U.S. Africa Command commander, U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, wrapped up his annual posture statement to Congress with a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee April 22.
Townsend testified alongside the U.S. Central Command commander, U.S. Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, Jr.
Townsend discussed the command’s strategy, top concerns, and strategic goals to stress the importance of continued U.S. access, influence, and partnership in Africa, recognizing its strategic significance to the U.S. and the rest of the world.
“Africa is the cross roads of the globe,” Townsend said during his opening statement to the committee. “The recent blockage of the Suez Canal not only demonstrated the importance of critical sea lines of communication flowing through the Mediterranean and Red Seas, but also around the Cape of Good Hope.”
While Townsend touched on future threats and opportunities in Africa as well as the importance of U.S. engagement, discussion also centered on strategic competition from both China and Russia and the importance of collaboration with allies and partners.
Though Africa is home to 13 of the world’s 25 fastest growing economies and a rapidly expanding population, Townsend noted that tremendous opportunities are complicated by significant challenges.
“Climate change, food shortages, poverty, ungoverned spaces, historic grievances, and other factors make the continent also home to 14 of the world’s 20 most fragile countries,” he said. “Violent extremist organizations, competitor activities, and fragile states are among some of the threats to U.S. interests.”
Strategic competitors such as China and Russia will take advantage of challenges in Africa to improve their access in the region, often with detrimental impact including resource extraction, coercion, and future basing, to name a few.
In the official statement of record submitted to Congress last week, Townsend noted destabilizing factors from strategic competitors on the African continent.
“Russian private military companies are a destabilizing influence in Africa. While private military companies sometimes act in pursuit of private, financial gains and investments, they also support Russian foreign policy-- often at the expense of African and U.S. security interests,” said Townsend.