Introducing the Africa-US-Forum Blog

Bob Wekesa

In Africa, the United States of America is a well-known country – rights! Most Americas can point out the location of Africa on the world map – right! Well, not quite! Ask any average African what the name Wyoming means to them, and they might think of “warming” up. Well, google Wyoming before you offend the resident of Cheyenne and other cities. On the flip side, randomly ask college-educated New Yorker’s which country N’Djamena is the capital of? The likelihood is that you will draw a blank unless you stumble on voracious news consumers familiar with developments in Chad.   

These geographical trivia raise the question: just how much do Africans know about the US? And, how much to Americans know about Africa? Well, it is impossible for every African to grasp every tidbit of America and for every America to be versed in African affairs. In any case, there are millions of Africans and Americans who are simply not bothered by knowledge on either region for a variety of reasons.

The story is different for Africans and Americans consciously interested in affairs of the superpower and the continent. For instance, African scholars in diverse disciplines working on US-related topics need depth of data and information if they are to produce meaningful knowledge.  Policymakers in the US, particularly those in foreign policy and diplomacy circles, need more than just working knowledge of Africa and its societies as do their African counterparts. Corporate executives looking to close deals on either side of the Atlantic need to tap into continuous news and information if they are to make sound business decisions.

It is with the goal of advancing Africa-US knowledge and information that we at the ACSUS are launching this blog for the sharing of knowledge and information on the great panoply of Africa-US intersections. We invite Africans and Americans working on Africa-US issues, engagements and projects to contribute to this blog. We call it Jukwaa which is Swahili for “platform”, “forum” or “stage” in English. We intend Jukwaa as a virtual public sphere where in-depth insights on political, economic, cultural and scientific knowledge on Africa-US will be analyzed.  

Jukwaa will be the hub for African-generated knowledge, nuanced understanding, and timely analysis of Africa and the US. We look to respond to the fact that despite seemingly robust engagements there is no distinct platform exclusively dedicated to nuanced and timely opinion and commentary on the US in Africa and Africa in the US. Often, developments relating to Africa and the US are left to news reporting, which though important, does not unpack the implications of such developments. So, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa met US President Joe Biden at the G7 Summit in the UK. What does that mean for an issue such as Africa’s need for COVID-19 vaccinations? Or the twentieth anniversary of the September 9th 2001 terrorist attacks on the US is coming up in two months’ time. How has Africa-US relations panned out since the attacks two decades ago? Or, the signature US trade policy towards Africa – AGOA – expires in 2025. What shape would Africa’s economic relations with the US take particularly in view of the launch of the African continental Free Trade Area in January 2021?    

Beyond analysis of headline events and happenings, we believe Jukwa will help shape intellectual discourse and deepen the understanding of the US as a nation, society, and global power. Over the years, scholars have researched and published on “Africa-US” in many forms and shapes. However, this knowledge ends up in book shelves or in academic journals and books which few people access. We intend to work with intellectuals from any and every school of thought to convert some of their sophisticated publications into short pieces for access by a wider audience?     

Jukwaa will not concentrate only on politics and economics. There are many cultural dynamics that connect Africa and the US. Take African diaspora for instance. Today, millions of African families are connected to the US through their relatives working and living there. Similarly, many Americans have made Africa home, not least African Americans, who have an enduring attachment to the continent. Besides, many Africans have grown up imbibing American culture for instance through the near-omnipotent Hollywood productions. African artists – think Kenyan Lupita Nyong’o or South African Trevor Noah – have become part of the American entertainment fabric. What that does mean for Africa?

We thus invite you to contribute to this blog. Let’s start and sustain the conversation. Dr Wekesa is acting director, ACSUS and media and geopolitics scholar.