At the start of his administration John F. Kennedy launched a personal policy initiative to court African nationalist leaders. This policy was designed to improve U.S.-African relations and constituted a dramatic change in the direction of U.S. foreign relations. The Kennedy administration believed that the Cold War could be won or lost depending upon whether Washington or Moscow won the hearts and minds of the Third World. Africa was particularly important because a wave of independence saw nineteen newly independent African states admitted into the United Nations during 1960-61. By 1962, 31 of the UN's 110 member states were from the African continent, and both Washington and Moscow sought to add these countries to their respective voting bloc. For Kennedy, the Cold War only amplified the need for a strong U.S. policy towards Africa-but did not create it. The Kennedy administration feared that American neglect of the newly decolonized countries of the world would result in the rise of anti-Americanism and for this reason needed to be addressed irrespective of the Cold War.
For this reason, Kennedy devoted more time and effort toward relations with Africa than any other American president. By making an in-depth examination of Kennedy's attempt to court African nationalist leaders, Betting on the Africans adds an important chapter to the historiography of John F. Kennedy's Cold War strategy by showing how through the use of personal diplomacy JFK realigned United States policy towards Africa and to a large extent won the sympathies of its people while at the same time alienating more traditional allies.