by Tisha Swart-Entwistle Combined Arms Center Public Affairs OfficeArmy University Provost Brig Gen. Stephen Maranian kicked off the Cultural and Area Studies Office panel discussion on "Cultural and Soft Power Influences of China, Russia and France in Africa" Sept. 25, 2019 in the Lewis and Clark Center's Arnold Conference Room, Fort Leavenworth Kan.Maranian said that CASO Director and panel moderator, Dr. Mahir Ibrahimov, had put together a great panel to discuss the various influences by different foreign powers in Africa because the region is changing so quickly."The global and regional power competition for influence in this strategically important region continues to increase and that's what makes the discussion of the mission and vision of the CASO especially important today," Maranian said.Per Ibrahimov's direction, the panel discussed the influence of China, Russia and France in Africa in the context of U.S. interests. France was added to the discussion because of the country's historic role in the region Ibrahimov said.The panel members included Amb. David Shinn, Dr. Joshua Eisenman and Roderic C. Jackson.Shinn has more than 37 years in the United States Foreign Service and is the former ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. He is currently an adjunct professor for the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.Shinn first talked about China's interests in Africa and clarified the word 'interest' as what China wants from Africa, not what China can do for Africa.China has five 'hard' interests in Africa according to Shinn including: access to raw materials, increasing exports to Africa, political support from African countries, ending Taiwan's diplomatic presence in Africa and minimizing the impact of terrorism, international crime, narcotics trafficking, piracy and pandemic disease in Africa so they do not harm China's interests in Africa or China.Switching to Russia, Shinn summarized how he sees the current relationship between Russia and the African countries, much of which is still based on Cold War era diplomacy. In October of this year Russia will be hosting the first ever Africa-Russia summit in Sochi."This is an effort to replicate the forum on China-Africa cooperation which has now met seven times since 2000," Shinn said. "This could herald the beginning of a significantly stronger Russia-African relationship for the first time since the end of the cold war. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the Sochi meeting."Eisenman is an associate professor of global affairs for the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame and senior fellow for China studies for the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC. He began by pointing out that prioritization matters."China prioritizes Africa… and we simply do not," Eisenman said. "For us, Africa is the bottom of the priority list and for China, it's not."Eisenman showed two photos from his recent trip to Africa with Shinn, the African Union Headquarters that was built by China and a Chinese market in South Africa."China is in Africa from the very top to the very bottom," Eisenman said. "There is a wide spectrum of what they are doing on the continent."Jackson is the Defense Intelligence Chair and Defense Intelligence Agency Representative to the Combined Arms Center and Army University and has more than 30 years of experience in national security affairs with long-term interest in African security.Jackson said the bottom line to France's soft power in Africa is that it furthers the French military's ability to pursue nation policy objectives on the continent."At the same time it brings security benefits to the Africans, the French and it also has a transitory effect to the U.S. government," Jackson said.The CASO panels are one part of the outreach the program organizes in support of its mission of engaging CGSC constituencies concerning the importance of cultural, political, economic and social factors shaping the operational environment."This type of venue creates a sustainable advantage for the United States and our partners to bring together experts and talk about things that focus in an area that we may or may not get to in detail in the classroom," Maranian said.For more information on the CASO program visit the website at To view the full recording of the panel use the following link to the video on the Command and General Staff College Facebook page: