistics assets that are available.  Had we not come to Addis for this seminar, we still would not know of the organizations, such as the Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE) and how it works to remedy logistics capacity.  AFRICOM has made this available, and now we can see the possibilities for creating our own solutions,” said Baburam.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Steven Hummer, Deputy to the Commander for Military Operations, U.S. Africa Command, was on hand to provide the keynote address on the first day of the seminar.  He stressed the importance of creating a strategic dialogue, a foundation for building relationships, and processes that outlive the people in the room, one that would serve well the goal of helping Africans to solve African problems.

Among the attendees was Nigerian Colonel.  Adekunle Adeyinka, Military Logistics Planning Officer from the United Nations Office to the African Union, who is also a veteran participant of previous AFRICOM funded conferences and training events. 

“I’ve attended a lot of gatherings with many of the organizations represented here before, but this is the very first time where logistics was not an afterthought – where logistics is indeed the focus and getting the planning effort and attention needed.  So we are grateful to AFRICOM and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies for bringing us together,” said Adeyinka.

“It’s ethically wrong to stay quiet when in the room.  Before now, we are one [logistics] person in a room of many, and it’s as though we are talking to ourselves, because others don’t understand logistics,” said Adeyinka. “There is a lack of logistics expertise on the continent of Africa.  In this forum, we’ve had the opportunity to say what our challenges are and what we think needs to happen next.”

Key to success: Africa Center for Strategic Studies

 “Kudos to ACSS for their role in facilitating this critical seminar,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. James Johnson, Director of Logistics (J4), U.S. Africa Command.

“They really stepped up to work with the AFRICOM J4 and Lt Col Uduak Udoaka to make this successful.  The right people were in the room, talking candidly about the right topics, with a goal of delivering actionable objectives to make positive changes for logistics in Africa…this was more than just dialogue. This was key to helping US government officials and officials from other organizations like the UN, EU, and multinational partners understand the core logistics requirements to support various activities across Africa,” said Johnson.

“We asked AFRICOM what we could do to help,” said Michael Garrison, Acting Director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.  ACSS is celebrating 15 years this July and many of the participants at the ALCDS were alumni.

 “Our alumni networks are strong across the continent.  We receive a part of our funding from AFRICOM to help us execute programs, but this was a first for us.  We all had a learning curve, but the strength of relationships and the ability to create an environment where leaders can feel free to say what is on their mind is what we do,” said Garrison.

Dr. Raymond Gilpin, Dean of Academics for ACSS, led the effort to develop a syllabus and a joint team of ACSS and AFRICOM staff ensured execution on the ground was flawless.  He stressed the importance of creating dialogues and building relationships with the goal of developing a plan of action to address logistics issues for any environment.

Major General Ben Francis Okello, Commandant of the Uganda Rapid Deployment Capability Centre, is a long-time ACSS alumnus and was invited by Gilpin to serve as a seminar speaker.

When asked what should happened next, Okello said, “More engagements.  We need to know how does the embassy engage; what is their role?"

Movement Control Centre Europe as model

Colonel Reinhardt Krell is the Director of the Movement Control Centre Europe and was invited to brief the ALCDF participants on what the MCCE is and how it might be useful.

The MCCE provides cost saving alternatives for member nations by utilizing air, land and sea transport assets owned or leased by national militaries of members or supported agencies.  Currently, there are 25 member nations (23 European, Canada and the U.S.) who pay an annual fee that allows them use of these assets.  The MCCE does not own the assets; instead they serve as a coordinator of assets not in routine use.

Initially conceived as a maritime asset coordination effort, a similar one for airlift was developed; then seven years ago the MCCE was formally stood up to include both maritime and airlift.  The MCCE is located on the Eindhoven Military Air Base in The Netherlands, alongside the European Air Transport Command (EATC).

“Our currency is measured in flying hours. An example would be if Germany uses an asset owned by Sweden, then Germany is minus three air hours and Sweden is plus three, then that can change as each country uses assets, so there is no money flow here.  No one needs to be concerned with getting reimbursements in this system – that is where the cost saving comes in.  We have about 30 people from 17 nations at MCCE; I’m German, my deputy is from Norway and our Chief of Staff is Turkish.  Now that is partnering,” said Krainz.    

“My purpose for being here at the ALCDS is to show the African partners what is possible – maybe MCCE can serve as a model for them.  It would only take about four or five nations to come together and form their own organization like we have done,” said Krell.  

Senior leaders taking note

“Kudos to AFRICOM for bringing together so many partners.  The Joint Staff’s job is to do what we can to support the combatant commanders.  In this ‘first of its kind’ event, we see AFRICOM engaging with African partners to help create a model for others to follow in developing logistics capacity that serves the interests of individual nations as well as when those nations team to help their neighbors,” said U.S. Air Force Major General Lee Levy, Vice Director for Logistics, Joint Staff J4, U.S. Dept. of Defense.

Way ahead  

“There’s a need for skilled logistics planners, and we need to develop ways to improve communications and coordination.  We used operations in Mali, CAR [Central African Republic] and Somalia to understand some of the challenges.  These three days underscored some real challenges, like lack of understanding by policy makers and those who control resources of the existing issues regarding logistics. Our intent is to develop a framework at ALCDF to shape the way ahead,” said Johnson.

“My words are this, ‘KISS’, you’ve heard of this – to keep it simple.  We need simple actual first steps.  So in keeping it simple, we can get ourselves encouraged by wins – this builds confidence in our own ability to meet challenges and that is the next step – to attack challenges,” said Adeyinka.

When asked if he could identify any successes, Adeyinka responded, “I’m a success - in training – I’ve been to AFRICOM’s training.  Here we have said that training is important because when you know, then you can make a difference.  We are now a few drops in the ocean, and it does not take another ocean, but just to keep adding a few more drops and you will see the color of the ocean will change.”

Next up:

The results of this seminar will be used to inform the African Executive Dialogue (AED) scheduled for 28-30 May in Washington D.C.  The AED is the premier strategic discussion between senior African and U.S. officials on innovative and sustainable strategies to prevent and address regional security challenges across the African continent.  Following the AED is the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit scheduled for 5-6 August also in Washington D.C.  There is also a plan already in motion, working through the leadership of the AU and BG Baburam, to organize a follow-up ALCDF event in the fall to sustain the momentum generated and to ensure simple and actionable solutions are being implemented across the region in general and within the AU.