July 23, 2015
For decades, US policy largely ignored Africa. Even as a Cold War battleground, it remained peripheral to US policy. While Theodore Roosevelt famously traveled to Africa on a 1909 hunting safari, the first US president to visit sub-Saharan Africa was his cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt who stopped in Liberia briefly for an informal meeting, and used both Senegal and Gambia as transit stops for trips to and from the Middle East or Arab North Africa. While Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon visited North Africa, Jimmy Carter was the first US leader to make a state visit to sub-Saharan Africa when he visited Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s military leader, in 1978.
George H.W. Bush visited Somalia against the backdrop of US military action there, but it was not until Bill Clinton won the presidency, that US presidents began traveling more widely to Africa. When Clinton visited Senegal and Ghana in 1998, Africans across the region heard him declare that “the United States is ready to help you,” and the New York Times opined that Clinton’s “journey is a fine opportunity … to show that America’s support for democracy and development in Africa needs to be taken seriously.”
In total, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama each made two presidential trips to Africa, visiting 11 different countries between them. However, July 24 marks Obama’s third presidential trip to Africa, making him the first sitting US president to visit both Ethiopia and Kenya. Africa may not be the priority for whoever becomes president on January 20, 2017, but he or she will nevertheless face more policy decisions regarding Africa than any of his or her predecessors, for which these questions might guide thinking:
1. Do you assess Africa to be a success story? If so, why?
Read the full article at the American Enterprise Institute: 5 questions every presidential candidate should answer: Africa edition