Africa: American Assembly, 5/6/97

Africa: American Assembly, 5/6/97

Africa: American Assembly, 1
Date distributed (ymd): 970506
Document reposted by APIC

Africa and U.S. National Interests
American Assembly
March 13-16, 1997

The American Assembly, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 456, New York, NY 10115; phone: 212 870 3500; fax: 212 870 3555; Email:; web:


On March 13, 1997, sixty-nine men and women representing government, business, academia, nongovernmental organizations, the law, international financial institutions, labor, the military, religion, and the media gathered at Arden House, Harriman, New York, for the Ninetieth American Assembly entitled "Africa and U.S. National Interests." For three days the participants examined issues arising out of the African continent, how they affect U.S. national interests in the present and future, and what policy the United States should follow. This Assembly was designed as a prelude to the National Summit on Africa, which begins this year with regional meetings and culminates with major national events in 1999.

This project is chaired by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation, Donald F. McHenry, now University Research Professor of Diplomacy & International Affairs, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. It is directed by former Congressman Howard Wolpe, now at the Brookings Institution, who serves as special envoy for the Burundi peace negotiations on behalf of the president and secretary of state, and David C. Miller Jr., president of the Corporate Council on Africa and former ambassador to Zimbabwe and Tanzania under President Reagan. An expanded version of the background reading prepared by the co-directors with the assistance of David Gordon for the participants will be published as a monograph entitled Africa and U.S. National Interests.

During the Assembly, participants heard formal addresses by Benjamin A. Gilman, Chair, House Committee on International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, and General James L. Jamerson, Deputy Commander-in-Chief, United States European Command. There was also a panel discussion on U.S. national interests and Africa, moderated by Don McHenry, which included Larry D. Bailey, Partner-in-Charge, Africa Desk, Coopers & Lybrand L.L.P., Gay J. McDougall, Executive Director, International Human Rights Law Group, Jeffrey Lang, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, and Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, IV, International Affairs Advisor, Headquarters U.S. European Command, as panelists.

Following their discussions, the participants issued this report on March 16, 1997. It contains both their findings and recommendations.

The text of this report is available on The American Assembly's home page on the World Wide Web (, along with information about the principal speakers at this Assembly, and about other Assembly programs.

We gratefully acknowledge major funding support for this program by Carnegie Corporation of New York, with important support of The Ford Foundation and additional contributions by the Rockefeller Foundation, International Paper, and Maurice Tempelsman.

The American Assembly takes no position on any subjects presented here for public discussion. In addition, it should be noted that the participants took part in this meeting as individuals and spoke for themselves rather than for the organizations and institutions with which they are affiliated.

We would like to express special appreciation for the fine work of the discussion leaders and rapporteurs in helping to prepare the first draft of this report: Pauline Baker, Salih Booker, Herman J. Cohen, MacArthur DeShazer, David F. Gordon, and Cherri D. Waters.

Daniel A. Sharp, President, The American Assembly



At the close of their discussions, the participants in the Ninetieth American Assembly, on "Africa and U.S. National Interests," at Arden House, Harriman, New York, March 13-16, 1997, reviewed as a group the following statement. This statement represents general agreement; however, no one was asked to sign it. Furthermore, it should be understood that not everyone agreed with all of it.

At the very moment that a new generation of Africans is embracing democratic values and market-based economic principles, presenting the United States with an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen mutually beneficial relationships with Africa, America is at risk of a self-defeating de facto retreat. The end of the cold war has radically reconfigured our world, producing a new series of foreign policy challenges and opportunities for the United States. This is particularly true in Africa. The United States must embrace a bold, new futurist vision of Africa, recognizing that its economic, security, and human rights issues are also our issues, and that their lack of resolution will pose a continuing threat to international peace and stability.

The conventional wisdom about Africa is distinctly negative and remarkably persistent. Because war and famine provide far more dramatic television images than functioning economies and parliamentary debates, the images of Africa to which Americans are exposed are sharply skewed and discouraging. Consequently, the continent continues to be seen by most Americans as an economic and political disaster zone, characterized by little more than high levels of poverty and political instability.

