US/Africa: Malign Neglect, 01/23/03

US/Africa: Malign Neglect, 01/23/03

AFRICA ACTION Africa Policy E-Journal January 23, 2003 (030123)

US/Africa: Malign Neglect (Africa Action document)

This posting contains a press release on a media briefing hosted by Africa Action today focusing on U.S. Africa policy, and the executive summary of a new Africa Action report: "Africa Policy for a New Era: Ending Segregation in U.S. Foreign Relations." The full text of the new report is available in pdf format at: and in html format at:

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Press Release January 23, 2003

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Ann-Louise Colgan 202-546-7961

U.S. war focus results in "Malign Neglect" of Africa.

Media Briefing critiques Bush Administration Africa Policy; Africa Action releases major report - "Africa Policy for a New Era"

Thursday, January 23, 2003 (Washington, DC) - Today, Africa Action hosted a press briefing critiquing the Bush Administration's Africa policy and calling for a new approach to U.S. foreign relations. Africa Action's Executive Director Salih Booker was joined by Marie Clarke, National Coordinator of Jubilee USA Network, and Adotei Akwei, Africa Advocacy Director of Amnesty International USA for a discussion of Washington's Africa policy during the past two years. The panel analyzed how the U.S. focus on the "war on terrorism" and the plans for war in Iraq are distracting attention from today's most urgent global challenges, which are centered in Africa.

In his opening remarks this morning, Salih Booker said: "Historically, the U.S. has segregated Africa within foreign policy....Now, Washington must move African concerns from the margins of U.S. foreign policy to the center, if it is to sharpen its focus on the most destabilizing international threats and the most urgent global priorities."

Foremost among these, Booker described the HIV/AIDS pandemic as the "the single greatest global threat to human security today...far more deadly than terrorism or the alleged existence of Iraqi weapons." Booker criticized the Bush Administration's inaction on the global AIDS crisis, arguing, "the U.S. has a moral obligation, an historical responsibility and a national interest in helping to defeat the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa."

Marie Clarke noted, "Africa's massive external debt is the single largest obstacle to the continent's efforts to fight poverty and defeat HIV/AIDS." She added, "Millions die while our Administration withholds life saving debt cancellation." Clarke described the debt burden as "a major source of global inequality, which U.S. policies must address."

Adotei Akwei, discussing the increased focus on U.S. security cooperation with Africa since 9/11, noted "the U.S. pre-occupation with the geo-strategic value of African countries in the 'war on terrorism' must not trump efforts to promote human rights and advance democracy." Akwei urged the Bush Administration to provide diplomatic and financial support for African peace-making initiatives, which he described as "essential to regional and international security."

At today's briefing, Africa Action also released a major new report "Africa Policy for a New Era: Ending Segregation in U.S. Foreign Relations." This document defines an agenda for a new Africa policy, providing an overview of current challenges and offering recommendations for U.S. policy on priority issues and areas. The Executive Summary of the report is included below. The full report is available at


Africa Policy for a New Era: Ending Segregation in U.S. Foreign Relations

January 2003


1. Africa and the U.S. in the 21st Century

The unprecedented challenges facing Africa and the U.S. at this moment are emblematic of the state of the world. The U.S. is the richest country in human history, while Africa is the poorest region containing the majority of the world's poorest countries. The relationship of the U.S. to Africa graphically illustrates some of the central questions of the present era How much inequality is the world prepared to accept, and at what cost? How should the U.S. address the historic injustices that were the cornerstones of contemporary western wealth and power, and that now continue to define the pattern of global inequality? What are the obligations and motivations that determine international priorities? In short, what should the U.S. relationship to Africa be? Africa is now the epicenter of the greatest catastrophe in recorded human history the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The continent's impoverishment means Africa cannot overcome this challenge on its own. Nor should it have to. But Africans do face the challenge of mobilizing the international community to join their struggle to defeat this global public health crisis. This requires beating the disease itself, as well as the poverty and structural inequalities that help fuel its spread.

