With much of the world’s focus on the Middle East and other ‘hot spots,’ events in Africa are often left with little or no international attention. Although the current crisis in Darfur is an exception, the lack of a strong and concerted effort to end that conflict reflects the international community’s lack of political will to involve itself in African affairs.

This long-standing attitude is the product of viewing Africa as strategically unimportant to world affairs. The reality is different. Africa does matter. Despite its deep-rooted problems, Africa plays an important and integral role in international affairs.

The obstacles to growth and prosperity in Africa, however, are quite challenging. Millions of Africans exist in deplorable conditions, living on less than a dollar a day. AIDS is ravaging the continent, destroying generations of African communities, and leaving millions of orphaned children with little care or guidance. Interstate and intrastate conflicts continue to unravel the tattered fabric of African society.

Many contend that the international community cannot solve these problems and that Africa needs to stand on its own. Unfortunately, the real reason why African issues are largely ignored is because many governments do not think the effort is worth the investment. Yet, in purely economic terms, Africa is a resource abundant continent. It possesses vast quantities of oil, minerals, and other vital resources.

But utilizing these resources must be done in a way that avoids the historic exploitation of Africans by governments, multi-national companies, and local politicians. Investment in Africa must benefit local communities and lead to further development within the respective countries where these resources exist.

Africa is also becoming a security concern because of the number of weak and failed states on the continent. Islamic extremists prefer to operate in these types of states where they can easily avoid detection. Islamic extremists are already known to be operating in Morocco, Algeria, and East Africa, and there is a serious risk that they may eventually infiltrate other sub-Saharan countries.

The international community has a responsibility—and a self-interest—to address the many issues described above, and to work in concert with African governments and communities to find long-term solutions. But a first step in this regard is for us to be better informed about the challenges and opportunities facing the Africa today. It is with this in mind that this special edition of the International Affairs Review on Africa is being published.

Amb. Karl F. Inderfurth
Faculty Advisor
International Affairs Review

Paul Hidalgo
International Affairs Review