But this view of Africa is far more a testament to the limitations of American media coverage, coupled with the legacy of deep-seated cultural attitudes and stereotypes, than to the far more hopeful current reality of many African states. While some of Africa's largest countries are indeed mired in crisis--most notably Zaire, Nigeria, and Sudan--violent struggle and wars have given way to reconciliation and nation building in such places as South Africa, Mozambique, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Namibia. While Africa remains the poorest continent in the world, with the world's highest rate of population growth, a number of African countries are reaping the fruits of new market-oriented institutions and policies. Indeed, in 1995 the aggregate economic growth rate for the 35 countries of sub-Saharan Africa that have implemented major economic reforms topped 5%. Significantly, U.S. exports to Africa have been growing at over 20 percent per year.

The very tendency to generalize about Africa as if it were a single entity is symptomatic of the limited contact most Americans have with Africa. Indeed, it is difficult to grasp the immense size of the African land mass, a continent so large that the whole of China, the continental United States, Europe, Argentina, India, and New Zealand can be fit within its boundaries. The truth is that Africa's fifty-four nations encompass an extraordinary range of cultural, political, and economic diversity. Moreover, in the post-cold war era, the African landscape is undergoing radical transformation--with changes leading to more open societies and economies on the one end (e.g., Namibia, Benin, Tanzania, Mali, Ghana, and Uganda), or to conflict and instability on the other (e.g., Zaire, Liberia, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, and Burundi). It makes no more sense to speak of the independent countries of Africa as an undifferentiated single entity than it does to speak of a homogeneous "Europe" or "Asia," and the challenge to the United States is to develop a differentiated approach to African nations that will be reflective of this real-world complexity.

This is a period of unique opportunity for both America and Africa. We are now in a position to seize the opportunities provided by the emergence of new, democratically-elected African leadership committed to market economies, the establishment of the rule of law and civil society, the privatization of inefficient state industries, and popularly accountable government. These nascent changes, largely unforeseen a decade ago, are fragile and need to be supported. With the United States increasingly dependent for its own economic well-being on the expansion of world trade, the potential for significant growth in African export markets merits aggressive American economic engagement with the continent.

The end of the cold war also requires a redefinition of American security interests. National security analysts are increasingly focused not on the threat of a nuclear attack, but on the threats arising from international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking, the spread of infectious diseases, and environmental degradation. All of these issues are transnational, and their resolution will require the effective cooperation no less of African countries than of other nations. In short, today the strategic, economic, and political interests of the United States demand an intensified and sustained engagement with Africa.

If the United States can adjust its policies in light of the changing strategic environment and the sweeping economic and political changes transforming the African continent, it is well-positioned to benefit from a broader engagement with Africa. The advantages the United States brings to its engagement with Africa are several and unique: its experience with pluralism and the heritage of racial and ethnic diversity, its espousal of democratic values, its commitment to human rights, and its technological and entrepreneurial strength. An expanded partnership with the African continent will be of significant mutual benefit to both Americans and Africans.

Paradoxically, notwithstanding these dramatic developments that present both opportunities and challenges, recent years have witnessed not the expansion of American engagement with Africa, but in effect a retreat from the continent. U.S. policy has been characterized by a dangerous sense of drift. Many embassies and consulates, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) missions, and United States Information Agency (USIA) offices have been closed or reduced to a token presence. Assistance levels have fallen to the point that the United States is becoming a minor player compared to other donors. It would be a tragedy if the end of the cold war and the emergence of new African governments that share U.S. values and economic principles were to be met by the withdrawal of the United States from Africa.

An additional observation is in order. The multiplicity of private sector organizations that dominate our social and economic intercourse with the more developed world--such as Europe and Japan--is beginning to play the same role with the newly successful African countries. U.S. private investment exceeded bilateral development assistance by about $200 million in 1996--and this trend promises to accelerate over the next few years. Similarly, U.S. private voluntary organizations (PVOs), churches, and technical assistance organizations are becoming important partners of African governments and civil society striving to build democratic institutions, strengthen the rule of law, and protect the human rights of their citizens. This American Assembly feels that the increasing and welcome presence of American non-governmental actors in Africa is all the more reason for the U.S. government to strengthen and deepen its engagement with the continent. The growing number of partnerships with Africa need to be supported, and greater coordination among them should be encouraged, to advance both U.S. and African interests.