The United States is now the sole and unchallenged superpower in the world. It has unmatched military and economic power. The U.S. faces the challenge of determining how to use its power not only to safeguard its own future security and prosperity, but to promote the human security and international stability upon which America's own prospects depend. In addition, the people of this country seek to understand their role in the world in moral terms, and the government professes to do the same.

The policies of the United States toward Africa should be understood as a clear manifestation of Washington's world view and global objectives. They are sure indicators of the international intentions of the U.S. more broadly. Historically, the U.S. has segregated Africa within foreign policy, relegating it to a second-class status and depriving it of resources and attention. Now, Washington must move African concerns from the margins of U.S. foreign policy to the center, if it is to sharpen its focus on the most destabilizing international threats and the most urgent global priorities. The relationship between the richest and the poorest in the world today will become the measure for determining the direction and pace of international progress in the decades ahead.

This document defines an agenda for U.S. Africa policy for a new era. It provides an overview of current challenges and offers recommendations for U.S. policy on priority issues and areas. It affirms Africa's importance to the U.S. and outlines what is required of the U.S. to engage collaboratively and effectively with its African partners.

2. What Should the U.S. Do?

Lead the War on HIV/AIDS

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is the single greatest global threat to human security today. It is a far more deadly threat than terrorism, or the alleged existence of Iraqi weapons. AIDS has already taken the lives of more than 25 million people globally, three-quarters of these in sub-Saharan Africa. The HIV/AIDS crisis is the most urgent issue facing the African continent, and the international community more broadly, and this should be the top foreign policy priority of the U.S.

The war on AIDS can be won, but an effective global response will require a major shift in U.S. policy priorities, and a significant increase in resources. Africa's future depends on victory in this fight, as over time will that of many other countries and regions. African efforts to defeat HIV/AIDS are hindered by international obstacles, such as illegitimate debt and inadequate access to essential anti-AIDS drugs, which U.S. policies can and should address. U.S. financial support is also essential. The Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS is a new vehicle that can lead to the defeat of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The U.S. must provide at least $3.5 billion per year to support the work of the Global Fund. This is the most important and inexpensive investment the U.S. can make in the future of the world.

Invest in Development

Despite its unparalleled prosperity, the U.S. government fails to fully understand either its obligation or self-interest in increasing development assistance to the poorest countries in the world, from which much of the U.S.' wealth originated. U.S. aid to Africa has been declining precisely as the continent's needs have been growing, and aid from all rich countries to sub-Saharan Africa has dropped by nearly half in the past decade. To fight poverty and promote sustainable development, the U.S. must be willing to increase its investment in Africa's future.

A well thought-out U.S. response to Africa's challenge will require not only more aid, but better aid, that will promote human development. Money required to assist Africa to reach agreed development goals, such as health and education, should be considered an international public investment rather than "aid". The U.S. has an obligation to pay its fair share based on its privileged place in the world economy. The U.S. must increase its development assistance to 0.7% of GNP, a target that rich countries have repeatedly set for themselves since the 1970s. Such international investment in human development is the surest way to promote stability and long-term economic and social progress in Africa. Increasing the U.S. commitment to development assistance to 0.7% of GNP would result in a $70 billion total. Half of this amount $35 billion should go to Africa.

Cancel Africa's External Debt

Africa's burden of illegitimate and unpayable debt reveals a major failing of the current global economic system. It also represents a key source of global inequality. Each year, the poorest countries in Africa are required to pay more than $15 billion to rich country creditors and the international financial institutions, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). This is more money than these countries receive in new aid, or loans, or investment. Debt repayments by most African countries amount to more than expenditures on health or education. Meanwhile, the debt that the U.S. and other rich countries owe Africa for centuries of injustice and exploitation remains outstanding.

