Ambassador David H. Shinn

Ambassador David H. Shinn received his BA (1963), MA (1964), and PhD (1980) from George Washington University. He has a certificate in African studies from Northwestern University. He served for thirty-seven years in the US Foreign Service with assignments at embassies in Lebanon, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritania, Cameroon, Sudan and as ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. He has been teaching in the Elliott School since 2001 and serves on a number of boards of non-governmental organizations. An expert on the Horn of Africa, Dr. Shinn speaks at events around the world. He is the co-author of An Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia and has authored numerous articles and book chapters. He is working on a book concerning China-Africa relations. His research interests include China-Africa relations, East Africa and the Horn, terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, conflict situations, U.S. policy in Africa, and the African brain drain.

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Articles by Ambassador David H. Shinn:

Assessing China’s Role and Influence in Africa

March 29, 2012 by

The most important difference between the United States and China is the very structure of the American and Chinese governments and the way their respective systems engage in Africa. American commercial activity (trade, investment and bidding on contracts) in Africa is conducted by private companies with limited involvement by the U.S. government. If two or more private U.S. companies are competing for the same project, the U.S. government must be impartial, providing essentially equal help to all U.S. interested parties. When this situation occurs, my experience was that the role of the U.S. government diminishes even further.

International Efforts to Counter Al-Shabaab

February 21, 2012 by

Since the al-Shabaab (The Youth) took control of most of south and central Somalia in 2007, no Somali force or coalition of forces has developed the capacity to counter the al-Qaeda affiliated organization. Militias under the control of Somali warlords were largely a spent force before al-Shabaab seized much of Somalia. The international community has trained a significant number of Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces, but they have not yet achieved the numbers, tenacity and ability on their own to challenge al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab and Somalia in the 21st Century

January 25, 2012 by

My starting point is that Somali society today is not what it was in the 1960s. I am not referring to the obvious fact that Somalia became a failed state in 1991. I am referring to subtle and not so subtle changes in the nature of society itself. While clans remain important and, in some circumstances, are still the single most important feature of society, the role of Islam has changed dramatically. This has been accelerated by the breakdown of traditional society following years of civil war, broken families, failure of governmental institutions and the movement of large numbers of Somalis from rural areas to Mogadishu, other cities in Somalia and the overseas diaspora.

The United States Reassesses the China-Africa Relationship

January 18, 2012 by

China, India, Brazil and Russia and even smaller non-western countries such as Turkey, Iran and Indonesia steadily have been replacing western influence in Africa throughout the first decade of the 21st century. China has contributed more to this process than any other single non-western nation and perhaps more than all of the others combined. China surpassed the United States in 2009 as the largest bilateral trading partner with the combined fifty-three countries in Africa.

Somali youth radicalization

December 17, 2011 by

The radicalization of Somali youth in North America has taken two principal forms — supporting extremist organizations in Somalia and joining Somali gangs in the United States and Canada. These two phenomena are related to the extent that social alienation experienced by those living in a new and alien culture contributes to their attraction to gangs and extremist organizations.

China-Africa Relations: The Big Picture

December 6, 2011 by

China has four hard interests in Africa’s fifty-four countries. I exclude from this list interests often cited by Beijing such as support for economic development and political stability in Africa. These are goals or objectives of Chinese policy, but they do not constitute China’s interests any more than they are interests of the United States.

United States and China in Africa: Advancing the Diplomatic Agenda

November 14, 2011 by

It is important to look at U.S.-China interaction in Africa from the optic of statements by senior U.S. officials. These statements began in 2005 and generally reflect a desire to engage with China in Africa in a positive way. There have been, however, occasional expressions of concern, criticism, and caution. At the same time, the official statements rarely reflect the strident expressions of concern about China’s activities in Africa that are often heard in the American media.

China’s Growing Role in Africa: Implications for U.S. Policy

November 4, 2011 by

China generally does not discuss its “hard” interests in Africa. Rather, it emphasizes several general themes such as respect for African countries’ sovereignty and development policies, support for African development, cooperation with Africa in the United Nations and multilateral forums, and learning from each other. China also urges African countries to accept the “one China” principle by recognizing Beijing.

U.S. Policy towards the Horn of Africa

October 13, 2011 by

The problems of the Horn are frequently interlinked and often cross international borders. The root causes of the conflicts include economic inequality, political marginalization, poor governance, ethnic tension, competition for scarce resources such as water and good land, periodic drought and poverty. Contributory factors are porous borders, widespread availability of arms, corruption, a poor record by governments on human rights issues and interference in the region by organizations and countries outside the Horn. When you add the fact that the Horn is located on a religious fault line, you have a recipe for frequent conflict.

A Proposed US Regional Strategy towards the Horn of Africa: Conflict Resolution at Local and Regional Levels

August 30, 2011 by

Paul Williams’ paper has accurately and thoroughly pulled together the webs of conflict in the Horn of Africa. It is not a pretty picture. I would even suggest that the Horn of Africa has been the most conflicted corner of the world since the end of World War II. Other regions have had more death and conflict over briefer periods of time. I don’t know of any region that has had the number and variety of conflicts comparable to those in the Horn. The problem for the United States is what it can do to help mitigate conflict in the region.

Assessing the Consequences of the Failed State of Somalia

July 16, 2011 by

The United States announced in October 2010 a dual track approach toward Somalia. Track one called for continued support of the Djibouti Peace Process and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), including security sector assistance to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the TFG National Security Forces. Track two called for expanding outreach with self-declared independent Somaliland, semi-autonomous Puntland and regional and local anti-Shabaab groups throughout south and central Somalia.

Emerging Powers in Africa

July 12, 2011 by

The end of the Cold War resulted in the strategic disengagement of western countries, including the United States, from Africa. They continued their trade, aid and assistance relationship with Africa, but once the threat of communist expansion disappeared, the West saw the continent in a different way. This permitted an opening for a variety of emerging countries to expand their ties with Africa. As some of these emerging non-African countries became economically strong, they increasingly replaced western influence and engagement in Africa, particularly in certain countries.

The Impact of China’s Growing Influence in Africa

July 12, 2011 by

China is not new to Africa but the change over the decades in its relations with the continent is as revolutionary as China’s own internal revolution. China is not new to Africa but the change over the decades in its relations with the continent is as revolutionary as China’s own internal revolution. From Mao Zedong’s leadership in 1949 until the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s, China’s ideological foreign policy, Chinese internal developments and other events exogenous to Africa determined the nature of the China-Africa relationship.

North African Revolutions and Protests Challenge Chinese Diplomacy

April 8, 2011 by

The protests and revolutions that are sweeping across North Africa since the beginning of 2011 pose a serious test for Chinese diplomacy. The circumstances forced Chinese diplomats to adapt quickly to the unfolding situation, a measure Beijing has been adept at doing elsewhere in Africa when the government in power is threatened or toppled. Yet, the stakes are higher in North Africa than they are in all but a few Sub-Saharan African states.