Africa: Thinking Regionally, Update, 3/19/98

Africa: Thinking Regionally, Update, 3/19/98

Africa: Thinking Regionally, Update
Date distributed (ymd): 980319
APIC Document

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Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
+security/peace+ +US policy focus+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains an update supplement to the APIC Background Paper "Thinking Regionally," as well as an announcement of major new additions to the Africa Policy Web

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(1) APIC Background Paper Thinking Regionally

(2) Top Country-Specific Sites for Clinton's Africa Trip

(3) Strategic Action Issue Area resource pages


debt relief ( landmines ( Nigeria ( women's rights (

Also, check out the APIC Africa Web Bookshop


In March 1996, APIC published "Thinking Regionally: Priorities for U.S. Policy Toward Africa," by Salih Booker, Fellow for Africa at the Council on Foreign Relations.This background paper, based on an earlier presentation by Mr. Booker to the Council on Foreign Relations, argued for a comprehensive approach to African issues, encompassing Africa's five regions and the full range of issues: security, democracy and human rights, and economic development, including aid, public investment and debt relief as well as trade and private investment.

As President Bill Clinton prepares for his trip to Africa later this month, the level of attention to African issues is sure to increase.Questions remain, however, as to whether the trip's commendable emphasis on Africa's "success stories" will eclipse a more comprehensive regional view, and whether the stress on trade and private investment will crowd out a broader understanding of sustainable and equitable economic development, as well as fundamental issues of human rights and democratization.

The original version of "Thinking Regionally" is now also available on-line ( The typeset version is still available from APIC for $2 each or $1.60 each for 20 or more.Please add 15% for postage and handling.

In the following update, Mr. Booker reviews current developments and reiterates his call for "Thinking Regionally."


In the nearly three years since the initial presentation of the Thinking Regionally framework much has changed both in Africa and in U.S. policy toward Africa.The following is a brief update focusing on the implications of key developments in each subregion and emerging U.S. policy approaches toward each of the priority issues.

Southern Africa

Intergovernmental cooperation on security and economic issues is most pronounced in the southern subregion of the continent.The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) has continued to evolve as the principal vehicle for promoting greater intra-regional trade and cooperation on security.Nearly every country in the subregion has experienced fairly healthy GDP growth rates over the past three years, though an El-Nino inspired drought may threaten the growth trend this year.In 1997, the US government signed an MOU with the Finance Ministers of the SADC countries on U.S. trade relations with the region.

Each country in SADC boasted an elected government, with the exception of the Democratic Republic of Congo which gained membership at the end of last year.In South Africa, Nelson Mandela stepped down from his leadership of the ANC and general elections are slated for 1999.The country's economic growth while relatively small at 2-3%, has nevertheless represented a dramatic turnaround from the negative growth that prevailed during apartheid's waning years.On the political front, South Africa continued to defy the pessimists by continuing to promote reconciliation while maintaining the ruling coalition alliance of the ANC, the Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party despite the adoption of a relatively conservative economic policy.

U.S. trade with the region increased steadily during this period.South Africa will continue to be Washington's principal partner in Africa, and the major force for political stability and economic growth in the subregion.

Central Africa

The overthrow of longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 represented a victory for collective action by Rwanda, Uganda, and Angola, whose military intervention and promotion of a Congolese rebel alliance has resulted in a dramatically changed environment in the great lakes region. Emboldened by this intervention, the Angolan army later invaded Congo-Brazzaville and toppled the elected government of Pascal Lissouba.The enormous and potentially rich Congo-Kinshasa is poised to begin a process of economic reconstruction and political transition this year.However, persistent conflict in Burundi, a return of the genocidal attacks in Rwanda, general instability in eastern DRC and Congo-Brazzaville, and Laurent Kabila's failure to engage the democratic forces in his own country to create a successful transition process, all suggest that greater regional turbulence lies ahead.

While vibrant informal sector economic activity continues to grow across borders throughout the region, more formal mechanisms for promoting cooperation await the resolution of DRC's transition and economic rebirth.The planned exploitation of Chadian oil finds and the development of a pipeline through Cameroon represents another important effort at economic cooperation.

Eastern Africa

The East African Cooperation (EAC) was formally born in 1996 and is slowly evolving as a pragmatic mechanism to promote greater economic ties and benefits in the subregion.However, Kenyan strongman Daniel arap Moi's determination to reimpose himself on his electorate for another five years provoked a militant constitutional reform movement that was only out-maneuvered at the 11th hour.Continued corruption and the repression of a growing democratic movement in Kenya threaten to undermine East Africa's precarious stability, and has already slowed the progress of the EAC.

A more dramatic development in the region is the advance of the SPLA-NDA alliance against the dictatorial Islamist regime in Sudan.Cooperation by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda in support of this project is seen by many as offering hopes for a repeat of the successful intervention in Congo by a similar collective last year.The leaders of these three states plus Rwandan VP Paul Kagame are often described as the "new generation" of African leaders, a disciplined, incorruptible if authoritarian group that acts aggressively to promote their national and shared regional security interests.The Clinton administration imposed financial sanctions on Khartoum in 1997 and is providing "non-lethal" support to Sudan's allied neighbors. Washington's new Africa Policy team has placed a high priority on supporting the effort to change the regime in Khartoum.

