“If you think you understand Africa, you haven’t been around it enough.”

These were the words of Major General Dagvin Anderson, the commander of Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA), at the recent Global SOF Foundation Symposium in Tampa, Florida last Wednesday. 

General Anderson, speaking virtually from his headquarters in Germany, broke down why Africa is rapidly becoming the focus of the near-peer competition between three of the world’s great powers and why the U.S. is showing a much greater interest in the continent recently.

The African continent is massive. It is three-four times larger than the United States and is comprised of multiple cultures and languages. The population of Africa is extremely young with approximately 40 percent of the 1.3 billion people on the continent being 15 years old or younger. Within the next 30 years, Africa’s population is expected to skyrocket to 2.4 billion.

The United States has had limited economic ties with African countries and other than humanitarian missions, most of the U.S. involvement with Africa consists of military missions, mainly in the counter-terrorism realm. The U.S. reduced its involvement in Africa under the Trump administration to focus on the “great power” competition with Russia and China. But in Africa, the competition with those powers is already underway.