In no realm is the potential for change in U.S.-Africa relations more pronounced than in the economic sphere. Where once American business thought of Africa as inhospitable, many leaders of the corporate community are now among the most enthusiastic proponents of expanded U.S. engagement with the continent because opportunities for mutual benefits are increasingly evident. A growing number of African countries are offering attractive investment opportunities and favorable trade prospects. It is clearly in the U.S. national interest to reinforce these gains as they create jobs for American citizens and profits for American investors, while promoting economic growth and prosperity in Africa.

The U.S. business community's growing interest stems from the positive changes taking place in Africa. Thirty-five African countries are implementing macro-economic policy reforms that enphasize private sector development. Aggregate growth rates for Africa in 1995 and 1996 averaged twice the rates of the previous decade and are projected by the World Bank to increase. Indeed, U.S. trade with the eleven countries of Southern Africa is roughly equal to U.S. trade with all fifteen republics of the former Soviet Union.

In order to sustain this forward movement, African nations and the United States have a shared interest in promoting continued economic growth and broad-based development. Given the small size of many African markets, these impressive growth figures will be even stronger and easier to sustain if African countries can achieve regional economic integration. This process is also central to deepening Africa's integration into the global economy.

U.S. Trade and Investment in Africa

The United States has an interest in promoting trade and investment with Africa in a manner that coincides with Africa's own interests. To do so:

* The United States should promote private enterprise in Africa and business partnerships with local entrepreneurs, expand African access to U.S. markets, and encourage the establishment of regulatory environments conducive to private investment, both local and foreign.

* The administration should examine all provisions of U.S. trade law that negatively impact growth and development in Africa, and in particular should exempt African countries from the provisions that restrict African textile exports to U.S. markets.

* The United States should fully fund existing commitments to the International Development Association (IDA) and the newly reformed African Development Bank (ADB), and encourage the IDA to support directly private sector development (in the form of equity or quasi-equity) and through its capacity to provide guarantees.

* The administration should defend programs that facilitate private capital flows to Africa (through the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation), offer tax incentives to increase U.S. private investment, and explore more creative opportunities to provide financing that will encourage positive economic change and the development of local African entrepreneurship.

* The administration should initiate a major effort to engage the American agribusiness community in Africa through a combination of public sector and private sector activities, as this is a sector that can lead to growth, food security, and mutual benefit.

* The United States should assist African countries to take advantage of increased global trade through serious participation in the World Trade Organization, especially in such areas as the Information Technology Agreement, the Telecommunications Agreement, and the upcoming Financial Services negotiations.

Sustainable Development and Growth

It is also in the interest of the United States to support broad-based and sustainable development to help insure that the benefits of growth and open markets are equitably shared and ecologically sound. This is equally important to promote stability and reduce societal pressures that could undermine economic and political progress.

* The United States, recognizing Africa's significant progress in political and economic reform, should create an African Partnership Fund, earmarking $300 million for countries that demonstrate leadership in the consolidation of democratic institutions and in the implementation of market-oriented reforms. This fund would be in addition to the approximately $680 million in bilateral development assistance currently committed to Africa.

o The United States should remove legislative and regulatory restrictions on development aid to Africa to enable a more flexible response to the rapid transformations taking place in Africa.

o U.S. policies and assistance should continue to support realistic national development priorities as expressed by African countries, and the United States should coordinate its program with each country's strategy for addressing those priorities.

o The United States should work to improve the terms of the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) debt reduction proposals, by accelerating the time frame for the implementation of these proposals, and by insuring that the large number of African countries whose debt burden consigns them to a virtual "debtor's prison" will benefit from this initiative.

