Secretary Clinton Visits Africa

Last week, in anticipation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Africa, I offered a few thoughts as to the Obama administration’s emerging policies toward Africa. Press coverage around the start of Secretary Clinton’s visit offers an opportunity to expand on those thoughts.

Africa’s Importance

First of all, Clinton’s itinerary reinforces Washington’s show of increased consideration toward Africa. Clinton will visit what are arguably the three highest-profile countries on the continent, South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya and, as the BBC says, will also visit the “post-conflict states” of Liberia, DRC, and Angola “to show US support.” Of course, Angola, Nigeria, and other countries on the list are also major energy producers. Her trip will conclude with a stop in Cape Verde.

Analysts quoted in the Christian Science Monitor add some details to this picture, arguing that the trip will simultaneously allow the US to compete with China for influence in Africa, communicate a new approach to African leaders, and work to resolve conflicts.

US-Africa Trade

Second, as indicated above, economic concerns – and rivalries – are paramount. In Nairobi Clinton is addressing a US-African forum on trade, and her visits to Nigeria and Angola come quickly on the heels of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s visit there in late June.


Third – and maybe this is my own bias – I think US policymakers are worried about Somalia. The issue ranks as a priority in Clinton’s visit. In Nairobi she will meet with Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and “is expected to announce the allocation of additional aid to the Somali government, including in the form of arms to fight the extremists.” Reuters adds that “she is also likely to have harsh words for Eritrea for its alleged meddling in Somalia.”

Prelude to Increased Contact?

Regardless of what Clinton’s goals are for this trip, its significance will wax or wane depending on how the administration follows up on it. The overarching purpose of this trip may simply be to continue the outreach President Obama began in Ghana. I will be curious to see how the administration builds, in turn, on this effort by Secretary Clinton.

5 thoughts on “Secretary Clinton Visits Africa

  1. Do you think any of the agenda will be devoted to reassurances about development remaining a priority for the US despite not having a head for USAID yet? I would think that in countries like DRC and Kenya, which are major recipients of foreign aid as well as major sinkholes for conflict and corruption and all the rest, she is going to be giving some assurances that the spigot will not be turned off even if USAID is now being managed within the State Department and without resources or senior-level staff.

    • Great question, and what you say makes sense. I don’t have a great answer for you, though. I imagine that development is still a priority, and Clinton has pledged more aid for Somalia for example, but it seems to me that she is emphasizing language about “partnership,” trade, and political progress more than she is speaking about development. In South Africa, she’s made headlines for her efforts to pressure South Africa in regards to Zimbabwe. We’ll see what she says when she gets to DRC I guess.

      If you hear more about what she says on development, let me know.

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