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U.S.-Africa Relations: Heart in the Darkness?

Did U.S. President George W. Bush's Africa trip ring in a new era for the forgotten continent?

July 10, 2003

Did U.S. President George W. Bush's Africa trip ring in a new era for the forgotten continent?

U.S. President George W. Bush has put Africa on his agenda. His first trip to the continent highlighted the many needs for aid. Yet, nobody knows whether a promised $15 billion aid package to fight AIDS will make it through the U.S. Congress. Neither do all African leaders welcome their U.S. counterpart — and Nelson Mandela has avoided meeting Mr. Bush altogether. Our Read My Lips feature examines the state of U.S.-African relations.

Why should the United States engage itself in Africa?

“There are potentially another 10 Afghanistans in Africa — and it is cheaper by a factor of 100 to prevent the fires from happening than to put them out.”

(Bono, rock singer, March 2002)

How does President Bush view his focus on Africa?

“Human suffering in Africa creates moral responsibilities for people everywhere.”

(U.S. President George W. Bush, June 2003)

Where do some people see Mr. Bush in terms of his Africa engagement?

“On his way to becoming the American president most engaged with the African continent in U.S. history.”

(Jeffrey Herbst, Chairman of the Department of Politics at Princeton University, July 2003)

How do Mr. Bush's policies compare to previous U.S. Africa policies?

“The Bush Administration is the most radical — in a positive sense — in its approach to Africa since Kennedy.”

(Bob Geldof, Irish rock singer and Africa campaigner, July 2003)

How did U.S. President George W. Bush's predecessor handle the African continent?

“For almost five years after Somalia, the Clinton Administration did not have an African policy.”

(Harry A. Johnston, former Democratic congressman, July 2003)

What has changed?

“African oil has become of national strategic interest to us.”

(U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner, October 2002)

How do Africans view these developments?

“Following the war in Iraq, there is undoubtedly a great deal of suspicion and even cynicism as to what the next move will be.”

(Xolela Mangcu, Director of the Steve Biko Foundation, July 2003)

How about the U.S. military and Africa?

“What we don’t want to see in Africa is another Afghanistan — a cancer growing in the middle of nowhere.”

(General Jeffrey Kohler, U.S. Air Force European Command, July 2003)

Do all African leaders welcome renewed U.S. attention on Africa?

“If he is coming to dictate to us to how we should run our countries, then we say 'Go back. Go home Yankee'.”

(Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, July 2003)

What is one reason why Nelson Mandela avoids meeting President Bush?

“A president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly.”

(Former South African President Nelson Mandela, February 2003)

Why do the U.S. President's stops mainly consist of Africa's success stories?

“Uganda has been the darling of international donors, partly because they were desperate to find a positive African story to tell.”

(David White, Financial Times staff writer, April 2003)

Why was Uganda critical of the U.S. focus on terrorism?

“While they attend to Afghanistan and Iraq, Africa is in need of resources. We are struggling, struggling for life.”

(Gerald Ssendaula, Uganda’s Minister of Finance, April 2003)

How do Africans judge the West's perception of their continent?

“No region is more misunderstood by Western media than Africa.”

(Doyinsola Abiola, Editor-in-Chief Concord Group of Newspapers Nigeria, June 2002)

What is the basic problem for Africa's trade relations?

“The fields in which Africa is most competitive now — agriculture and textiles — the areas that are most protected in the West.”

(Muna B. Ndulo, Director of the Cornell Institute for African Development, May 2002)

How should the world support African trade?

“If you want to do an agriculture experiment in Africa, experiment with taking away subsidies in the West for one year.”

(Kwame Amezah, assistant director of extension services in Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, December 2002)

Yet, what are the chances for this to happen?

“Will Mr. Bush veto the next farm bill for the sake of free-market principles and a few million African lives? Not until Ugandans vote in Florida.”

(Billy Keller, New York Times columnist, June 2002)

How does that fit into the global context?

“Growth and prosperity in Africa will contribute to the growth and prosperity of the world.”

(U.S. President George W. Bush, June 2003)

How has Africa's approach to development changed?

“We Africans are no longer looking for handouts. Rather, we are asking for the opportunity to compete, to sell our goods in the Western markets, to be considered for private investment funds — and to participate more fully in the global trading system.”

(Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, May 2002)

Why does Africa have to deal with the United States?

“Mr. Bush is coming to Africa — and Africa cannot afford to give him the cold shoulder.”

(Barnaby Phillips, BBC Southern Africa correspondent, July 2003)

And finally, why else would the United States increase its Africa commitment?

“The promise of free markets means little when millions are illiterate and hungry, or dying from a preventable disease.”

(U.S. President George W. Bush, June 2003)