Civilian Skills for African Military Officers to Resolve the Infrastructure, Economic Development, and Stability Crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa
Authored by Diane E. Chido.
For decades, a lack of economic opportunity has caused instability and violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Fortunately, U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) is in a unique position to increase stability and reduce the causes of violence and extremism through new partnerships and military-to-military training. The current training approach is very likely to be beneficial to African military officers currently on active duty; however, proficiency in military science alone will not provide the necessary skills for those separating from service and facing an uncertain future in societies that do not pay pensions on time, if at all, and do not offer economic opportunities, especially to those without the right expertise. USAFRICOM partnerships are an excellent foundation on which to provide engineering and other technical training for African military officers and NCOs. In this way, African nations can create indigenous capacity to construct and maintain needed infrastructure like power stations, dams, bridges, and roads. A robust engineering training program has the great potential to lead to improved civil-military relationships and to reduce instability through increased opportunities for separating service members. These new technical skills will enable separating service members, now in mufti, to positively contribute to the societies they once served while in uniform.
United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) has pledged to work toward stability in Africa through enhanced partnerships with African countries, mainly through military-to-military training. This is likely to be highly beneficial to serving officers in African military institutions. However, military training alone does not prepare those officers for separation from service and an uncertain future in societies that do not pay pensions on time, if at all, and that do not offer economic opportunities in general, but especially not to those without needed skills.
USAFRICOM is at a unique point in its engagement with the continent as it develops programs and adjusts its approach. This is the optimum time to create a holistic framework in which to focus on training and to give these officers sustainable skills in engineering and other technical fields as part of the military curriculum. Such skills are urgently needed to construct and maintain the national infrastructures now lacking in Africa. Such infrastructures are essential if Africa is to move into the new economy. Moreover, such an effort will ultimately provide opportunities for retired service members to continue to contribute to building the societies they once served to protect.
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