Ambassador Johnnie Carson was confirmed on the floor of the U.S. Senate and was sworn in Wednesday evening as the assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Following his April 29 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he received a unanimous voice vote of approval.
The assistant secretary's first official duty is to join a U.S. delegation to South Africa to meet with newly elected President Jacob Zuma.
Carson has extensive diplomatic experience in Africa. He served as ambassador to Uganda, Zimbabwe and Kenya and held other Foreign Service appointments in Botswana, Mozambique and Nigeria. The career diplomat first went to Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania.
The text of Secretary Carson's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee follows:
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, it is an honor to appear before you today as President Obama's nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. I am extremely pleased to have been nominated for this position and I thank the President and the Secretary of State for the confidence they have shown in me. In recent years U.S. policy towards Africa has generally been built around broad, bipartisan consensus. If confirmed, I want to continue that practice, and maintain a constructive dialogue between the Congress and the Executive Branch. I look forward to working with the Congress, and particularly this Committee, to strengthen U.S.-African relations and to working in partnership with African leaders in and outside of government to expand their democratic institutions, to grow their economies and to end the civil strife that has paralyzed development in some parts of Africa.
Mr. Chairman, my professional interest and service in Africa spans nearly forty years. I was a part of that generation inspired by the now famous words of President John F. Kennedy – "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." I began my overseas experience in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, where I lived and taught in a small village for three years. I entered the Foreign Service shortly after my Peace Corps tour ended. In over three decades in the State Department, I had the privilege of serving in six different African countries and in three of those countries, as the U.S. ambassador. On various assignments and trips abroad, I have managed to travel to 40 of sub-Saharan Africa's 48 states.
Mr. Chairman, my years of service across the continent have given me a deep respect for Africa's people, their rich history and culture and the challenges they face today in a world of rapid globalization, technological advances and climate change. I also have a deep respect for all the dedicated men and women who work at the State Department -- the Foreign Service officers, the Civil Servants and the Foreign Service Nationals, especially those in the Africa Bureau. That respect also extends to my colleagues in the U.S. Agency for International Development. Service in Africa can be exciting and rewarding, but it can also be difficult and dangerous. I am reminded of that every time I walk into the State Department lobby or get off of an airplane in Nairobi or Dar es Salaam. I applaud my colleagues for their dedication and work and I look forward to leading the State Department's Africa team.
Africa is important to the United States for a number of reasons. Our history and our heritage are directly linked to Africa. Over thirteen percent of America's population is of African origin, including our current president. But our interests and concern in Africa reach far beyond ethnicity and national origin and are based on our fundamental interests in promoting peace and stability, democratic rule and good governance and sustained economic growth across the continent – the absence of which invariably impacts the United States. We also see Africa as a major trading partner, especially in the area of hydrocarbons. Fifteen percent of America's oil comes from Africa and the continent supplies the majority of the liquefied natural gas consumed by the eastern United States. Africa's economic potential is vast and its importance as a trading partner will continue to grow.