WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) will chair the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs during the 112th Congress after the committee unanimously approved its organizing resolution on Monday.

“I’m humbled and honored to have been entrusted with this responsibility by my colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee,” Senator Coons. “Africa is a continent of tremendous strategic global importance. The United States simply cannot afford to be disengaged from Africa given the threats it is confronting from Muslim extremism and the intense, ongoing competition for natural resources. I look forward to working with my colleagues to promote democracy and development on a continent that has long struggled to receive the attention and engagement from America and Europe that it has needed to thrive.”

“The challenges we face this year are enormous, and we have an outstanding group of subcommittee chairs to tackle the issues before us. Senator Coons is a welcome addition to the Committee,” said Chairman Kerry. “His experiences as a volunteer and relief worker living and working in Tanzania and Kenya will be invaluable as Chairman of the Subcommittee on African Affairs and we are fortunate that we can draw on his personal history as a resource. I’m glad we’ll have this opportunity to work together closely.”  

Senator Coons' interest in Africa blossomed during his junior year of college while participating in a study abroad program at the University of Nairobi, traveling throughout Kenya and Tanzania to further experience African culture. After college, Senator Coons advised U.S. corporations and universities on anti-apartheid divestiture strategies while working as a research analyst for the Investor Responsibility Research Center in Washington, D.C. Senator Coons subsequently returned to Kenya as a volunteer relief worker for the South African Council of Churches.

Senator Coons is the only freshman to be selected to chair a subcommittee during the 112th Congress.

The last time a freshman was appointed chair of a Foreign Relations subcommittee was in 2001, when George Allen was named chair of the Subcommittee on European Affairs. The last time a freshman Democrat was appointed to a Foreign Relations subcommittee chairmanship was in 1987 when Terry Sanford was named chair of the Subcommittee on International Economy, Policy, Trade, Oceans and the Environment.