o The United States should enhance bilateral and multilateral programs to reduce poverty and strengthen those sectors crucial to human development in Africa (e.g., health and education). Such support should emphasize programs aimed at the empowerment of women, including access to credit as well as the right to inherit property; the promotion of rural development; and the support of micro-enterprise development.

o Since foreign aid remains a crucial tool for U.S. engagement with Africa, and USAID must retain a significant field-based capacity, the agency should continue to streamline its processes, reduce overhead levels, and otherwise increase efficiency,

Regional Economic Integration

The full realization of Africa's economic potential and Africa's integration into the global economy depends in part on progress in achieving regional economic integration. Many African markets are too small to achieve economies of scale. Small indigenous industries are arising as a result of current economic reforms. Expanded regional markets could offer African countries cheaper manufactured goods from neighboring countries.

African leaders are increasingly committed to the ideal of economic integration, and new efforts are being undertaken in all regions of the continent. The tendency toward greater democracy has brought more policy flexibility and increased regional cooperation. The United States should continue to work closely with African governments and regional economic organizations, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to accelerate the process of integration.

(continued in part 2)


Africa: American Assembly, 2 Date distributed (ymd): 970506 Document reposted by APIC

Africa and U.S. National Interests American Assembly March 13-16, 1997

The American Assembly, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 456, New York, NY 10115; phone: 212 870 3500; fax: 212 870 3555; Email:; web:

(continued from part 1)


Real progress toward democracy has occurred in many countries (e.g., Benin, Botswana, Eritrea, Ghana, Mali, Namibia, and South Africa), all of which should be applauded for their achievements. However, this progress often remains fragile. In many other countries (e.g., Zambia, Burundi, Niger, and the Central African Republic), there has been backsliding, military coups, or persistent authoritarian regimes that resist the forces of change that are occurring globally. Therefore, two primary approaches are recommended for U.S. policy to promote good governance, democracy, and human rights. The first relates to strategies for fostering open political systems. The second relates to policies toward the "giants in crisis" (Zaire, Nigeria, and Sudan).

Democratization and Good Governance

U.S. support for democratization in Africa since 1990, through the programs of the USAID, USIA, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), has been of great value to the process of political change, especially in the important area of free and fair elections. The U.S. should continue to coordinate with other bilateral and multilateral donors in supporting the positive trend toward democratization on the continent through in-country policy dialogue and specific program activities. Such coordination emphasizes the universality of democratic principles.

As the democratic process in many African countries advances, U.S. programs should emphasize the building of capacity and competence of state institutions, such as legislative bodies, justice systems, the civil service, the police, and the military. T[t]he emphasis should be on limited and accountable government that has the capabilities and professionalism to deal with the critical issues of diversity and pluralism, the rule of law, the efficient provision of public services, the maintenance of order according to democratic practices that respect human rights, and the development of systems to prevent bribery and corruption. Militaries should be professionalized so that they are under the strict control of elected civilian governments and are loyal to constitutional order rather than to particular groups or factions in society. Building state capacity also includes creating the regulatory environment for economic growth and development under the rule of law.

In the area of human rights, all African states have adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and associated covenants, and have ratified the International Labor Organization conventions on workers' rights. There is agreement within the international community on what constitutes human rights violations and how to measure them. Most of these principles have also been enshrined in the African Charter for Peoples and Human Rights. The United States should support African states in fulfilling their obligations under these international and regional agreements.

An essential component of promoting democracy and human rights is the strengthening of African civil society. Particular attention should be directed toward the women's organizations; human rights groups; the media; independent research, advocacy, and policy institutions; and academic institutions. There are three critical approaches to strengthening civil society.

o First, the United States should increase its activities with African governments to create an environment that is conducive to civil institutions.

o Second, the United States should continue to encourage linkages between U.S. civil institutions and their counterparts in Africa.

o Third, the United States should direct increased resources to support African non-governmental organizations (NGOs) .

