United States presidential visits to Sub-Saharan Africa

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President Edwin Barclay (right) and President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, 1943
President Jimmy Carter and Liberian President William R. Tolbert, Jr. wave from their motorcade during a visit to Monrovia in 1978.

This article concerns trips of a sitting United States President to Sub-Saharan Africa. [1]


  • The first presidential trip was an offshoot of the secretive World War II trip of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943. The trip to Africa was a direct result of the technology of aircraft of the day. The shortest path across the Atlantic Ocean was from Brazil to Africa. On his return trip when secrecy was less important, Roosevelt made a formal visit to Liberia.
  • Jimmy Carter was the first U.S. President to have made a state visit to Sub-Saharan Africa, making his trip in 1978. He also returned to Liberia 35 years after Roosevelt's first visit.
  • Bill Clinton's 1998 tour initiated the modern era of formal visits to Sub-Saharan Africa. Clinton's entourage required 5 passenger airplanes, and scores of heavy lift aircraft missions. The cost of this trip was the subject of a GAO report.
  • Barack Obama made a deliberate attempt to change the paradigm in 2009, when he included a stop-over to Sub-Saharan Africa at the end of his trip for a G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy. In Ghana, Obama visited the dungeons of Cape Coast Castle, where many enslaved Africans died and others were loaded onto slave ships en route to the Americas and the Caribbean.
  • Because Obama is the only president with ancestry from Sub-Saharan Africa, his visit to his father's native Kenya was particularly highly anticipated by that country. At the time Kenya was not included in Obama's 2013 tour, the country had reportedly omitted due to Obama's discomfort with the International Criminal Court charges pending against Uhuru Kenyatta.[2][3]
  • Obama was the first ever sitting US president to speak in front of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 29, 2015. He gave a speech encouraging the world to increase economic ties via investments and trade with the continent, and lauded the progresses made in education, infrastructure and economy. He also criticized lacks of democracy and leaders who refuse to step off, discrimination against minorities (LGBT people, religious groups and ethnicities) and corruption. He suggested an intensified democratization and free trade, to significantly increase living quality for Africans.[4] [5] During his July 2015 trip, Obama also was the first US president ever to visit Kenya, which is the homeland of his father.[6]

List of trips

President Start End Country Cities Reason
Barack Obama 26-Jul-2015 28-Jul-2015 Ethiopia Addis Ababa Met with the government of Ethiopia and visited the African Union headquarters.
24-Jul-2015 26-Jul-2015 Kenya Nairobi Attended the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Also met with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
26-Jun-2013 28-Jun-2013 Senegal Dakar Met with Macky Sall, elected in 2012[3]
28-Jun-2013 1-Jul-2013 South Africa Johannesburg, Pretoria, Soweto, Cape Town Speech on trade and investment, development, democracy and security partnerships; visit to Robben Island[3]
1-Jul-2013 2-Jul-2013 Tanzania Dar es Salaam Trade and investment discussions; accompanied by business leaders[3]
Barack Obama 10-Jul-2009 11-Jul-2009 Ghana Accra Met with President John Atta Mills. Delivered a speech to the Ghanaian Parliament. Toured a former departing point of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Cape Coast Castle.
George W. Bush 16-Feb-2008 16-Feb-2008 Benin Porto Novo Met with President Yayi Boni.
16-Feb-2008 19-Feb-2008 Tanzania Dar es Salaam, Arusha Met with President Jakaya Kikwete, signed Millenimum Challenge agreement
19-Feb-2008 19-Feb-2008 Rwanda Kigali Met with President Paul Kagame and dedicated new embassy.
19-Feb-2008 21-Feb-2008 Ghana Accra Met with President John Kufuor.
21-Feb-2008 21-Feb-2008 Liberia Monrovia Met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
George W. Bush 8-Jul-2003 8-Jul-2003 Senegal Dakar, Goree Island Met with President Abdoulaye Wade.
8-Jul-2003 11-Jul-2003 South Africa Pretoria Met with President Thabo Mbeki.
10-Jul-2003 10-Jul-2003 Botswana Gaborone Met with President Festus Mogae. Toured Mokolodi Nature Reserve.
11-Jul-2003 11-Jul-2003 Uganda Kampala Met with President Yoweri Museveni.
11-Jul-2003 12-Jul-2003 Nigeria Abuja Met with President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Bill Clinton 26-Aug-2000 28-Aug-2000 Nigeria Abuja, Ushafa Met with President Obasanjo and addressed the National Assembly.
28-Aug-2000 29-Aug-2000 Tanzania Arusha Met with former South African President Nelson Mandela to promote a peace agreement for Burundi; also met with President Benjamin Mkapa.
Bill Clinton 23-Mar-1998 23-Mar-1998 Ghana Accra Met with President Jerry Rawlings; visited a Peace Corps project.
23-Mar-1998 25-Mar-1998 Uganda Kampala, Kisowera, Mukono, Wanyange, Entebbe Met with President Museveni and with the Presidents of Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
25-Mar-1998 25-Mar-1998 Rwanda Kigali Met with President Pasteur Bizimungu; delivered a public address.
25-Mar-1998 29-Mar-1998 South Africa Cape Town, Johannesburg Met with President Nelson Mandela; addressed joint session of Parliament.
29-Mar-1998 31-Mar-1998 Botswana Gaborone, Kasane Met with President Quett Masire; visited Chobe National Park.
31-Mar-1998 2-Apr-1998 Senegal Dakar, Thies, Goree Island Met with President Abdou Diouf; visited Senegalese peacekeeping troops; delivered several public addresses.
George H. W. Bush 31-Dec-92 2-Jan-93 Somalia Mogadishu, Baidoa, Baledogle Visited international relief workers and U.S. military personnel.
Jimmy Carter 3-Apr-78 3-Apr-78 Liberia Monrovia Met with President William R. Tolbert, Jr..
31-Mar-78 3-Apr-78 Nigeria Lagos Met with President Obasanjo; first State visit of a U.S. President to sub-Saharan Africa.
Franklin D. Roosevelt 26-Jan-43 27-Jan-43 Liberia Monrovia Informal visit; met with President Edwin Barclay.
25-Jan-43 25-Jan-43 The Gambia Bathurst Overnight stop en route from the Casablanca Conference.

See also


  1. "State Department Web Site: Historian's List".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Raghavan, Sudarsan, "In snub to Washington, Kenyan president visits China, Russia first", Washington Post, August 17, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-18.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Epatko, Larisa, "Why Obama Is Visiting Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania But Not Kenya", PBS NewsHour, June 25, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-18.
  4. Lee, Carol E. "Obama Becomes First U.S. President to Address African Union". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 29 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Remarks by President Obama to the People of Africa". The White House. Retrieved 29 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Ferris, Sarah. "Obama: Proud to be first U.S. president to visit Kenya". The Hill. Retrieved 30 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>