Meanwhile, the desire for partnership on the African continent has never been clearer, with a majority of nations signing onto the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and a growing number ratifying it. Combined with a proven connection to the homeland, and the US’s interest in the trade deal, this could be yet another opportunity for the African immigrant community to build influence over American foreign policy issues while educating US policymakers.

Of course, every stage of coalition building that would amount to greater political influence will cost money. Thus, African immigrants hoping to capitalize politically on their growing numbers will also need to spend time soliciting funds, whether in small or large contributions, to support the aforementioned goals.

Cultivating think tanks

Just about any political coalition’s efforts can be amplified with the establishment of a think-tank, or an analogous organization. Well-run think tanks are critical to the goal of gaining political influence because of their ability to emphasize, dissect, and clarify ideas and policy through rigorous analysis and research.

African-led think tanks can help lawmakers and the larger African immigrant community engage on the myriad of issues Africa faces—from protracted armed conflicts and the environmental factors that exacerbate them, to the intransigent political elite, to a younger generation seeking inclusive and equitable governance.

While a number of influential think tanks explore foreign policy, there is value to be created in a think tank led by Africans, who are likely to bring contemporary and realistic perspectives to the table, while also understanding the cultural and political perspectives back home. These think tanks also could serve as a place for African immigrants to develop their political voice, which by has been difficult to capture despite multi-generational population growth.

Turning out the vote

The foremost step on the road to organizing and establishing influence, of course, is through the ballot box. African immigrants and the larger African community must take the extra step to register to vote and make the time to do so in local, statewide, and federal elections. Given the patchwork of voter registration laws and recent changes in various state legislatures, there are different rules and eligibility criteria that one must follow in order to successfully register. As a result, grassroots activity is especially important to helping people to register and vote.

A number of Africa-focused political organizations including AfriPAC have been doing this work on a smaller scale. To have an effect beyond one jurisdiction, there needs to be state-by-state coordination to ensure that eligible voters are registered by the respective deadlines and encouraged to vote at the right times. Grassroots campaigns are the bedrock of any national strategy, and have been critical to landmark electoral races, such as the one that delivered US president Barrack Obama his victory in 2008.

African immigrants are poised to have influence in US policy making. The facts and figures clearly indicate an ascent. However, the path to greater self-determination within the American political system must be paved with focus, foresight, strategic coordination, and coalition building.

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