The PSA/USIP Series: Ambassador Johnnie Carson – Why We Can No Longer Ignore Africa

The Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) held an off-the-record, bipartisan group discussion with former Ambassador Johnnie Carson, whose appointments include Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs and Ambassadorships to Kenya (1999-2003), Zimbabwe (1995-1997), and Uganda (1991-1994).

Following President Obama’s June 27-July 2 visit to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania, Ambassador Carson discussed why critical elements – including economic opportunities, national security priorities, and democratic developments – in Sub-Saharan Africa are now drawing renewed interest in the United States. Upcoming Congressional consideration of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade pact renewal, new opportunities for security partnerships targeting emerging threats from violent extremism and international terrorism, and rising foreign competition for resources and allies in the region highlight the rising importance of Africa in U.S. foreign policy.

Ambassador Johnnie Carson is Senior Advisor to the President of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Previously, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs from May 2009 to March 2013.

A retired U.S. ambassador, Johnnie Carson spent 37 years working for the Foreign Service, mostly on assignments throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to serving as Assistant Secretary of the State Department for the Bureau of African Affairs, he was the National Intelligence Officer for Africa at the National Intelligence Council, after serving as the Senior Vice President of the National Defense University in Washington D.C.

Carson’s Foreign Service career includes ambassadorships to Kenya (1999-2003), Zimbabwe (1995-1997), and Uganda (1991-1994); and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs (1997-1999). Earlier in his career he had assignments in Portugal (1982-1986), Botswana (1986-1990), Mozambique (1975-1978), and Nigeria (1969-1971). He has also served as desk officer in the Africa section at State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (1971-1974); Staff Officer for the Secretary of State (1978-1979), and Staff Director for the Africa Subcommittee of the US House of Representatives (1979-1982).

Before joining the Foreign Service, Ambassador Carson was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania from 1965-1968. He has a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Drake University and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the School of Oriental and Africa Studies at the University of London.

Ambassador Carson is the recipient of several Superior Honor Awards from the Department of State and a Meritorious Service Award from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The Centers for Disease Control presented Ambassador Carson its highest award, “Champion of Prevention Award,” for his leadership in directing the U.S. Government’s HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in Kenya.

Carson is married and has two daughters and a son.

This was the sixth event of the PSA/USIP Congressional Briefing Series – topics on International Conflict Resolution and Prevention, an educational program designed to provide congressional staff opportunities to engage with leading experts and fellow Capitol Hill staffers in bipartisan forums. The program aims to build cross-party relationships, encourage bipartisan dialogue, and equip staff with new perspectives on critical issues in the international conflict resolution and prevention field.