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Obama unveils Africa plan

US President Barack Obama released a sweeping new Africa strategy on 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.

'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,' Obama said. The plan was unveiled nearly three years after Obama, whose father was Kenyan, laid out his priorities for the often crisis-scarred continent in Ghana, on the sole trip of his presidency so far to sub-Saharan Africa.

It comes as Washington, tooling a foreign policy towards trade and development, also views Africa's intractable conflicts with concern, including in areas ripe for extremists to exploit, including in Somalia and even Mali.

The Washington Post reported on 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 has battled multiple crises during his presidency, from Iran to North Korea and Libya to Syria, his Africa policy has garnered less interest: his Ghana trip was his only one to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office.

But his administration on Thursday touted 'successes' from helping restore democracy in Ivory Coast, helping nurture the new state of South Sudan, backing efforts to restore stability 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.

In addition, Obama has several times 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.

In a prelude to the new strategy, Obama warned 'the United States will not stand idly by when actors threaten legitimately elected governments or manipulate the fairness and integrity of democratic processes.

'We will stand in steady partnership with those who are committed to the principles of equality, justice, and the rule of law,' he said.

Obama has also highlighted food security challenges, and in May unveiled a scheme designed to lift 50 million people.
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