The purpose of this chapter is to trace and assess the ways in which the United States has used multilateral institutions and multilateralism itself 1 to pursue its interests on the African continent. This is not such a straightforward endeavour as might be assumed. The topic of 'the US, multilateral institutions, and Africa' is ambiguous. Does it refer to how the US has used multilateral institutions of which it itself is a member—such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and the International Monetary Fund, for example—to pursue its objectives in Africa? Or does it refer to how the United States interacted with and influenced those multilateral institutions on the African continent itself and of which the US is not a member—such as the Organization of African Unity (OAU), for example? If we prefer to focus on the first, the degree of overlap with the chapters in this book dealing with US policies towards the UN, and with the WTO and the IMF, may be excessive. For that reason, I will limit references to how the US uses institutions of which it is a member in its policy towards Africa only to those instances and trends that are relevant for the broader evaluative argument of this chapter.
A choice in favour of the second option—namely, to focus on Africa's multilateral institutions and how the US interacts with them—is not without its problems either. US policy towards Africa was very much a bilateral, country-to-country affair for most of the period from 1946 to 2000. During the cold war, the US cultivated bilateral relations with specific African states as a counter for a perceived Soviet threat on the continent. 2 Overall, selective