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Africa To Remain Afterthought In US Policy According To Democratic, Republican Party Platforms

Both the US Democratic and Republican parties adopted official party policy platforms for the upcoming Presidential election, but not much was said about Africa

The US Democratic Party adopted official party policy platforms during the Democratic National Convention meeting where they also nominated Hillary Clinton as their Presidential candidate last month. The party platforms are neither binding on the party's presidential candidate or members of Congress, yet fought over fiercely by special interest groups and party factions seeking to influence a future Democratic government's policies.

This year's Democratic platform runs to tens of thousands of words and 51 pages. Exactly 174 of those were devoted to Africa, on the next to last page. 

The Republican party, who also agreed on their platforms last month during the Republican National Convention, nominated Donald Trump, discussed African in theirs in only 197 words.

Despite the significant difference between the Democratic and Republican parties and their campaigns their position and policy towards Africa is very similar.

According to both of their platforms, Africa is a great place to make money and Americans should be deepening business ties there.

“Africa is home to many of the fastest growing economies in the world,” the Democratic platform reads.

“Democrats will strengthen our partnership and collaboration with the African Union, emphasizing trade while increasing development assistance to bolster the continent’s domestic economies.” The platform also references strengthening “fair trade and investment” with Africa’s economies.

The Republican platform similarly views Africa as a trade and investment opportunity waiting to be seized.

“We recognize Africa’s extraordinary potential. Both the United States and our many African allies will become stronger through investment, trade, and promotion of the democratic and free market principles that have brought prosperity around the world,” the platform states.

Both parties also pledged to step up the war against terrorism on the continent, singling out Boko Haram and al-Shabaab. 

“We will help our African partners improve their capacity to respond to crises and protect citizens, especially women and girls,” the Democratic platform says. The Democrats pledge to rid the continent of the “reign of terror” propagated by Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Islamic State but do not specifically mention any African countries.

The Republican platform similarly offers support in the fight against terrorism in Africa, but unlike the Democrats, the Republicans emphasize that radical Islam is the source of terrorism in the region.

“We stand in solidarity with those African countries now under assault by the forces of radical Islam: Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and others like them,” their platform reads.

“Their terror falls on both Muslims and Christians, on anyone who will not submit to their savage ideology… We support closer cooperation in both military and economic matters with those on the front lines of civilization’s battle against the forces of evil.”

The Democrats and Republicans both boasted about their respective parties’ initiatives in Africa.

The Democrats bragged about their connections to the African Union and President Barack Obama’s National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, adding that the party supports “science-based management of iconic wildlife in Africa.”

The Republicans touted George Bush's successful AIDS treatment program, PEPFAR, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The platform also pointed out that the Republican-led Congress extended the African Growth and Opportunity Act to 2025. 

On the surface, the major difference between the parties is the Democrats' opposition to big game hunting – an issue that is not at the top of Africa's list of priorities but takes up almost half of the Democrats’ statement on Africa.

While the party platforms are not the only way for Africans to judge the potential impact of a Democratic or Republican government in Washington – especially with the unpredictable Donald Trump in the running – the platforms serve notice that Africa will be an American afterthought even when new government takes power next January.