This special issue of Kujenga Amani is based on presentations by current and former fellows of the Social Science Research Council’s African Peacebuilding Network (APN) program, at a side event on December 12, 2022, during a US-African Leaders summit in Washington, DC. The policy dialogue, which brought together policymakers, academics, experts, youth, and civil society practitioners from the United States and Africa, was jointly organized by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Search for Common Ground (SFCG), the African Union’s Youth Ambassadors for Peace, United States Institute for Peace (USIP), and the George Elliott Institute for African Studies, at The George Washington University, Washington, DC.
The essays in this volume address several subthemes within the framework of peace, trade, and youth, by referencing African perspectives on US-Africa relations. Rhuks Ako’s contribution provides an opening context for US-Africa engagements in shaping peace and security by exploring the role of regional actors in advancing international partnerships, drawing attention to the emergence of the African Union’s Youth Ambassadors for Peace, as a foundational instrument as well as framework created and driven by African youth. The essay by Charles Ukeje analyzes the role of the United States in promoting democracy and empowering African youth while making suggestions for expanding the scope and deepening US engagements with Africa in ways that would reverse democratic regression and strengthen youth participation in politics and decision-making. Mahamadou Bassirou Tangara’s intervention addresses some of the critical challenges affecting trade, investments, and development in Africa, including its implications for US-Africa relations. He notes that the nature of African economies and the kinds of investments in Africa do not sufficiently promote real economic growth on the continent, and calls on international partners, including the United States, to support initiatives that empower youth economically and also address some of the gaps in the nature of trade and investments in Africa. This dovetails into Lilian Kong’ani’s essay that explores the role of youth in mitigating and managing climate change, and how US-Africa relations can advance the role of African youth in climate change-affected contexts. She notes that young people, particularly at the community level, have a lot of knowledge by being at the frontlines of efforts to fight the harmful fallouts of climate change, and advocates for an increase in programs that empower youth through training, climate-oriented employment, and civic engagements. The last essay in the special issue is by Simbarashe Gukurume, who explores the growing organizational power and innovativeness of African youth. He advocates for additional empowerment initiatives to significantly strengthen youth voices, representation, civic engagement, economic opportunities, and spaces of youth participation in leadership and decision-making structures in Africa. By addressing these issues, the essays in this issue open up new vistas for understanding the challenges facing US-Africa relations, but more so, identifying the immense potential and opportunities they represent for facilitating a new impetus for advancing mutually shared interests.