US First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, mother Marian Robinson, niece Leslie Robinson and nephew Avery Robinson touring Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa
US President Barack Obama released a sweeping new Africa strategy Thursday, declaring a continent torn by poverty, corruption and discord could be the world's next big economic success story.
The new US blueprint seeks to boost trade, strengthen peace, security and good governance and bolster democratic institutions, and is designed to help Africa's increasingly youthful population lead its development, reports AFP.
"As we look toward the future, it is clear that Africa is more important than ever to the security and prosperity of the international community, and to the United States in particular," said Obama, a US-born son of a Kenyan father.
It comes as Washington, tooling a regional policy towards trade and development, also views Africa's intractable conflicts with concern, including areas vulnerable to extremists, including in Somalia and even Mali.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that the US military was expanding spying across Africa, using small private planes operating from isolated bush airstrips, as part of a "shadow war" against Al-Qaeda and affiliates.
While Obama faced multiple crises during his presidency, from Iran to North Korea and Libya to Syria, his Africa policy has garnered less coverage: his Ghana trip was his only one to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office.
But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Obama believed "passionately" in Africa's future and noted the continent hosted six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies over the past decade.
"I want all of my fellow American citizens, particularly our business community, to hear this: Africa offers the highest rate of return on foreign direct investment of any developing region in the world," she said.
"We in the United States like to talk about ourselves as the country that is the land of opportunity. It's a point of national pride. In the 21st century, Africa is the continent that is the land of opportunity," she said.
The administration Thursday touted "successes" from helping restore democracy in Cote d’Ivoire, nurturing the new state of South Sudan, backing stability efforts in Somalia and engaging young African leaders.
The president also sent 100 US Special Forces troops to train African forces chasing Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, which is known for gross human rights abuses including rape and the use of child soldiers.
Obama has responded to humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, and the president invited the leaders of Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania to the G8 summit at Camp David.