Editor’s note: In a post to the Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog, Mwangi Kimenyi argues that President Obama should seek to build mutually beneficial American partnerships with African countries for a chance at leaving a U.S. legacy in the continent.
Africa has never really been a priority for U.S. policymakers. Although U.S.-Africa commercial engagement has improved over the past decade, Africa remains of little significance to the United States in terms of trade and investments. With the exception of Egypt, Africa is not considered vital to U.S. national security, and its involvement in the continent has generally been in response to crisis situations such as civil wars, diseases and famines.
While the U.S. has supported aid for Africa, there is no relationship between aid and the developmental needs of African countries and their people. In 2009, the U.S. provided $8.2bn in foreign assistance to 47 African countries, including $1.5bn for Egypt, a country considered vital to U.S. security interests.