Five Things Everyone Should Know about U.S. Policy Toward Africa | Freedom House

Five Things Everyone Should Know about U.S. Policy Toward Africa


1. There is a strategy

Word cloud of White House strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa.

The White House strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa, released in June 2012, has four objectives:

  • Strengthening democratic institutions;
  • Spurring economic growth, trade, and investment;
  • Advancing peace and security; and
  • Promoting opportunity and development.

The Obama administration’s greater emphasis on trade and investment differed from the Bush administration’s focus on humanitarian assistance.

2. There's more...

A market in the Rwandan capital city Kigali.
 | Photo Credit: Joachim Huber Flikr


The Obama administration has also launched three major initiatives:

  1. Power Africa: A $7 billion program to develop Africa’s energy sector by providing technical assistance, financing, and investment support.
  2. Trade Africa: A program to bolster intra-regional and global trade. The U.S. works to expand trade agreements, reduce barriers, and increase competitiveness among many of Africa’s leading economies.
  3. The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI): Hailed as President Obama’s flagship initiative in Africa, YALI builds the leadership skills of young Africans through exchanges in the U.S. The program seeks to nurture leaders who can propel economic growth and strengthen democratic institutions.


3. Extractive economies dominate trade

Acess the interctaive graphic
Chart: U.S. Trade with Sub-Saharan Africa (Millions Custom Value)

Although trade between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa has grown over the past decade, it accounts for less than 2 percent of all U.S. goods trade. The cornerstone of U.S.-Africa trade is the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which provides duty-free status for certain African imports. In 2013, however, 82 percent of the products imported under AGOA were petroleum products.


4. Security interests

Burundi soldiers in the Central African Republic. |  Photo Credit: U.S. Army

Over the past decade, U.S. military engagement and support in sub-Saharan Africa has largely focused on counterterrorism and antipiracy efforts. Between 2008 and 2015, sub-Saharan Africa will have received more than $4 billion in military aid. Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and South Sudan are among the largest recipients of this aid.

5. Democracy assistance is declining

Chart: U.S. democracy assistance by country.

After reaching its peak in 2010, U.S. democracy assistance has dropped nearly 20 percent over the past four years, to $257 million in 2013. The vast majority of this assistance has gone to South Sudan, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Democracy assistance for Africa is expected to decrease significantly in FY2015. This drop is partially due to other programs, including Power Africa, which will get money from USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.