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U.S. Africa Policy: Some Possible Course Adjustment

Authored by Ambassador Daniel H. Simpson. | August 1994

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Given the enormous diversity of the African continent, and the especially daunting economic, social and political problems its 53 countries and 800 million people present to a policymaker, it has always been a challenge for the United States to develop and implement a cogent policy towards Africa. It has always seemed somehow easier to formulate policy toward Europe, Asia, the Americas, and the Middle East. Given the complexity that the multi-piece African mosaic presents, the difficulty in defining strategic interests on the continent after the Cold War, and the economic weakness of most of its nations, there has also been over the years a tendency sometimes to give it a lower policy priority among regions. I can remember in previous years scanning hungrily Presidents' State-of-the-Union and foreign policy speeches and press conferences for reference to and guidance on African issues. Frequently it was slim pickings. It was with great interest that I noted that new Presidential National Security Adviser Anthony Lake made his first public speech in his new position on the subject of Africa (at Brookings, May 3, 1993), followed quickly by Secretary of State Warren Christopher, addressing the African-American Institute May 21, 1993, only four months into the new Administration.