Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Barack Obama's election and Africa

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It's 11 p.m. and Barack Obama has just been elected President of the United States.  I am thinking of what this historic election will mean for Africa.  My colleague Bob Zoellick has already spoken of how the next U.S. President will have to embrace a new multilateralism, in order to alleviate the current financial crisis and set the stage for the resumption of economic growth.  No doubt this will benefit Africa.  But the first African-American President may also bring a greater sensitivity to African development in U.S. policy.  Three areas stand out.  First, U.S. foreign aid could be better tailored to promote African development.  The issue is not just the volume of aid, but its predictability--something that several studies show can greatly affect the effectiveness of aid. 

Second, the U.S. could expand trade access by African countries, extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act to all goods exported by Africa.  Finally, while the U.S. has scaled up its support for HIV/AIDS in Africa, the program could increase support to AIDS prevention, rather than its almost exclusive focus on (admittedly valuable) treatment of HIV-positive individuals.

Africa can.  Yes we can.


Shanta Devarajan

Teaching Professor of the Practice Chair, International Development Concentration, Georgetown University

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