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US Foreign Policy toward Africa in the New Millennium

Stefan Gänzle
University of Agder
Stefan Gänzle
University of Agder
Erik Lundsgaarde
Open Panel

Abstract

Many observers have argued that – in the aftermath of US embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998 and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 – the ways in which the US government views the African continent have changed, and that Washington has fundamentally redefined its conception of national interest and security in the region. Although the Bush administration significantly increased US foreign assistance and continued open-market initiatives for African products, Bush’s record in Africa is mixed at best. The creation of a new regional military command (AFRICOM) with a view to improving the ways the US deals with the continent in matters of defence and security, for instance, has seriously damaged the US image on the ground. New development initiatives such as the Millennium Challenge Account and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief have also tended to amplify rather than resolve longstanding deficits in the US foreign assistance system, including fragmentation at the level of both policy formulation and implementation. If one element of Bush’s legacy was increasing the attention to Africa in US foreign policy, there were high hopes that the Obama presidency would represent a new era in US-Africa relations characterised by even more comprehensive engagement. Arguing that US foreign policy vis-à-vis Africa has not yet witnessed a major shift, this paper assesses how the Obama administration has coped with the most important features of its predecessor’s legacy and how it has sought to shape new initiatives. The analysis focuses on initiatives in the area of security and defence policy and global development cooperation.