Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama traveled to Africa to demonstrate his commitment to putting nations there back at the center of U.S. foreign policy. In a speech to the Ghanaian Parliament in July of that year, the president said the U.S. would work tirelessly with Africans to advance democracy, improve health care, promote economic growth, resolve conflict and address transnational challenges such as terrorism, human trafficking and international crime.
Two years on, the United States has fulfilled that pledge. New strategic partnerships with Nigeria, South Africa and Angola, continued efforts to help bring peace to Somalia, humanitarian aid to the people of Zimbabwe and other troubled nations, and diplomatic efforts with others in the international community to help leaders in Northern and Southern Sudan implement provisions of the 2005 peace accord all speak to the important role Africa plays in U.S. international affairs. Now U.S. officials want to put even greater emphasis on Africa in 2011 and 2012.
One of the ways in which Africa is at the center of U.S. foreign policy is our commitment to find new models for development. For too long, the U.S. and Africa have had something of a donor/client relationship. Moving ahead, the U.S. will be looking for new models to do business. Rather than designing an aid or development program in Washington in a manner of one-size-fits-all, the emphasis will be to go to our partners abroad first and ask what are they doing for themselves that seems to be working, and how may we help.
The U.S. is seeking other new approaches to working with the people of Africa as well. In addition to the traditional bilateral diplomacy in which we relate to a nation's foreign ministry, the U.S. wants to develop better connections and engage with its young people, women and entrepreneurs. These are the future of Africa, and the United States is committed to that as well.