Africa Program

Conducting sustained, timely research and analysis on the major elements of U.S. policy toward Africa

4 Focus Areas 


Security and Governance. Africa’s security and governance landscape is constantly in flux, from military coups to civil war to violent non-state actors. The CSIS Africa Program anticipates how these factors underpin leadership transitions, public protests, and insurgencies, with implications for sub-Saharan African and international stakeholders. In particular, the program provides analysis on security trends including defense forces, reform programs, and bi- and multilateral cooperation. It also contextualizes constitutional and military coups against the backdrop of closing political and civic spaces across the region.

Climate Change and Conflict. Researchers have extensively studied climate change and its impact on the environment. With regard to Africa, however, more research is needed on the relationship between climate change, conflict, and security. How do droughts, flooding, desertification, and rising sea levels impact tensions between communities, e.g., herdsmen versus farmers in Nigeria, and water disputes between countries in the Horn of Africa? In Ethiopia, for example, the National Defense Forces launched their offensive on Tigray just as farmers were preparing for the teff planting season—disrupting the farming cycle and exacerbating food insecurity across the region. The CSIS Africa Program will deepen existing research by examining this fragile nexus.

Youth. Nearly 50 percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 18. In the long run, this youth bulge represents unlimited potential for economic and human development and leadership. In the short run, however, the demographic pressures exacerbate governance challenges and overwhelm public services. Consequently, Africa is experiencing a rise in public discontent, political contestation, and repression. Strong youth movements, such as Y’en a Marre (Senegal), Balai Citoyen (Burkina Faso), and LUCHA (DRC) have been at the forefront of the struggle for democratic change and better service delivery. The CSIS Africa Program is committed to analyzing youths’ role in African societies—from democratization to economic development to security— and investigating pathways for youths to gain greater access to policymaking.

The Strength of the Judiciary. In recent years, African judicial institutions have begun to counterbalance executive powers through processes like judicial reviews—spurring tension across the continent. Cases vary widely, from Malawi (where the Constitutional Court annulled results of the presidential election and ordered a run-off) to Benin (where long-independent courts are now facing challenges from the president). The CSIS Africa Program researches these trends, noting their impact on the rule of law and governance, and recommending potential solutions.

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Photo: Constantine Johnny/GETTY IMAGES

Photo: Constantine Johnny/GETTY IMAGES

In Africa, NATO Is the Past

In the future, NATO will seek to expand its southern flank to Africa to counter the growing influence of China and Russia. African populations will oppose such an expansion. It behooves NATO strategists to think carefully as they chart their engagement with Africa.

Commentary by Mvemba Phezo Dizolele — July 12, 2024