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This paper examined trends in the United States-Africa relations in the Post-Cold War era and also critically examined the various foreign policies of the United States in relations to Africa with the ultimate aim of identifying the policies that were continued and those that were changed. Some scholars argue that there has been no significant difference in the Cold War and Post-Cold War relations while others argue that the United States interest has changed. The findings of this work shows that even though the foreign policies of the United States‘ pertaining to Africa have continued to change, the interests of the United States have not really witnessed any significant changes. This research work adopts the descriptive and analytical approach to examine Africa‘s internal dynamics in areas such as security, trade, foreign assistance, terrorism, democracy and governance. The research work is based on Dependency Theory and Constructivism Theory and focuses on the different Post-Cold War administrations of the United States using their foreign policy initiatives.





The United States (US) relation with the African continent began in 1565 when the first set of slaves landed in Florida. Between 1798 and 1808, approximately 200,000 slaves were brought to America. At the other end, private missionaries and educators immigrated to Africa to offer support services and advance the cause of their faith to Africans. It was not until 1808 that the US officially outlawed the slave trade. Indeed, several attempts were made by African Americans through the American Colonization Society to return Africans to

Africa notably in 1816, 1819 and extend some form of liberty to African Americans in 1865. These movements contributed largely to the founding of Liberia in 1822 as an American colony. The colony became independent in 1847 and in 1862, the United States established diplomatic relations with Liberia. The 1941 declaration of the Atlantic Charter calling for the freedom of nations was equally seized upon by Africans to kick-start liberation movements across Africa against their colonial overlords. In 1914, Marcus Garvey, created the Universal Negro Improvement Association to agitate for improved conditions of African American and the momentum was extended to cover addressing the plights of blacks globally. Other notable figures included W.E.B. DuBois, Kwame Nkrumah who championed the Pan-African movements through continental and international congresses especially in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

U.S Africa policies from the founding of the republic in 1776 have been marked by indifference and neglect (Lawson, 2007). The year 1958 was the year marking official recognition of Africa through the creation of the state‘s department Africa Bureau serving as a convenient starting point. Prior to this period, the relationship between the US and Africa was characterized by slave trade and slave relationships. However, since The Cold War period is the period of ideological tussle between the two power blocs in the international system which were the United States with the ideology of capitalism on the one hand, and the USSR, the ideologies of these superpowers dominated international politics for the period from 1945-1990.There have been relations between the United States and Africa during the

Cold War and even after it. As African countries became independent from the 1950‘s the U.S deemed it fit to rethink its foreign policy towards them. This, among other factors is as a result of the struggle for ideological supremacy at that time, between them (the United States) and the Soviet Union. The US leaders at that time were deeply concerned on whether the newly independent African states will turn to the west (Washington) or East(Moscow) for sympathy and assistance in finding their place in the international system. In order to prevent what was seen as the decline of U.S prestige in Africa, Senator F. Kennedy advised that the

US had better embark on a bold and imaginative programme that would aid development in Africa. (Kennedy, 1950 cited in Lawson 2007)

During the cold war, the U.S foreign policy towards Africa had little to do with Africa. African countries were pawns in the global chess game. Republican and democratic governments‘ alike supported American clients and sought to undermine soviet ones. Economic and military assistance was rendered to the allies such as Mobutu Sesse Seko of Zaire as well as Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and anti-communist rebel organization such as

Janas Savimbo‘s UNITA (Uniao Nacuonal para a Indepndence Total de Angola) in Angola. Due to the little interest perceived by the U.S, the relationship between the U.S and Africa was mainly characterized by cold war logic from the 1950‘s to the 1980‘s.




Post-Cold War Relations 

As the cold war came to an end, with the U.S assuming victory due to the collapse of the defunct Soviet Union, African watchers, researchers as well as scholars began to ponder the future of U.S relations with the African continent.

Idealists hoped that the United States would now be free to pursue policies that would address Africa’s own problems, most of which were traced to the failure of economic development, authoritarian governance, and/or ongoing conflicts, while realists feared that

Africa would become even more marginalized (Lawson, 2007). Indeed, the end of the Cold War eroded the strategic importance of African countries within US foreign policy. Geographic areas elsewhere, perceived as more critical to US economic and security interests, became more central to US foreign policy engagement, i.e. the Middle East, Central America and South East Asia became more critical foreign policy priorities.

