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David Shinn has been teaching African affairs in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University since 2001. He previously served for thirty-seven years in the U.S. Foreign Service. His first overseas assignment was at the embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, followed by a tour as political officer in Nairobi, Kenya. He then served as the State Department desk officer for Somalia, Djibouti and assistant desk officer for Ethiopia before moving to the desk for Uganda and Tanzania. He was the political officer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, followed by deputy chief of mission in Nouakchott, Mauritania. The State Department then detailed Shinn to the mayor’s office in Seattle; he returned to Washington to serve as deputy and then acting director of the State Department’s Office for Liaison with State and Local Governments. Returning to Africa, he was the deputy chief of mission in Yaoundé, Cameroon before moving to Khartoum, Sudan, as deputy chief of mission.

Shinn returned to Washington to attend the State Department’s Senior Seminar after which President Reagan appointed him ambassador to Burkina Faso. He was assigned as a diplomat-in-residence at Southern University in Baton Rouge, followed by service in Washington on the Management Task Force. He became the State Department’s deputy task force director and then coordinator for Somalia during the U.S. intervention from 1992-1993. He served as director of the Office of East and Horn of Africa Affairs before being appointed by President Clinton as ambassador to Ethiopia. He finished his State Department career in 2000 as diplomat-in-residence at UCLA.

Shinn has a BA, MA and PhD from George Washington University and a certificate in African studies from Northwestern University. He is the co-author of China and Africa: A Century of Engagement (2012) and Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia, 2nd ed. (2013) and author of Hizmet in Africa: The Activities and Significance of the Gülen Movement (2015). He has authored numerous book chapters and articles in academic and policy journals. He speaks on China-Africa and African issues around the world and serves as an adviser or on the board of several non-governmental organizations. He maintains a blog with a focus on the Horn of Africa and China-Africa at He is married to Judy Shinn; they have two adult children.

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