Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently spoke during the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace online event ‘The United States and Africa: Perceptions and Policies.’ She was joined by former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Amb. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and CNN correspondent Nima Elbagir for the event, which was hosted by Carnegie Endowment Senior Fellow Aaron David Miller.
Highlighting the impact of perceptions on policy development, the panelists discussed the importance of viewing African countries not as a homogeneous group with a singular set of interests—but rather as individual countries with unique challenges and priorities.
Particularly in the context of COVID-19, this nuanced understanding and respect for national policy agendas will be important for creating productive relationships. With a number of potential vaccines in development, Madam Sirleaf also highlighted the importance of ensuring that African countries have equal access:
“Will it be made available to all? Or will it be subject to negotiation, to purchasing, to competition? And where will that leave us? Africa once again left behind as a result of these issues?…
We believe that right now there is a big demand for change, a call for action, to be able to address the inequalities and injustices that have characterized international relationships for too long.”
The panel also discussed the status of women’s political representation on the continent. Madam Sirleaf noted that while clear progress has been made, there is more work to be done to achieve parity.
“…we have broken the glass ceiling, but it can shut pretty quickly, can’t it. In parliament, we have done very well, I think, with one of our countries, Rwanda, having one of the highest… women’s representation in the world.”
You can watch the full event below.