West Africa

Through military intervention and political intrigue, Nigeria has continued to demonstrate its strength as the subregional powerhouse while repressing all democratization efforts at home.

The subregion continues to defy the larger trend in Africa toward elected civilian governments based on peaceful political competition.Following eight years of fratricidal war, Liberians went to the polls and elected Charles Taylor president in 1997.The Nigerian-led ECOMOG force that brokered the peace deal and provided a shaky security in the country will withdraw this year.In neighboring Sierra Leone, elections in 1996 ended that country's related war and produced a civilian government that was overthrown in a coup in 1997.ECOMOG, already present in Freetown, has sought militarily and diplomatically to force the military junta to relinquish power.A peace agreement intended to achieve this purpose appears unlikely to succeed at present.Elsewhere in West Africa military juntas in Gambia and Niger civilianized themselves through questionable elections, and Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha appears likely to use his transition plan culminating in elections this year to achieve the same result.

Mainly civilian-led governments in francophone West Africa continued to promote regional economic cooperation through UEMOA and launched a collective stock exchange based in Abidjan.Most of these states boasted positive economic growth as did Ghana.The subregion's overall economic, political and security prospects are, however, directly undermined by Abuja's refusal to countenance political and economic freedom for its over 100 million strong population.

North Africa

The carnage occurring almost daily in Algeria has highlighted the impotence and disinterest of the international community, including all Arab and African regional institutions, in initiating a dialogue for peace or an intervention to protect Algerian lives.The extreme violence of fundamentalist Islamist opponents of the state, and the government's own culpability in massacres and continued political repression show no signs of abating. Next door, however, Morocco has finally agreed to allow the people of the Western Sahara to vote in a referendum this year to determine the fate of Africa's last colony.

Throughout the region, the growing percentage of the population comprising unemployed youth combined with politically repressive regimes and Islamist movements often offering the only alternative to the status quo, portend a growing instability that threatens to overwhelm what little economic progress most states are achieving.

U.S. Policy

On the economic front, the Congress and the Administration have advanced a new framework for promoting greater trade and investment with Africa -- the President's Partnership for Growth and Opportunity in Africa, and the legislation still pending in Congress which gave rise to this policy. This emphasis on trade and investment, and the concurrent decline in commitments to development cooperation have provoked a debate regarding what is the right mix of development assistance, debt reduction, trade incentives and investment promotion needed to support economic growth and sustainable development in Africa.Secretary of State Albright has listed the passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act of one of the four top US foreign policy priorities for 1998.

On the security front, the Administration has continued to develop its year old African Crisis Response Initiative by providing training and communications equipment to select African armies.Critics challenge the viability of the plan because of unanswered questions regarding how such capacity building efforts can be turned into the mobilization of a regional African force to intervene in specific conflicts to perform peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, or other conflict prevention or resolution roles.The implementation of this initiative has, however, created a new discussion of U.S. security cooperation in Africa and raises important budgetary and national security issues.

On the third front, political reform or democratization, the Clinton Administration has not offered a particular framework for supporting African efforts to establish systems of more accountable governance guided by the rule of law and respect for human rights.However, the centrality of this problem in such priority countries as Nigeria, Congo and Kenya, has forced analysts and practitioners to rethink their assumptions about the course of political change in Africa.The emphasis in these debates has shifted from the mechanics of multi-party elections to issues of legal and constitutional reform and the roles of civil society.

President Clinton has, however, appointed the Reverend Jesse Jackson as Special Envoy for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa.His initial visits, to Kenya and Zambia, triggered widespread criticism from human rights groups in Africa and the US because of Washington perceived failure to embrace the democratic forces in those two countries seeking constitutional change and the protection of basic political freedoms.

In the context of this new debate on where and how the U.S. should engage in Africa, suggestions have tended to emphasize partnerships with "successfully reforming states" and/or with those states whose leaders are considered to represent the "new generation" of African leaders, such as Eritrea or Uganda.These approaches are more opportunistic than strategic.A framework for unbundling Africa that makes sense on the ground and takes into consideration the subregional context within which states are seeking to make economic and political progress continues to warrant serious consideration.

President Clinton will visit Africa for the first time in March 1998.His visit, along with the new economic and security initiatives being promoted by the new Africa policy team, will raise Africa's prominence on the US foreign policy agenda.Subregional cooperation in Africa will be crucial to the success of any renaissance in African affairs.Without a framework for supporting subregional cooperation, Washington's various new initiatives toward Africa will not succeed in maximizing the opportunities now emerging nor in solving key problems which threaten to undermine the progress being achieved in many countries.


From: Message-Id: <> Date: Thu, 19 Mar 1998 22:00:59 -0500 Subject: Africa: Thinking Regionally, Update

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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