Africa Notes: The New Politics of U.S. Aid to Africa - January 1991
January 28, 1991
Something unusual and possibly important happened to U.S. aid to Africa in 1990. Congress increased the amount of bilateral economic assistance to Africa (which, in U.S. bureaucratic parlance, means the sub-Saharan area of the continent) by more than $200 million above the Bush administration's request.
This move warrants examination for several reasons: (1) Congress customarily appropriates less than the full amount of foreign aid requested by any administration. Except in the case of Israel and a handful of other programs with particularly strong domestic constituencies, appropriations are rarely increased above administration request levels. (2) The domestic constituency for aid to Africa has never been unified on priorities or particularly effective. (3) With the end of the Cold War, the geostrategic importance of African countries to the United States has diminished, and U.S. investment in and trade with the continent remain relatively modest.
What then, was behind the increases and what are the implications of these increases for the future shape of U.S. aid and engagement in Africa?