A retired career diplomat and specialist in African and European affairs, Ambassador Herman J. Cohen is president of Cohen and Woods International. Established in 1994, the firm provides strategic planning services to African and Middle Eastern governments and multinational corporations doing business in Africa and the Middle East. The firm is a member of the United States Corporate Council on Africa. Cohen's consulting activities include the development of energy-intensive industries in the Republic of the Congo, the mining of bitumen from oil sands in Nigeria, and the promotion of private investment in the Republic of Mauritania.
Cohen retired from the U.S. Department of State in 1993. His last position was assistant secretary of state for African affairs under President George H.W. Bush (1989–1993). During his 38-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service, he served in five African countries and twice in France. He was the ambassador to Senegal, with dual accreditation to the Gambia, from 1977 to 1980. During assignments in Washington, he also served as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan (1987–1989), principal deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and research, and principal deputy assistant secretary for personnel.
From 1994 to 1998, under contract to the World Bank, Cohen was a senior advisor to the Global Coalition for Africa, an intergovernmental policy forum that works to achieve consensus between donor and African governments on economic policy.
Cohen is a member of the boards of directors of the Council for a Community of Democracies and the Constituency for Africa. He has been a professorial lecturer in foreign policy studies at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies since 1998. He is a member of the panel on Transatlantic Relations of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. He is the author of a book on conflict resolution in Africa entitled Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent (2000). This book won the award for distinguished writing on diplomatic practice for the year 2000 from the American Academy of Diplomacy.
Cohen received a bachelor's degree in political science from the City College of New York (1953) and a master's degree in international relations from the American University (1962).
Cohen's honors and awards include the French Legion of Honor, the Belgian Order of Leopold II, the U.S. Foreign Service rank of Career Ambassador, and the Townsend Harris Distinguished Alumni Award of the City College of New York. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Diplomacy.