Sunday, November 28, 2021

Summary of “The Dissent Channel: American Diplomacy in a Dishonest Age”

Book Summary from Fadji:

The Dissent Channel chronicles Elizabeth Shackleford's last few years in the Department of State, a career marked by her year-long tour in South Sudan. In Juba, she finds herself at the forefront of the US' diplomatic outreach with a country it had helped create, but whose government had turned increasingly authoritarian and been accused of gross human rights violations. The situation creates a conundrum for the diplomat who struggles to reconcile her day-to-day functions with values espoused by the department and the US government--values that pushed her to join DoS in the first place. Following the tough tour, Lizzy and a colleague decide to draft a dissent cable: an act that doesn't lead to any substantial policy debate regarding US engagement with Juba. 

In retrospect, she admits a certain level of naivete in thinking she was aware of all factors affecting her leadership's decision making processes and in also thinking she could bring about change from the inside.
The portion of the book dealing with her public resignation is disappointingly short. She makes it known, however, that what she perceived as the previous administration's lack of commitment to diplomacy and American values accelerated her exit from the department.

Her drive and idealism are to be admired, so is her unapologetic belief in the primacy of American values and ideals: causes that are worthy of being propagated by a professional diplomatic corps enjoying the full support of the US government and the American public. Lizzy would argue that American power and greatness lie in its values and ideals, as written and professed. She might add, however, that failing to abide by them calls into question our true intentions abroad, and especially in Africa.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Session 6 with Hilltop Global Group: Connecting US Academic Institutions and the African Continent (8 May 2021)

For our next webinar on 8 May (VE Day), we will host Osa Imohe and Phil Agbeko. Phil and Osa founded Hilltop Global Group, a small education consulting firm in DC, focused on assisting U.S. academic institutions implement experiential learning programs in Africa. 

Our discussion will center on the following themes:

  1. Accurately conveying an African narrative to an audience interacting with the continent for the first time.
  2. Soft Power via private enterprise responding to a need from academic institutions.
  3. Role of the diaspora in facilitating exchanges between the US and the African continent.
  4. Challenges and opportunities doing business in Africa before/during/after COVID.
Previous FRAG Sessions:

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Summary: "The Last Hunger Season" by Roger Thurow

Fadji wrote this summary in preparation for our upcoming session with Roger this Saturday, 10 April.

"The Last Hunger Season" is an account of a year Roger Thurow spends in a Kenyan farming community on the brink of change through the adoption of hybrid seeds, fertilizer, training, and a credit system provided by the US-based “One Acre Fund” non-profit social enterprise. The author is absent in the narrative, which focuses instead on the farmers’ lived experience as they adopt new techniques.

The book reemphasizes some of the themes discussed in his first publication, “enough,” mainly the need for US humanitarian and development assistance to provide sustainable and lasting programs that would improve yield, prevent crop failure, and ensure food security locally. As he points out, it costs five to six times more money to deliver one ton of American grown maize to Africa than to provide smallholder African farmers with the seed and fertilizer needed to produce the ton of maize themselves.

In that vein, Roger highlights the US government’s Feed the Future program and the recent creation of the Bureau for Food Security within USAID as positive steps in that direction. The book also points out that other geopolitical actors such as China have started investing in agricultural projects across the continent, setting the stage for Beijing reaping the fruits of the upcoming African green revolution.

In a prelude to his last book, “The First 1000 Days,” Roger notes that hunger and food insecurity, especially in expectant mothers and young children leads to a lifetime of physiological issues, which directly translates into lower health outcomes, unrealized productivity, all of which hindering a country’s economic growth and development prospects.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Session 5 with Roger Thurow: Food (In) Security and Its Role in Sub-Saharan Conflict (10 Apr 2021)

 A recording is available at our Facebook Group Page. Alternatively, members can contact Fadji or Jack for a link to the YouTube recording.

Roger Thurow Biography:

So we’re proud to have Mr. Roger Thurow from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs where he has served as its senior fellow on global food and agriculture since 2010 after spending three decades at The Wall Street Journal. For 20 years, he was a foreign correspondent based in Europe and Africa. His coverage of global affairs spanned the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the release of Nelson Mandela, the end of apartheid, the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the humanitarian crises of the first decade of this century–along with 10 Olympic Games.

In 2003, he and Journal colleague Scott Kilman wrote a series of stories on famine in Africa that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. Their reporting on humanitarian and development issues has also been honored by the United Nations. Thurow and Kilman are authors of the book ENOUGH: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty. In 2009, they were awarded Action
Against Hunger's Humanitarian Award. He is also the author of The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, and his most recent book, The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children—and the World, was published in May 2016.

Thurow is an expert on agricultural development and speaks often on high-visibility platforms related to nutrition, hunger, and agriculture in the United States, Europe, and Africa. In 2013, he spoke about the power smallholder farmers in Africa at TedxChange Seattle event, hosted by Melinda Gates. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, and two children.

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Session 9 with Zachariah Mampilly: What Would Dubois do? Considering the U.S. - Sub-Saharan Relationship from 1900 to Present (15 Oct 2022)

 Phenomenal session with Professor Zachariah Mampilly and 11 FRAG members.