The first U.S. presidential visit to Africa was a stopover in one of the poorest countries occupied by the British

Anita Durairaj

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President Roosevelt and his son in AfricaCredit: Unknown; Public Domain Image

The first sitting U.S. president to ever set foot in Africa was Franklin D. Roosevelt. According to Quartz, only eight sitting American presidents have visited Africa (as of 2022) and the last presidential visit was in 2015 by Barack Obama.

The first African country to receive a presidential visit from the U.S. was Gambia. In 1943, President Roosevelt arrived in Bathurst, Gambia which was held by the British at the time.

At the time, Gambia was considered one of the poorest African nations. The visit was very brief as the president was actually on his way to Casablanca, Morocco to meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

In Casablanca, Churchill and Roosevelt planned to discuss operations for the allies fighting together in World War II.

President Roosevelt's flight was kept secret and it took more than four days to travel to Africa with the frequent refueling and stops. He only stayed in Gambia for about a day before he was on his way to Morocco.

In Gambia, a transcript of President Roosevelt's daily activities reveals that he did not step on Gambian land. Instead, he stayed on the USS Memphis which was a light cruiser. The president took a waterfront tour of the country by boat. The boat tour was only half an hour and the president observed many points of interest at the waterfront. The next day, the president left for the conference in Casablanca.

In 1943, Roosevelt also visited Liberia and French West Africa but the visit to Gambia left a lasting impression him.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.

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