Summarily, the United States policies towards Africa, with the end of the cold war, have been more clearly defined along five subsisting pillars. These are to: strengthen democratic institutions; spur economic growth, trade, and investment; advance peace and security; and promote opportunity and development. Across these broad objectives,  the US seek to deepen it‘s engagement with Africa‘s young leaders; empower marginalized populations and women; address the unique needs of fragile and post-conflict states; and work closely with the U.N. and other multilateral actors to achieve its objectives on the continent. (Obama, 2014)

1.2 Statement of Problem

Historically, the  relationship between the African continent and the United States did not take any basic stance until the cold war era in which the US and Soviet Union tried to foster relationship with the newly emerging African states in order to form alliances with them. It was during the Cold War that the relationship grew as the African countries were used as tools in the hands of the super powers hence, the U.S sought the cooperation of African states to settle its cold war politics. African issues were never really considered. After the Cold War, the need to proffer solution to African problems could not be over-emphasized. There were policies embedded in US-Africa relations that promote cordial and beneficial interests of the two parties, there were also policies that severed relations and restrained the U.S relationship with some African states for example; U.S-Libya, US-South Africa, U.S-Nigeria.

This research examines the areas in which there have been continuity as well as changes in the U.S – Africa policy since the end of the Cold War as well as other issues relating to human and state security.


1.3 Objective of Study

The main objectives of this study are

  1. To identify the areas of continuity and the areas of change in the U.S and Africa relation, examining the various post-cold war administrations.
  2. To examine the factors responsible for the continuities and changes in the U.S –

Africa policies

1.4 Research Hypothesis

The US-Africa relations has been characterized by continuities and changes during and after the cold war.

1.5 Research Questions

  1. What constitutes continuities and changes in U.S-Africa relations/policies since the end of the cold war?
  2. What factors are responsible for changes and continuity in U.S-Africa


1.6 Significance of Study       

The purpose of this research is to examine the relationship between the United States and Africa in the Post-Cold War. Such relationship has been characterized by ambivalent and commitment. It is important to examine and analyse the rationale for changes and continuity in US-Africa policies. It is by examining the fluctuations in this bilateral relationship that scholarship can come to terms with holistic explanation of the changes and continuity.


1.7 Scope and Limitations to the study

Within the Post- Cold War era, this study will focus on the period between 1990 and 2014.

1.8 Organization of study

This study will be organized in 5 chapters.

Chapter one will contain the background to the study, the statement of problem, objective of study, hypothesis, scope and limitation of study, among others thereby giving the reader an overview of the long essay.

Chapter 2 is the literature review which consists of conceptual clarification and theoretical framework in line with the study. Two theories will be used for this study and three concepts will be clarified.

Chapter 3 which is the methodology, gives an insight to the way the study was carried out. This is the method used in carrying out this research.

Chapter 4 focuses on the relations between the United States and Africa during and after the cold war period. This chapter also brings out the areas where there was continuity in the relations and foreign policy as well as change.

Chapter 5, the concluding chapter, consists of the summary of findings in the course of the research as well as the recommendations.

1.9 Definition of Terms

  1. Continuity and Change: Aspects of the past that remained the same over certain periods of time are referred to as continuities. Change refers to aspects that did not remain the same; where adjustments are made. Continuity and change are evident

in any given period of time and concepts such as progress and decline may be used to evaluate continuity and change.

  1. Democratization: this is the process by which democracy expands within a state or across the world.
  2. Cold war: this is a state of political hostility between countries characterized by threats, propaganda, and other measures short of open warfare, in particular. This political hostility existed between the Soviet bloc countries and the Western powers from 1945 to 1990. The Cold War can also be said to be conflict over ideological differences carried on by methods short of sustained overt military action and usually without breaking off diplomatic relations as was the case between the United States who promoted and pursued Capitalist ideologies and the Soviet Union which practiced and pursued Communism which was

highlighted during the second half of the twentieth century.

  1. Foreign Policy: foreign policy can be said to be the plans, actions, strategies and tactics taken by states in the international system as regards relations with one another in order to promote and project their own national interest.

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