Battle to evaluate U.S. relations with Africa



With years of experience in U.S.-African relations, Ambassador Michael Anthony Battle will examine how the United States can engage in the public square and make substantive progress in those relationships.

Battle, senior adviser to the African Bureau of the U.S. State Department for the first U.S-Africa Leaders Summit hosted in the U.S. by a U.S. president, will give a lecture at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy titled “Engagement in the Global Public Square: Focus on Africa.” Week Eight’s Interfaith Lecture theme is “The Global Religious Public Square.”

Battle will make recommendations that members of civil society and non-governmental organizations — cooperating with governmental organizations — can do to substantially impact the public square. He will also explore the history of the U.S.’s relationship to the African continent, with particular regard to the African Union.

From this foundation, Battle plans to discuss the summit — the first time the U.S. government on the president’s level has ever met with the collective body of the African heads of state — to deal with issues that affect the African continent.

“We have met strategically with every other continental body on the face of the earth,” Battle said. “One acknowledges the fact that the African continent represents a significant probability of success in terms of business engagement, in terms of food security, in terms of resources for planet Earth.”

The summit, which took place from Aug. 4 to 6, was unique in part because it brought together African and American business leaders. A number of African heads of state mentioned they had never before at a summit engaged with the business sector interest, Battle said.

Africa’s significance also lies in its rapidly growing population, Battle said; in the next decade, one out of every four people on Earth will be African.

“Most nations in the world are recognizing the significant value that Africa has as a continent to global survival, and that’s one of the reasons that we, China, Japan, Turkey, the EU, Asia, South America — everybody — are trying to relate more effectively and more strategically to the African continent,” Battle said.

One of the major policy-based misconceptions about Africa, however, is that people in the U.S. often think doing business in Africa is riskier than in other countries, Battle said, whereas the risk is not significantly greater.

“The return on investments in Africa have proven to be more substantive than they have in many other parts of the world,” he said.

The religious public square is becoming both more and less interconnected, Battle said, acknowledging that minorities within faith groups claim to represent that faith’s interests when in reality, the actions are not indicative of the faith’s larger membership. Just as the Ku Klux Klan does not define fundamentalist Christianity — although it might claim to, Battle said — radical members of Islam also don’t define most of the religion’s followers.

“You find that kind of emergence slowly re-emerging here in the continental U.S., and the issue is not that the small group is in fact representative of the faith. The issue is the larger moderate group tends not to be as active in confronting the delusional images of faith,” Battle said. “The larger group of moderates have to stand up and confront that kind of behavior.”