About the Author: Johnnie Carson serves as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
Today, I witnessed a step forward in one of the United States' most important and strategic relationships in Africa. Secretary Clinton warmly welcomed Nigeria's Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, for the signing of the framework establishing the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission. Signed in the State Department's Treaty Room -- an elliptical room symbolizing the work of diplomacy around the world -- the Binational Commission represents the kind of relationship I hope we will one day build with every sub-Saharan African nation.
Nigeria has come a long way. Some forty years ago, I began my first tour as a newly-minted Foreign Service Officer in Lagos. Arriving just seven years after its independence, the Nigeria I found was one locked in a brutal civil war. Over one million lives were lost during the conflict. Despite the devastation, I wanted to contribute to a better future for Nigeria.
In many ways, Nigeria has made truly remarkable gains. A leader in Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), it has helped bring peace to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Nigeria provides over 5,800 soldiers to UN peacekeeping operations globally and is poised to bolster international peace and security from its seat on the United Nations Security Council. With its abundance of human and natural resources, Nigeria is an emerging economic powerhouse, with one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
With the launch of the Binational Commission, we expect the United States and Nigeria will engage in serious, high-level talks on issues of mutual interest. The Commission's four working groups provide the structure of this engagement. We'll first convene the Good Governance, Transparency, and Integrity Working Group, as electoral reform and improved administration are needed to help Nigeria achieve free, fair and peaceful elections in 2011. The group will also address corruption by seeking to build Nigeria's institutional capacity and prosecutorial efforts. The Niger Delta and Regional Security Cooperation Working Group will support Nigeria's efforts to provide immediate and tangible development and economic opportunity to the people of the Niger Delta. The Energy and Investment Working Group will work to improve transparency, administration, and performance of the power generation and hydrocarbon sectors. And finally, the Food Security and Agriculture Working Group will work to increase reliable access to food in Nigeria and the region through improvements in agriculture and trade policy.
With the successful launch of the Binational Commission, I look forward to the U.S. and Nigeria becoming ever-closer partners.
Related Content:U.S.-Africa Policy Under the Obama Administration