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Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States
Although Portuguese, French, Dutch, British, Belgian, and German involvement in Africa preceded that of the United States and exceeded it in scope, U.S. relations with Africa, influenced by our status as a former colony and our absence from the ranks of colonial powers, have long been affected by humanitarian considerations and cultural links. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, following participation in the slave trade, the United States began slowly and more positively to increase its involvement through the activities of missionaries, explorers, and commercial companies. World War II changed American perceptions and shifted U.S. priorities and policies. Africa, the "sleeping giant,' was beginning to awaken, bringing the realization that the United States and the rest of the world would soon have to consider its political and economic potential.
Having played a major role in drafting provisions of the UN Charter, which provided the philosophical base for the end of colonialism, the United States welcomed African independence. Since then, the United States has actively cooperated to promote economic development through bilateral and multilateral programs and in supporting enhanced regional security.
Africa is increasingly important to U.S. national interests.
Africa is a significant factor in multilateral politics. With its bloc of 46 nations (51 with North Africa), Africa can play an important, often decisive, role in international organizations and multilateral meetings.
The region possesses important natural resources--oil, copper, iron, bauxite, uranium, cobalt, chromium, platinum, manganese, gold, and diamonds.
Africa offers a growing field for trade and economic cooperation with the United States. The United States needs to buy African raw materials; Africa requires capital investment, new technology, managerial skills, and markets to develop other products.
The continent is strategically located. Many countries have deep-water ports, good airfields, and controlling positions in relation to major waterways and air corridors. The oil tanker routes from the Persian Gulf to Europe and the Americas pass through African waters. Thus, strategic cooperation with several African states is important to the exercise of U.S. global responsibilities.
Continuing regional conflicts make sub-Saharan Africa a potential arena for rivalry and confrontation between external powers.
North-South issues--raised by less developed African and other Third World countries concerned with economic disadvantages--could increase hostility and resentment toward the industrialized democracies; African economic stagnation could lead to greater instability and outside manipulation.
Africa assumes particular significance for Americans of African descent who are deeply concerned about the continent's problems.
Elements of U.S. Policy
Elements of U.S. foreign policy toward Africa have shifted from time to time, depending on the outlook of various administrations, changing congressional attitudes, and circumstances on the continent itself. However, in the past two decades a broad outline of U.S. policy has emerged that contains the following components.
Maintenance of Mutually Satisfactory Bilateral Political Relations. U.S. interests are compatible with African aspirations, and the United States has made major contributions to African development and stability. A principal U.S. objective in Africa is to maintain a climate of understanding and cooperation while encouraging restraint on the part of outside powers so that African states can devise their own solutions and maintain their independence. An important goal is to develop more constructive relations with those few African countries with which the United States has significant problems.
Opposition to Soviet-bloc Adventurism. The United States has tried to keep Africa from becoming an area of East-West strategic competition and conflict. The Soviets have not been similarly restrained, however. Soviet military advisers and Soviet-supported Cuban troops decisively influenced the outcome of the internal contest for power in Angola. More than 37,000 Cuban soldiers remain in Angola and Ethiopia. This situation generates apprehensions in neighboring countries and contributes to a deterioration of regional stability. Libya, with great quantities of Soviet arms, has supported subversion in many African countries and now occupies part of Chad.
Security Cooperation. Although most African states would prefer to avoid involvement in global political and security issues, it is all but impossible for them to do so when their own security is affected. Thus it is in the interest of the United States and several African countries to cooperate in helping to ensure regional security. This cooperation may involve U.S. access to African strategic facilities, such as ports and airfields, to help maintain the free flow of oil and other vital goods through the nearby sea routes. It also may include U.S. military assistance, both materiel and training, the African forces. Such assistance remains, nevertheless, a small fraction of our total assistance, which is chiefly economic.
U.S. Support for Civil and Human Rights Throughout Africa. The U.S. Government supports the establishment, maintenance, and extension of full civil and human rights and the rule of law to all peoples throughout the African Continent. The United States has taken the lead in working for a negotiated settlement for independence in Namibia and is encouraging the progressive dismantling of the apartheid system in South Africa. The United States has adopted specific measures against governments responsible for violations of their own citizens' human rights, for example, Uganda, South Africa, the Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea. For the most part, however, the United States promotes human rights through private diplomacy, which usually achieves the most direct benefits for the people affected.
Resolution of African Conflicts. Conflicts between or within Africa offer undesirable opportunities for foreign interference that may imperil regional stability and destroy the climate of confidence necessary for economic development and international cooperation. Thus, it is in the interest of the United States and African nations to contribute to the peaceful resolution of disputes.
Economic Cooperation. U.S. policy maintains a twofold approach to the economic crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. The United States provides emergency humanitarian aid to those in urgent need, whether victims of the widespread drought or of violent conflict. To promote long-term development, the U.S. Government seeks to encourage efficient African economic policies and to establish programs--for example, in infrastructure, agriculture, health, and education--that provide the basis for sound economic growth. It also works to expand African and U.S. private-sector economic activities.
The results of sub-Saharan Africa's first 20 years of independence have been mixed. Some of the former colonies have remained politically stable and have enjoyed economic growth rates above the global average. Among these are Kenya, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Botswana, and Cameroon. Others have experienced coups d'etat resulting in extended periods of military rule. Most African economies, however, have stagnated or declined, with growth rates now far behind the figures for population increase. Long civil wars and insurgencies have plagued some countries (Ethiopia, Chad) and others (Angola and Mozambique) still suffer from the traumatic passage to independence. Many nations have been devastated by natural catastrophes such as the widespread drought. All African nations--even the oil producers--still face a doubtful economic future caused not only by their own misguided policies but also by global inflation and uncertain oil and primary commodity markets. Clearly, the feeling of euphoria that seized Africans upon independence is past. Chastened by experience, sub-Saharan Africa today faces the future sobered by a realization that independence is only one step toward national well-being.
Throughout this turbulent ear, the United States, like the African nations themselves, has been learning the realities of the region. Since African independence, the American Government has sought to offer access to scientific, technological, and educational experience and has helped to provide the financial assistance necessary to fund development programs. Although the United States had relatively little experience in Africa before the 1960s, the record of American policy has been largely positive. Africa as a whole has not fallen prey to communism, as some once feared it might. Soviet gains on the continent generally have proved to be transitory, and Soviet opportunities have depended on local turmoil generating a demand for Soviet arms.
Development and stability normally are the first priorities of every African state. African governments are well aware that expanded trade opportunities and development capital, public or private, will come only from the West. Africa has welcomed U.S. assistance, and the majority of African governments …