"The Obama Administration has identified a number of other policy objectives in Africa, including food security, democracy, economic growth, conflict prevention and mitigation, and addressing transnational threats. This range of objectives reflects the continent's size and diversity. It also challenges policy makers to balance foreign aid priorities and achieve strategic focus. While health programs represent the bulk of U.S. bilateral spending, other types of assistance, such as democracy promotion and security cooperation, may be more powerful in defining U.S. bilateral relations with African countries and in achieving U.S. diplomatic leverage. Given the inability of many African countries to meet basic development and governance criteria, policy makers often debate whether poor performance justifies terminating or, rather, continuing aid. Analysts, practitioners, and aid advocates have long debated the value and design of aid programs in Africa. Critics allege that aid has done little to improve socioeconomic outcomes in Africa, and that in some cases it may serve to prolong conflicts or empower undemocratic regimes or rebel groups. Aid advocates counter that programs should be reformed or scaled up, not terminated, and that seeking to improve the welfare of impoverished populations abroad is both a humanitarian imperative and in the U.S. national interest. The methods and metrics for evaluating the effectiveness and impact of aid programs are also a topic of debate. Congress authorizes, appropriates funding for, and oversees aid programs in Africa. U.S. assistance is also subject to a number of legislative restrictions imposed by Congress, including some which directly or indirectly pertain to African countries."
CRS Report for Congress, R41840