The essential characteristic of the new African Command is the essentially political caretaker role that it is designated to have -- as opposed to a combat oriented command:
"The president has decided to stand up a new unified combatant command, Africa Command, to oversee security, cooperation, building partnership capability, defense support to nonmilitary missions, and, if directed, military operations on the African continent," Gates said. This command will enable us to have a more effective and integrated approach than the current arrangement of dividing Africa between Central Command and European Command, an outdated arrangement left over from the Cold War."Can't wait to see the new Joint Forces Command Shaping concept: this is what AfriCom will do.
Other, longer posts on African Command can be found here.