Ambassador Makila James is a senior advisor within the Africa Center. Ambassador James formerly served as the deputy assistant secretary for East Africa and The Sudans at the Department of State from 2018-2020. Prior to that position, she was on the faculty of the National War College from 2016-2018 and served as the director of the International Student Management Office at the National Defense University (NDU) for eight months. She was the United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Eswatini from 2012-2015.

During Ambassador James’ 32-year foreign service career, she has held a variety of positions in Washington and overseas, including as the director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs (2010-2012), deputy director of the Office of Southern African Affairs (2007-2009) and principal officer of the Consulate General in Juba, Southern Sudan (2006-2007).

Previously, Ambassador James was a member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and was a research fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. She also served as an international relations officer in the Office of International Organization Affairs, desk officer in the Office of West African Affairs and as a watch officer in the State Department’s Operations Center. Her overseas assignments have included postings as political officer in Zimbabwe, political/economic officer in Nigeria and consular officer in Jamaica.

Ambassador James received a bachelor’s from Cornell University, a master’s in National Security Studies from NDU, and a juris doctorate from Columbia University. 

Publications By Makila

America Must Now Build the Partnership it Offered to Africa

America Must Now Build the Partnership it Offered to Africa

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

By: Ambassador Makila James

A month after leaders from 49 African states returned home from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, their region’s struggles have shifted back into their frequent place in global news headlines and discussion, often obscured by crises from Ukraine to China to the Middle East. So it’s a good moment to refocus on a specific “to-do list” for President Joe Biden’s vow that “the United States is ‘all in’” on the future of the continent with the world’s fastest-growing population. To be “all in” on Africa’s future requires concrete steps on at least six needs.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

U.S. and African Leaders Need to Focus on Democratization

U.S. and African Leaders Need to Focus on Democratization

Thursday, December 8, 2022

By: Ambassador Makila James;  Ambassador Terence P. McCulley;  USIP Staff

The U.S. government is gathering this month’s second U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit not least because the swiftly rising challenges of the 21st century are pushing Africa squarely to the center of global and U.S. interests. Managing increased violent conflict, climate degradation and human displacement all depend on a better U.S.-African partnership, one that shares an interest in strengthening the democratic rule of law within and among nations. Democracy has eroded, globally and in Africa, since the first U.S.-Africa summit eight years ago — but this month’s conference can reverse that pattern, say two USIP experts, both former ambassadors in Africa.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceGlobal Policy

Building a Peaceful Africa Through Arts, Culture and Heritage

Building a Peaceful Africa Through Arts, Culture and Heritage

Monday, July 26, 2021

By: Ambassador Makila James

Across the continent, Africans are increasingly using the arts to reimagine their world and reclaim public space to reflect on what a more peaceful and prosperous Africa could look like. Indeed, the African Union (AU) has prioritized art for only the second time in its history with its 2021 theme, “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want.” Leaders are hopeful that by channeling this surge in artistic expression, they can help create conditions to deliver peace to conflict-prone regions of the continent and implement the goals of the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Type: Blog

Nonviolent Action

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