2021 – Africa’s Role in the Contemporary World

Omaha Forum
Monday, October 25, 2021 and

Lincoln Forum
Tuesday, October 26, 2021


Africa is the only world region which will undergo a dramatic population increase by mid-century – with a doubling by 2050. This “Youth Tsunami” will represent either a significant force for economic growth and improved living conditions in Africa, or increased global terrorism, instability, and migration flows. In either case, the policies adopted now – by both the international community and African Governments – will determine which course the Continent follows. Yet Africa is currently the continent least understood by Americans; the perception – which is unfortunately amplified by Western media – is of a land of war, famine, and pestilence. But the reality is much more complex and nuanced. While no single panel can cover the myriad of issues in Africa’s 56 countries, three major themes form the basis for the discussion of the Ambassadors Forum of 2021.

Ambassador Wanda Nesbitt will speak on the topic of Economics and the Chinese Paradox:

Thanks to technology, Africa’s youth have the same expectations as young people on other continents. Their opportunity for jobs will be one of the key factors for whether African states move more toward improved livelihoods or toward a darker future. Development assistance has been unable to lead to development. Meanwhile, Africa’s investment climate remains problematic. How might one sort out the challenges of assistance, grants vs. loans, tough reform conditions and humanitarian aid? Where does China fit in the mix with its controversial investments and loans?

Ambassador Tibor Nagy will speak on the topic of Environment and Climate:

Environmental challenges are rising throughout the continent, impacting agriculture and seacoasts, as well as triggering conflicts. Many necessary policy responses lie outside African nations. But is Africa only a victim, or are there policies African states themselves could use to meet the challenge?

Ambassador Stuart Symington will speak on the topic of Conflicts and Stability:

Improving the economic environment and governance is impossible without peace and security. Yet it is often lack of opportunities and poor governance which nurture conflicts. While Africa’s overall stability has improved over the last several decades, a number of problematic conflicts remain unresolved and extremist violence is rapidly increasing in several regions.


Wanda Nesbitt

Ambassador Wanda L. Nesbitt most recently served as the Dean of the School of Language Studies. She holds the rank of Career Minister in the U.S. Foreign Service. She joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1981 as a consular cone officer. She served as U.S. Ambassador to Madagascar from 2001 to 2004 and U.S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire from 2007 to 2010. In 2010, President Obama nominated and the Senate confirmed her as Ambassador to the Republic of Namibia. She also served as Senior Vice President at the National Defense University.


Tibor Nagy

Tibor P. Nagy - WikipediaAmbassador Tibor P. Nagy, Jr. is currently serving as Assistant Secretary on the Bureau of African Affairs for the U.S. State Department

During the 2002 academic year he was the Department of State’s “Diplomat in Residence” at the University of Oklahoma.

Previously he was the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia from 1999-2002, and Ambassador to Guinea from 1996-1999.

Before that, he attended the Department of State’s prestigious Senior Seminar. (During this year, Ambassador Nagy lectured extensively at educational institutions and to civic groups around the U.S. about U.S. foreign policy, Africa, diplomatic careers and Foreign Service life.)

Ambassador Nagy joined the Foreign Service in 1978 as a management analyst in the Bureau of Personnel. His first overseas assignment was as General Services Officer in Lusaka, Zambia from 1979-1981.

After that, he was assigned to Victoria, Seychelles, for two years as Administrative Officer. He served as Systems Administrator for the African Bureau in Washington from 1983-84 and then returned overseas as Administrative Officer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 1984-86. For the next eight years, he was Deputy Chief of Mission at Lome, Togo (1987-90); Yaounde, Cameroon (1990-93); and Lagos, Nigeria (1993-95).

Ambassador Nagy was born in Budapest, Hungary on April 29, 1949 and arrived in the United States as a political refugee in 1957. He received a B.A. from Texas Tech University in 1972 and an M.S.A. from George Washington University in 1978.

He speaks Hungarian and French, and has received numerous awards, including the Department of State’s “Superior Honor” award, five “Meritorious Honor” awards as well as being runner-up for the prestigious “Deputy Chief of Mission of the Year” award.

Ambassador Nagy is a resident of Texas, and is married to Eva Jane Nagy. The Nagys have two sons and a daughter: Peter, Stephen, and Tisza.

Stuart Symington 

W. Stuart Symington IV is the former United States Ambassador to Nigeria from 2016 to 2019. Previously, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Africa and African Security Affairs (2015-2016), U.S. Special Representative for the Central African Republic (2014-2016 and Political Advisor to the Commander NORAD/US Northern Command 2011-2014). He served as Ambassador to Rwanda (2008-2011), Ambassador to Djibouti 2006-2008), and Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge’ d’affaires in Niger (2001-2003). He was also United States Department of State’s Representative at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia from 2005-06, Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq from 2004-05, and Deputy Director of the Department’s Office of West African Affairs from 2003-05.

Earlier in his career, Symington served in Ecuador, Mexico, Spain and Honduras and as a Pearson Fellow in the Office of U.S. Congressman Ike Skelton. Before joining the Department of State he practiced law in Missouri, New York, London, and Paris.

Symington received a B.A. from Brown University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. He and his spouse Susan Ide Symington have been married for 40 years.

Ronald E. Neumann 

Formerly a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Ronald E. Neumann served three times as Ambassador; to Algeria, Bahrain and finally to Afghanistan from July 2005 to April 2007. Before Afghanistan, Mr. Neumann, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, served in Baghdad from February 2004 with the Coalition Provisional Authority and then as Embassy Baghdad’s liaison with the Multinational Command, where he was deeply involved in coordinating the political part of military actions.

Prior to working in Iraq, he was Ambassador in Manama, Bahrain (2001-2004), Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near East Affairs (1997-2000) with responsibility for North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and Ambassador to Algeria (1994 to 1997). He was Director of the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs (Iran and Iraq; 1991 to 1994). Earlier in his career, he was Deputy Chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and in Sanaa in Yemen, Principal Officer in Tabriz, Iran and Economic/Commercial Officer in Dakar, Senegal. His previous Washington assignments include service as Jordan Desk officer, Staff Assistant in the Middle East (NEA) Bureau, and Political Officer in the Office of Southern European Affairs.

Ambassador Neumann is the author of a memoir, Three Embassies, Four Wars: a personal memoir (2017) and The Other War: Winning and Losing in Afghanistan (Potomac Press, 2009), a book on his time in Afghanistan. He has returned to Afghanistan repeatedly and is the author of a number of monographs, articles, and editorials. His writings have focused most heavily on Afghanistan, stabilization, and Bahrain. At the Academy he has focused particularly on efforts to maintain adequate State and USAID budgets and staffing and upgrade professional formation to enable these institutions to carry out their responsibilities. Ambassador Neumann is on the Advisory Board of a non-profit girls’ school in Afghanistan, the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) and the Advisory Board of Spirit of America. He is on the board of the Middle East Policy Council and the Advisory Council of the World Affairs Councils of America.

Ambassador Neumann speaks some Arabic and Dari as well as French. He received State Department Superior Honor Awards in 1993 and 1990. He was an Army infantry officer in Viet Nam and holds a Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal and Combat Infantry Badge. In Baghdad, he was awarded the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. He earned a B.A. in history and an M.A. in political science from the University of California at Riverside and is a graduate of the National War College. He is married to the former M. Elaine Grimm. They have two children.