Giants in Crisis

Three large countries--Nigeria, Zaire, and Sudan--face serious crises that can repercussions far beyond their borders. We believe that a false choice has been presented for U.S. policy with respect to Nigeria and Sudan, namely that the United States must choose between isolation and engagement. Instead, we believe that a three-pronged effective policy approach toward both countries must involve government-to-government dialogue, aid to democracy advocates and civil society, and the application of sanctions and other forms of pressure. There should be an integrated, nuanced, and flexible policy that is responsive to events on the ground. We also believe greater attention should be given to Nigeria, where there is still time for preventive diplomacy, and that regional efforts to bring peace to Sudan should be supported.

With respect to Zaire, the largest failed state in Africa, U.S. policy should aim at encouraging an exit for the old regime and facilitating the emergence of a legitimate government, thereby decreasing violence and minimizing loss of life. The United States should be prepared to support international intervention, if necessary, in order to prevent large-scale human suffering and loss of life.


In recent years, Africa has been the theater of some of the world's most persistent conflicts. A number of long-standing civil conflicts have been resolved since 1990, thanks to the vigorous diplomatic and military interventions of a variety of actors. The United States has contributed in various ways to many humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts. As most African countries transition to democratic political systems, the causes of violent conflict are diminishing. Nevertheless, some countries continue to be mired in corrupt and authoritarian regimes, and are deeply stressed. Instability in these countries threatens neighbors as well as prospects for development, and inevitably impacts resident U.S. citizens, property, and investments. Preserving and enhancing security in Africa should therefore be a high priority for U.S. policy, in order to consolidate economic and political gains and to protect American interests.

Preventive Diplomacy--Often, the United States has been unprepared and unwilling to deal in a timely way with serious crises in Africa. The United States needs to emphasize preventive diplomacy as a central part of its policy. This involves 1) strengthening U.S. information collection capabilities; 2) strengthening U.S. ability to analyze the data collected; and, most critically, 3) strengthening U.S. political will to act. Preventive diplomacy saves lives, saves money, and reduces the need for military intervention. For example, roughly as much (approximately $700 million) was spent in Rwanda in the eighteen months following the genocidal violence in 1994, as was spent that year in total bilateral development assistance in sub-Saharan Africa.

The United Nations--The United Nations has been the primary actor in peacekeeping in Africa for more than three decades. To enable the organization to continue this role, which is highly cost-effective for the United States, the United States must take action to pay its arrears and assessments to the UN and to all agencies of the UN system.

African Conflict Management Initiatives--The Organization for African Unity (OAU) and several subregional groupings have taken significant initiatives in the area of conflict prevention, management, and resolution. African leaders have demonstrated a growing political will to invest in conflict management activities with the cooperation of civil society, the United Nations, and other actors in the international community. The United States should continue to support such initiatives on a sustainable basis through the allocation of resources, the provision of technical assistance, and the encouragement of close UN support for African peacekeeping and conflict resolution initiatives. The United States should also increase its efforts to address the mounting crisis of internal displacement and the massive flow of refugees across state borders.

African Military Professionalism--Stability and security in Africa will depend to a great extent on the professionalism and commitment to democracy of African military establishments. The most important effort t[T]he United States can make is to encourage civilian control of Africa's militaries. The United States is playing an important supporting role through the Expanded Military Education and Training (IMET) program to assist African officials charged with oversight of the military, and to facilitate dialogue between African military, civilian officials, and civil society organizations. The United States further supports the professionalization of African militaries through regular contacts between U.S. military personnel and their African counterparts, including national and regional joint training exercises, visits to U.S. military command, attendance at U.S. military schools, and U.S. military visits to Africa (for humanitarian relief training). U.S. resources devoted to these activities should be restored from the present level of $ 10 million to levels existing prior to 1990, which were approximately $30 million. The overall cost of such activities is minimal compared to the cost of responding to conflicts that are often exacerbated by unprofessional armies.

Crisis Intervention Policy--The United States should encourage African governments to discharge effectively the responsibilities of sovereignty in good governments and conflict management. When conflict prevention and management efforts are unsuccessful, major humanitarian crises can sometimes ensue. In such situations, a vigorous international response is appropriate. This is especially true when such crises threaten to degenerate into genocide. International interventions, military or otherwise, will rarely succeed without the forceful leadership of the United States in cooperation with the international community, most often within the context of the UN. The evolving African Conflict Response Initiative provides a mechanism through which the United States can recommit itself to the exercise of such leadership.

Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Reconciliation--African countries emerging from violent conflict face enormous challenges, such as demobilization, demining, infrastructure repair, and restoration of governmental functions. If reconstruction does not progress, conflict can easily return. The United States and the international community must play a role in post-conflict reconstruction. However, with the costs so substantial, it is difficult for the United States to contribute to these needs without drawing from resources previously allocated to, and needed and deserved by, stable countries that are performing well. The United States should seriously consider separate budgetary allocations for reconstruction of war-ravaged countries.

Transnational Security Issues--U.S. interests in curbing arms proliferation, drug trafficking, international criminal activities, terrorism, the spread of infectious disease, and environmental degradation are as significant in Africa as they are in the rest of the world. The United States should develop better sources of information and analysis on these problems as a basis for enhanced cooperation with African governments, the OAU, and subregional organizations in combating these threats to mutual security interests.


In recognition of Africa's dramatic political and economic transformation and of Africa's growing importance to U.S. national interests, this American Assembly calls for renewed and vigorous national leadership on U.S. - Africa relations:

o President Clinton should travel to Africa to draw attention to Africa's political and economic renewal, and to engage Africa's leaders on issues of mutual concern, such as international trade, conflict prevention, and peacekeeping.

o The president should also invite selected African leaders to participate in a U.S.-Africa Partnership Summit to explore ways and means of strengthening U.S. economic and political linkages.

o The president should take the opportunity of his chairmanship of the G-7 Summit meeting in Denver in June 1997 to announce the creation of the African Partnership Fund as part of a comprehensive U.S. trade and investment initiative for Africa. In addition, the G-7 countries should be encouraged to take coordinated action to facilitate Africa's full and equitable participation in the global economy.

o Government agencies responsible for trade and investment must mobilize to take advantage of Africa's dramatically improved economic environment In particular, the growing complexity of U.S.-Africa trade relations requires the appointment of an Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa.

o The National Security Council should be tasked to coordinate Africa-related policies, programs, and activities to ensure the effective implementation of new initiatives launched by the president. This coordinated undertaking should include, minimally, representatives from the Departments of State, Defense, Commerce, and the Treasury, as well as USAID and the U.S. Trade Representative's Office. The goal should be the development of a truly holistic approach to the critical questions of U.S. Africa policy.

o The Congress must ensure that the State Department, USAID, and USIA all retain adequate resources and personnel to be effective. The Department of Defense is to be commended for restoring many of the defense attache positions lost in recent years, but the trend of closing diplomatic posts and sharply scaling back the number of countries in which the U.S. foreign aid program operates is damaging. Assembly participants are mindful of the crucial leadership role that Congress has played in changing the course of U.S.-Africa relations at important junctures, e.g., the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1996. Reinvigorated Congressional interest and leadership on Africa now can and must make a real difference.

o Finally, Congress must continue current levels of development funding for Africa, and should reduce programming restrictions to provide a more flexible instrument for responding to the dynamic changes in Africa. These programs are targeted at enhancing the capacity of Africa's low-income countries to promote broad-based, poverty-reducing, and private sector-led development strategies. In addition, Congress must lend its authority and financial support to the African Partnership Fund.

In recommending more vigorous and visible U.S. leadership for enhanced American engagement in Africa, the participants in this American Assembly have not lost sight of the ultimate responsibility that Africans themselves have in the shaping of their continent's future. With the best will in the world, the United States and other international partners cannot create development or democracy in Africa. Only Africans can make this happen. The good news is that new leadership, determined to bring about meaningful change, has emerged in a majority of African countries.

All Americans have an interest in helping to ensure the success of these extraordinary reform efforts. The United States must send a clear message to those African countries that have embarked on serious political and economic transition that they can count on the sustained cooperation of the United States in a mutually beneficial partnership.


See list on American Assembly web site:


From: Message-Id: <> Date: Tue, 6 May 1997 08:54:45 -0500 Subject: Africa: American Assembly, 1-2

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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