Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who has served as assistant secretary of state for Africa and ambassador to Liberia, knows that Africa faces challenges. Yet while conflict, terrorism, poverty and diseases are real issues facing Africa, she sees that there is far more that defines the continent.
“The Africa I know and have come to believe in is a continent of vast opportunity and amazing promise,” said Thomas-Greenfield, who received an M.A. in political science from the university. “It is a continent with tremendous natural and human resources and a rapidly expanding middle class. It is the next frontier for global opportunities, and it is a continent that has shown amazing progress given the challenges it has faced.”
Thomas-Greenfield visited the University of Wisconsin–Madison on June 26 and 27 to meet with participants in the Mandela Washington Fellowship program. During the visit, the ambassador presented “Africa Matters: A Discussion of U.S.-Africa Relations” to the Mandela Washington Fellows, as well as UW–Madison students, faculty, and alumni.
Key issues she discussed include how Africa can address and serve its youth population, how job and investment opportunities in Africa can be created, how the U.S. can best partner with Africa to counter terrorism and conflict and where Africa will be in the next 10 years on the world stage.
“The truth is we cannot beat today’s global challenges without Africa,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “When one thinks about ending poverty, fighting extremism and terrorism, and boosting economic growth, Africa is a central part of those efforts.”
Even with the challenges facing the continent and world, Thomas-Greenfield expressed optimism for Africa’s youth, particularly for the Mandela Washington Fellows.
“Your talent, drive and dedication will change your countries for the better,” said Thomas-Greenfield, addressing the fellows and the audience. “I put a burden on their shoulders that they are Africa’s future. We will be depending on them to find the answers.”
This year’s cohort of Mandela Washington Fellows includes 25 young African leaders who are visiting UW–Madison for six weeks this summer. The fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, are inspirational young leaders and change makers representing 20 African countries and diverse professional fields, including healthcare, law, journalism, social services, human rights and public administration. The Mandela Washington Fellows at UW–Madison are among 1,000 fellows coming to institutions across the United States. The African Studies Program is coordinating the fellows program at UW–Madison.