Thomas M. Woods is a Senior Advisor at the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty. He is also the Senior Associate Fellow in the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
Mr. Woods is a leading expert on U.S.-Africa relations, human and economic development, and political and security issues involving the continent. He is also President of Woods International, a private sector consulting firm focused on economic growth strategies and public-private partnerships for African development.
Before joining The Heritage Foundation in 2008, Mr. Woods served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and led U.S. engagement with 25 countries in west and southern Africa. He also led U.S. economic policy toward Africa, including trade and investment issues. He has been instrumental in shaping U.S. policy on Africa and driving the change from a focus on aid to a focus on trade partnership.
In addition, Mr. Woods led American engagement on Africa energy security by establishing an inter-agency committee for policy and program development. He also chaired the first Bilateral Conference on U.S.-Nigeria Energy Cooperation. Mr. Woods helped develop the first major public/private partnership between leading oil companies, donors and the Nigerian government to reduce violent conflict in the Niger Delta.
Mr. Woods provided essential leadership as the U.S. directed a global coalition in post-conflict Liberia. He led a team that achieved strong resource commitments from the European Union, World Bank and International Monetary Fund in support of demobilization, reintegration, community development, and institution building. Mr. Woods also supervised preparations for the 2005 Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Conference in Senegal, which was attended by more than 80 ministers of trade and foreign affairs. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended as part of her first Africa visit while in office.
Prior to serving at the State Department, Mr. Woods was the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In this role, he oversaw the agency's more than $1 billion Africa development budget, and he brought new focus to revitalizing Africa's agricultural sector. He led the promotion of major public/private partnerships through USAID's Global Development Alliance initiative. Mr. Woods also managed significant mission staff restructuring and budget prioritization to create greater alignment with U.S. foreign policy objectives.
Mr. Woods has also served as the State Department's Officer in Charge for Democracy and Human Rights in Africa. In this position, he directed U.S. policy and programs throughout the continent during a time of unprecedented gains in multiparty democracy.
Mr. Woods is the recipient of numerous State Department awards, including Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards. He began his government career as a Presidential Management Fellow within the State Department Bureau of African Affairs.
Mr. Woods worked as a foreign policy advisor to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1995-1998, and has remained deeply engaged in supporting the faith community's role in foreign assistance and poverty alleviation.
Mr. Woods received a bachelor's degree in international studies and economics with highest honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also has a Master's Degree International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.