Editor's Note

By William McKenzie, Editor, The Catalyst

The issues facing Africa – and the leaders and forces transforming the continent

Africa may not be on the radar of Americans who are busy working, raising kids, serving their communities, or simply wondering what tomorrow might hold. Yet, with an emerging middle class and new leaders, the continent’s future presents significant promise. That includes for the United States. Africa could expand markets and opportunities for Americans, as well as create greater international stability.

In this issue of The Catalyst, we present a wide-ranging set of articles and authors who address tomorrow’s Africa. They examine and discuss the powerful forces transforming the continent and the realities that stand in Africa’s way, including serious health care challenges, education limitations, and political strife.

We start with an interview with President and Mrs. Bush, whose commitment to Africa goes back to the creation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in 2003 -- and continues today through Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon and the George W. Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative. The Bushes led a Bush Center trip to Botswana and Namibia this spring, and that trip informs their conversation about Africa’s future and its challenges.

Similarly, we present an interview with Sir Bob Geldof, the rock musician who is a passionate advocate for Africa. As with the Bushes, he describes how he first got interested in Africa, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Band Aid in 1984 and his work now in generating investments in Africa. We promised to make The Catalyst entertaining as we discuss policies, and Sir Bob does a superb job of that.

We also present commentaries from African leaders, innovators, and educators. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Namibian First Lady Monica Geingos, and the ONE’s Nachilala Nkombo discuss the emerging middle class, democratic movements, and the “demographic dividend” Africa’s youth present. We are especially pleased to provide a special feature from Africans across the continent who share their views on the potential impact of Africa’s young population.

Jonathan Rosenthal, Africa editor for The Economist, draws from his reporting to share his observations on Africa’s technology-fueled middle class. Natalie Gonnella-Platts, deputy director of the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative, explains how first ladies are modernizing Africa’s economies and political leadership. And since The Catalyst is interested in practical solutions, we asked Jake Harriman, founder of Nuru International and a 2015 Presidential Leadership Scholar, to describe strategies that effectively combat rural Africa’s extreme poverty. At the same time, Brittney Bain and Crystal Cazier of the Bush Institute draw from the Bush Center trip in April to describe successful health care strategies. And Holly Kuzmich, the Bush Institute's executive director, makes the case for why foreign aid is a smart investment.

Preventing the spread of diseases is one of Africa’s top challenges, so Dr. Mark Dybul, the former U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, describes why global health care must remain a top priority. And Dr. Eric Bing, professor of global health at SMU, explains how innovation, partnerships, and accountability are crucial to effectively treating diseases.

Perhaps the most wrenching challenge facing Africa is the famine resulting from civil war in South Sudan. The Reverend Michael Yemba, a South Sudanese pastor, and BJ Goergen, a Presidential Leadership Scholar who has been involved in East Africa through both public and private roles, share their perspectives on the situation, including the way international leaders and young South Sudanese can envision a better future.

A better future, of course, is what so many Africans are working each day to achieve. We hope this issue provides a window into their work – and the reason America should remain committed to them realizing that future.

Letters to the Editor: What You Thought About the Spring 2017 Issue of The Catalyst on the modern military

Re: Robert Gates’ An Unpredictable World of Threats interview

 Gates is excellent, as usual. Thanks for sharing this.

--John Shenefield, Great Falls, Virginia

Re: Spring 2017 Catalyst

Supporting democracy is not a matter of keeping faith with our own values but a matter of national security. It also means resisting protectionist temptations and using American influence along with other free-trading nations to push back against some of the tendencies of state capitalism in China and elsewhere.

--Christopher Morrow, Franklin, Tennessee

Re: Jeffrey Cleland’s and Laura Collins' Veterans Can Fill the Skills Gap essay

Great article by this pair. They are spot on. One more thing we can all do to help veterans making the transition to civilian careers is to provide job hunting rubrics. It's more than writing a "dynamite" resume and firing it off to multiple job boards.

--John Henry Weiss, Stockton, New Jersey

Re: Spring 2017 Catalyst

The articles in The Catalyst would make for a fantastic podcast. Many of us struggle to find time to read the content but are much more able to listen while in transit or otherwise.
Hope you will consider.

--John Burruss, Dallas, Texas

Leave your feedback with The Catalyst editors