Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

Us - Africa Policy under the Obama Presidency

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

Us - Africa Policy under the Obama Presidency

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Any discussion of United States (US) foreign policy toward Africa must examine the role the Cold War played as an ideological contest through proxy wars orchestrated by the US and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and how the Cold War affected the evolution of the US-Africa relationship. This period lasted between1948 and 1991. At the height of the Cold War, the process of decolonization was in full gear. By 1960, a majority of Europe's African colonies had political freedom or were in the process of becoming independent. These newly independent countries found themselves caught up in Cold War dynamics simply because Western European countries were allies of the US. Since one of the Cold War policy priorities of the US during this period was to contain Soviet Communism anywhere around the world, African countries and colonies quickly became pawns in this ideological struggle. As Gordon and Miller (1998) point out "[during] the cold war, Africa mattered because the region could be connected to the central concern of the US foreign policy - containing Communist expansion in every corner of the globe. This provided a framework for the broad presence of the United States all over Africa and for generous assistance programs to countries such as Tanzania and Zimbabwe. " [1] Furthermore, "until the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, regional development in Africa - especially in the Horn of Africa was dictated by the geopolitical interests of the US and the USSR, the two main players of the cold war." [2] The Cold War drama played out throughout the African continent with countries switching their ideological allegiance from one superpower to the other often with the tacit support of the superpowers themselves. According to Harris (1998), "For the first twenty-five years or so after independence, the following countries switched ties, when the pressure became great, between the United States and the Soviet Union: Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia. " [3] This is the background from which to understand the evolution and state of relations between the US and Africa.

This paper will examine not only the Obama administration's Africa policy, but will do so by surveying US foreign relations with African countries from 1960 to the present. What are some dynamics that have governed US policy toward Africa? When candidate Senator Barack Obama became the standard bearer for the Democratic Party, there was an atmosphere of inevitability all across the US and around the world that he would win the White House. It was a perfect storm of an election for Obama, and when the dust settled with Obama's election, the US seemed poised for an image change internationally; but, perhaps more importantly, Africa observers saw a big window of opportunity for the US to reassess its relations with Africa because according to Johnnie Carson, "President Obama has a strong interest in Africa and has prioritized Africa among our top foreign policy concerns...The President's visit to Ghana in July [2009] was the earliest visit made by a US president to the continent. [4]" So Obama's election loomed even larger for the millions of Africans on the continent who saw his election as a very welcomed development on several scores.

Thus, in this article, President Obama's Africa policy will be viewed from its distinct areas of importance and impact: trade, security, and the humanitarian area. The article will give some background on US-Africa policy during the Cold War and then review these important developments under President Obama in the still evolving post-Cold War era.

The people of Africa see Obama as one of their own because the president's father was African (from Kenya). This fact was not missed by Africans and it was celebrated across the continent following Obama's election. African leaders from South Africa to Kenya swiftly sent their congratulatory messages to the American president-elect. [5] After all, while he was a US Senator, Obama told the Congressional Black Caucus following his return trip to Africa that "One of the striking things about traveling through Africa is everybody says that the United States absence is as noticeable and prominent as the Chinese 's presence. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.