Bush’s Goal: Bring African leaders in line with U.S. policy (FCN, 07/25/2003)

(FinalCall.com) – The Bush administration has worked “hard” over the past three-and-a-half-years to build relationships with the nations of Africa said Secretary of State Colin Powell July 8, addressing the Africa Policy Advisory Panel, a group of high-level “leaders” from Congress, the executive branch, the business sector, academia and foundations.

“Pres. Bush and his administration is working in partnership with Africans to help them move toward greater democracy, toward greater opportunities and greater security,” he said.


Congress commissioned the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based private, bipartisan think tank, to propose a comprehensive U.S. policy towards Africa that focused on HIV/AIDS, terrorism, armed conflicts and global tradeÑstrategic areas that have emerged since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“I find African aid comparisons to aid to Israel interesting,” commented Bill Fletcher, director of the Washington-based Trans Africa Forum. He said it shows how U.S. political interests are manifested. “I guess it is a shocking thing for people to hear that Africa did not have strategic importance to this administration prior to 9/11,” he said, adding, “the only real interests in Africa post 9/11 is oil and the war on terror.”

According to Secretary Powell, in fiscal year 2004, the Bush administration is providing more than $2 billion in assistance to Africa. However, critics of the administration’s African policy say that aid levels have been the same since the FY 2000, when the State Department’s Agency for International Development (USAID) reported its Development Fund for Africa (DFA) budget level at $2 billion. For the past 40 years, USAID has provided U.S. economic assistance worldwide. Observers say that only seven percent of U.S. foreign aid goes to sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to 10 percent of the world’s population.

“When we talk about foreign aid, we are talking about subsidizing our own corporate interests,” insists Marie Clarke, national coordinator for the Washington-based Jubilee USA Network. She said that U.S. investment in Africa still had a negative flow because of Africa’s $15 billion annual debt service to wealthy nations, and because Congress demands that 70 to 80 cents of the aid dollar be spent with American corporations. “It is time that the administration projects a responsible foreign policy towards Africa,” Ms. Clarke said.

Njoki Njoroge Njehu, director of the Washington-based 50 Years is Enough: U.S. Network for Global Economic Justice, gave an example of how debt relief stymies African growth. In Zambia, for example, 20 percent of the population is HIV positive. The Zambian government spends $17 per person on health, and $30 per person on debt service to western financial institutions.

Another example is Tanzania, which spends nine times more on debt service than health. According to 50 Years is Enough, 40 percent of Tanzania’s population dies before the age of 35.

“It is up to the activists to create a ‘squeeky wheel’ proactive stance on the issue of African aid,” Ms. Njehu stressed.

In February 2004, the Bush administration proposed for its FY 2005 budget, according to the State Department, $436 million in humanitarian and development assistance to Africa, with an estimated $100 million in food aid to the Sudan. Another $2.8 billion for care, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS for Africa and the Caribbean. Under the President’s Millenium Challenge Account (MCA), approved by Congress for FY 2004, another $2.5 billion will be allotted, up one billion from its first year. The President has proposed spending a $5 billion budget in FY 2006 for MCA. According to officials, the MCA is a “pathway” to progress for developing nations that provide health and education programs for their people, and who also are willing to develop greater openness of its democratic institutions.

Aid experts say it may be difficult for many African nations to meet the strict restrictions the U.S. has set for funding under MCA.