Thomas Omestad of the US News and World Report gives us an analysis of the African issues.
On policy, Obama will have to respond to a diverse and vast continent still struggling in many countries with poverty, disease, corruption, and poor governance. More than 40 percent of sub-Saharan Africans live on less than $1 a day. The need for public investment in education, infrastructure, and healthcare is huge. An estimated 22 million suffer from HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, humanitarian and security crises—each with its own causes and attributes—plague Sudan and Somalia, as well as Congo and Zimbabwe.
The death and suffering of civilians in such zones of conflict or political strife could well force difficult choices on the new president on whether to intervene for humanitarian ends. The Pentagon remains skeptical of intervening in the violence-wracked Darfur region of Sudan, for instance. But Obama's top foreign policy adviser during the campaign, incoming U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, is known as a passionate advocate of strong, multilateral efforts to protect the people of Darfur, including military action if necessary. She and many other Democratic policymakers rue the international community's unwillingness to forcibly stop the ethnic genocide that swept through Rwanda in 1994. The fear that powerful countries continue to be unwilling to accept risks to halt atrocities extends beyond Darfur to other areas, too, including Congo. "We are regressing on our responsibility to protect," contends French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
At the same time, Obama's approach to Africa comes amid hopeful developments as well. With a rapidly growing population that is now near 1 billion people, many of the economies in sub-Saharan Africa have been showing signs of sturdier growth than they experienced in the past. Foreign investment has risen, in part a reflection of global demand for its energy and other commodities and prospects for future growth. Countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia have climbed back from vicious civil wars enough to launch promising, democratically elected governments.
In addition, Bush administration policy toward Africa has received wide acclaim. Its moves included major increases in foreign aid and on spending for programs to counter disease, along with debt relief. By the end of the Bush years, the United States was supporting antiretroviral treatment for more than 2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa with HIV/AIDS; in 2003 just 50,000 people in the region were receiving such help. Efforts to fight the spread of malaria also received significant attention and money. Africans hope the support will continue—or increase—despite the harder economic times hitting the United States.