The Conversation, 25 November 2020, photo credit: YPARD
Donald Trump was propelled to the US presidency by promising to rewrite globalisation rules. This included restricting trade when it directly hurt the US, clamping down on immigration, and reducing commitments to the global order. His administration’s “America First” foreign policy also meant disengaging from its obligations to Africa, which he infamously referred to as “shit-hole countries”.
Historically, the US foreign policy approach to Africa could be classified as benign neglect. This was characterised by a general lack of interest in the continent in the pre–World War II era. After World War II, US policy involved engaging or disengaging with individual countries, mostly defined in terms of counteracting the Soviet Union’s attempt to gain influence in the region.
A serious and sustained US–Africa engagement began under the Clinton administration. It subsequently deepened with significant bipartisan support. Indeed, the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations saw a remarkable continuity in both the Congress and the White House on the US agenda in Africa.