Africa's external debt is the largest obstacle to the continent's economic development and a major obstacle in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The current debt relief framework, the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, has failed to resolve the debt crisis. The economic imbalance caused by Africa's massive illegitimate debt is unsustainable and ultimately destabilizing, both morally and in terms of human security. The U.S. should support the outright cancellation of Africa's debts. It should use its influence at the World Bank and IMF, the two leading creditors, to press for immediate and unconditional debt cancellation for African countries.

Promote Fair Trade

Africa is a far more significant trading partner for the U.S. than is widely realized. However, restrictions on African access to U.S. markets and Washington's lavish agricultural subsidies to U.S. agribusinesses combine to constrict Africa's trade-related development. The U.S. has continued to push the agenda of transnational corporations, seeking to further open African markets to American exports. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) exemplifies current U.S. trade policy, reinforcing the imposition of a free market agenda in return for a very minor increase in access to U.S. markets for a very few African countries. The U.S. has also become the major obstacle to African efforts within the World Trade Organization (WTO) to guarantee access to essential medicines. U.S. policies continue to place higher priority on protecting the profits of the pharmaceutical industry than on saving African lives.

The potential for an enhanced economic partnership between the U.S. and African countries is great. While U.S. trade with Africa remains largely dependent upon oil imports from a handful of key countries, Africa holds abundant human and natural resources and contains large markets for U.S. products. However, the U.S. must commit to expanding market access for African goods, and ending the double standard in international trade rules. This will require addressing trade barriers and agricultural subsidies that hinder African exports and that continue to preclude an equitable trading relationship that can benefit the U.S. and African countries both.

Support African Efforts to End War & Promote Peace

While important progress has been made toward ending some of Africa's most deadly conflicts, insecurity continues to affect millions of people, disrupting economic growth and threatening regional stability. For each of Africa's ongoing wars, a peace process already exists; what is often lacking is the international support to ensure its success. The U.S. has an important role to play in bolstering African peace-making initiatives. A sustained financial and diplomatic commitment from the U.S. to conflict resolution in Africa is crucial to regional and international security. The historic role that the U.S. played in destabilizing many of the African countries currently at war gives the U.S. a unique responsibility to engage with African efforts to achieve peace and stability.

The U.S. should make it a top priority to end the devastating wars in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). These conflicts in two of Africa's largest countries represent serious humanitarian crises and major destabilizing forces in their regions. Elsewhere in Africa, in countries recovering from war and countries currently experiencing instability, the U.S. must make a commitment to supporting African peace-making initiatives. The recent reversion in U.S. policy to prioritizing African countries according to their geo-strategic importance is a dangerous development. Security cooperation with Africa must not be circumscribed within the framework of the U.S.-defined "war on terrorism." If the U.S. expects African cooperation on its priorities, it must make a commitment to addressing Africa's own security concerns, from HIV/AIDS to conflict resolution and peace-building.

Help Advance Democracy & Human Rights

U.S. support for democracy and human rights in Africa is one of the most important expressions of U.S. partnership with Africa's people. African victories in recent decades in overcoming colonial rule, apartheid, and other forms of dictatorship, have marked important progress and done much to empower the people of Africa. Ongoing struggles for constitutional reform, for women's rights and human rights, and for government accountability must be supported by the U.S. and other international partners. A positive U.S. contribution to promoting democracy and the full spectrum of human rights in Africa can do much to encourage economic and social progress, and enhance international stability.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and America's major trading partner in Africa, faces important elections this year. U.S. support will be important in ensuring that the elections are free, fair and peaceful, and that Nigeria can achieve stability and democratic accountability in the years ahead. In Kenya, the recent elections have increased optimism about the future, but international support will be crucial as the new government begins to address the massive challenges the country faces. Across the continent, from Zimbabwe to Cote d'Ivoire, threats to democracy and human rights should be a cause of great concern for the U.S. and international partners. The U.S. should seek ways to support African governmental institutions and regional bodies that are accountable to civil society and that protect the human rights of Africa's people.

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Message-Id: <> From: "Africa Action" <> Date: Thu, 23 Jan 2003 12:27:28 -0500 Subject: US/Africa: Malign Neglect

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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