The exploitation of Africa has a long and sordid history, dripping in blood and corruption and with enough blame and guilt to share between all the participants - Western governments, multinational companies and national leaders.
On trade the US still does extremely well from the plunder of Africa's raw materials.
The Bush administration's $15 billion commitment to AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, the biggest single pledge by any US administration, undoubtedly benefits America's pharmaceutical companies, but few seriously doubt that its main aim is to improve the well being of the people of Africa and the planet as a whole.
The over-riding American concern in Africa, as it is across the entire globe, is oil security. Oil, its extraction and supply, will always be the top priority for the US. The biggest returns, and the most important product out of Africa for the coming decades, will be petroleum.
The returns are not for Africans though. While 70% of Nigerians exist on a dollar a day, Shell continues to make megaprofits from oil drilling in the country, taking an estimated $30 Billion out of the ground since the 1950s.
At present 12% of US oil comes from Africa. And by 2015, when the UN's Millennium Goals to halve world poverty will be laughably incomplete, that proportion will have reached 25%.
To control the security of oil supply will, in all likelihood, require a large US military presence near the oilfields. Fortunately for the US most of West Africa's oilfields are offshore, and so less vulnerable to sabotage, insurrection or local instability.
With oil an economic weapon, there will be no shortage of regime changes, human rights abuses and privately sponsored coup attempts to control the flow of the most precious commodity. Poverty and the needs of the African population will take second place to US geo-political strategy. In the lexicon of aid and trade, the NEPAD agreements and the AGOA, there are only three letters that really matter to the US in Africa, they are O-I-L.
[From article written by Torcuil Crichton in The Sunday Herald of Scotland]