Chair McCollum Statement at United States Africa Command Hearing (CLOSED)

2022-04-06 09:44

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chair of the Defense Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the United States Africa Command (CLOSED):

Today, we will receive testimony today from our witness, AFRICOM Commander Stephen Townsend. 

General, welcome back to the Subcommittee and we look forward to your testimony.

The Biden administration has released their new National Defense Strategy which continues to emphasize competition between great powers, with a particular emphasis on China.

But we also know that Chinese diplomatic, economic, and military activities are not contained to the Pacific theater.

Over the past two decades, China has significantly deepened its reach in Africa.

They have fostered extensive diplomatic engagement through 52 embassies, more than the United States has on the continent.

They have financed large infrastructure projects in Africa, made significant investments in African rare earth material extraction, and they have opened a military base in Djibouti.

In the midst of war returning to Europe after so many decades, we must also be wary of Russia’s increased presence elsewhere in the world.

And Africa is no stranger to Russian activities.

Russia is heavily invested in the African oil and gas industry, and they are ramping up trade with African nations as U.S. and European sanctions impact their economy.

Russia is also the top arms dealer in Africa, and Russia funds thousands of private security or mercenary soldiers throughout the region.

Russian mercenaries have deployed to Mali, Libya, Sudan, Mozambique and Madagascar in recent years, and have been a profoundly destabilizing presence.

The United States cannot view China and Russia as though their activities are contained to Europe and Asia.

They will continue to expand their influence in Africa, and we must make sure that the United States is there with a whole of government approach to meet this growing challenge.

We must continue to work with partner agencies like the Department of State and USAID to ensure that our diplomatic, development and economic bridges on the continent are strengthened.

This is particularly true when it comes to our efforts with the African Union  to resolve the conflict in Ethiopia, which has led to thousands of deaths and approximately two million refugees.

I have said this before, but I will say it again, we must provide more resources to whole of government activities in Africa, and we must be more engaged on the continent, not less.

General, I know you are prepared to discuss the threats China and Russia pose on the African continent, as well as how we must continue to be mindful of the threats the United States and faces from terrorism and violent extremism.

I hope we can have a robust discussion on these important topics, and we look forward to hearing your testimony.

But first, I would like to recognize our ranking member, Mr. Calvert, for his opening comments.

117th Congress