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Importance of Africa

A strong majority believes Africa is important to the US and a strong plurality feels the US does not pay enough attention to the continent.

A strong majority of Americans think that Africa is important to the US. When asked in a May 2000 Gallup survey how important to the US is "what happens in Africa," 69% said it was either vitally important (18%) or important (51%). Just 23% said events there are not too important, and a mere 5% said they are not important at all. [1]

In a January 2003 PIPA/Knowledge Networks poll, respondents were offered the argument that "The US has no vital interests in Africa. Therefore the US should make Africa a lower priority when deciding where to distribute its aid." Only 23% found this convincing, while 74% found it unconvincing.
A plurality feels that the US should pay more attention to Africa. The January 2003 PIPA-KN poll asked respondents whether the US is "is too concerned, is not concerned enough, or is about as concerned as it should be about problems in Africa." A strong plurality of 44% said the US was "not concerned enough," while just 12% said the US was more concerned than it should be. About one-third (34%) said the US was about as concerned as it should be.

Interestingly, past polling has shown Africa to be the region most often cited as the one to which the US government should pay more attention. In May 1999, when a Newsweek poll asked the same question about six regions of the world, results were very similar, and Africa was the region about which the highest percentage said the US was not concerned enough. At that time, 47% expressed this view. Only 11% said the US was too concerned about Africa and 34% said it was as concerned as it should be. [2]

A majority - albeit a slim one - felt it was important for President Bush to visit Africa in January 2003. Although the planned trip was ultimately cancelled due to possible war in Iraq, in the PIPA-Knowledge Networks poll completed early that month, 51% felt that it was "very important for the President to go to Africa because Africa is a key area in the war on terrorism and a growing market for American goods." Forty percent chose the opposing argument, that it was "not very important for the President to go to Africa because there are other areas that are more important in the war on terrorism and Africa is only a small market for American goods." [2b]

Colin Powell said when he was Secretary of State that he was particularly interested in trying to solve problems in Africa. A solid majority (60%) said he should not "focus on solving problems in Africa" simply "because he is African-American." (Time/CNN, January 2001). [3]



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Recent Data Updates
Africa - August 2008 (PDF)