South Africa and the United States: A new policy agenda for Africa?

This document describes the end of an ambivalent period in American policy towards Africa. An issue of US foreign policy that receives bipartisan political support is Africa. This policy shift is underpinned by two initiatives: the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the revitalised African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI). The first aims at increasing economic development and US investment in sub-Saharan Africa, and the second is designed to enhance African conflict resolution capabilities and is put forward as a means to resolve continental security issues. The change in policy towards Africa reflects recognition that the continent represents an area in transition. However, the greatest challenge to this optimistic mood comes in the shape of Nigeria, where South Africa’s contribution could encourage Nigeria’s military leadership towards democracy. Weaknesses in current US policy towards Africa lie in the dearth of knowledge and understanding of African issues. However, senior US policy-makers see the continent as an area of opportunity. Whatever the outcome, South Africa is expected to play a pivotal role in the new era of US-African relations.