Talking Points on President Bush’s trip to Africa and on the Bush Administration’s Africa Policy
From Africa Action, [7 July 2003]
President George W. Bush travels to Africa for his first official
visit next week. Between July 7 and 12, he will visit the nations of
Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria.
The following are talking points covering the key issues in U.S.
Africa policy, prepared by Africa Action (202-546 7961).
Trade is high on the agenda of Bush’s Africa trip. Though the
Bush Administration promotes trade as the engine of growth, the
reality is that the U.S. continues to pursue trade policies that are
antithetical to Africa’s interests.
- The U.S. trade representatives continue to block implementation of
the 2001 Doha Declaration on trade, which called for looser patent
rules in order to give African countries greater access to essential
- U.S. agricultural subsidies undermine
Africa’s competitiveness, and cost the continent tens of
billions of dollars each year in lost revenues.
- Total trade between
the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa fell dramatically in 2002. Two-way
trade was just under $24 billion, down 15% from the previous year.
U.S. exports shrank to $6 billion, and U.S. imports fell to $17.9
- Africa’s share of total world trade stands at 1%,
less than half of what it was in 1980.
- The African Growth &
Opportunity Act (2000) was intended to offer incentives to African
countries to open their markets, but it has brought very little
benefit to a few countries, and has not promoted sustainable economic
The Bush Administration is increasingly interested in Africa’s
oil resources as an alternative to importing oil from the Middle East.
- In 2002, crude oil accounted for $11 billion, or 61% of U.S.
imports from Africa.
- In 2001, sub-Saharan Africa supplied 18% of
U.S. oil imports. This is almost as much as Saudi Arabia.
National Intelligence Council projects U.S. oil supplies from West
Africa will increase to 25% by 2015. This would surpass U.S. oil
imports from the entire Persian Gulf.
- Nigeria is the 5th largest
supplier of oil to the U.S., accounting for more than one-tenth of
total U.S. oil imports.
- Aside from Nigeria, the major oil producers
in West Africa include Angola, Congo, Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial
The U.S. is the richest country in human history, but it fails to
provide its fair share of foreign assistance to support African
efforts to promote human development and overcome great social and
- The U.S. currently ranks at the bottom of all donor countries, with
only 0.1% of GNP (or about $10 billion) going to foreign aid
worldwide. Only 1/100th of 1% of the U.S. budget ($1 billion) is spent
on aid to sub-Saharan Africa.
- In March 2002, President Bush
announced a new initiative called the Millennium Challenge Account
(MCA). This would increase U.S. development assistance by 50% over
the next 3 years, so that by 2006 an annual increase of $5 billion
would be achieved. The President’s budget request for the MCA
for FY 2004 (beginning in October 2003) is $1.3 billion.
- MCA funds
will go to a list of countries (only a handful in Africa) that meet
specific criteria—govern justly, invest in the wellbeing of
their people, and encourage economic freedom.
- The MCA will be
administered by a new body called the Millennium Challenge Corporation
(MCC). This will be a government corporation headed by a Chief
Executive Officer, and staffed from the public and private sector. A
cabinet-level board will oversee the MCC, and will be chaired by the
Secretary of State.
- The MCA proposes a smaller increase in foreign
aid than what the U.S. can and should provide. The eligibility
criteria defined by the U.S. reinforces an imperialist- style
relationship with poor countries, and creates competition between poor
countries for a portion of the relatively meager MCA funds.
U.S. has consistently failed to commit the level of aid that would be
commensurate with its own interests and obligations, or with African
military footprint in Africa is growing. The
U.S. is increasingly interested in establishing military bases and
securing access to ports and airfields in Africa for strategic
- The U.S. military base in Djibouti, East Africa, has been the main
U.S. base for counter-terrorist activities off-shore and in that
region since September 2001. Camp Lemonier is home to 1,800 U.S.
troops, strategically placed across the Red Sea from the Persian
- The U.S. is boosting its troop presence in West Africa, a
region that is strategically important because of U.S. oil interests.
The tiny island nation of Sao Tome offered to host a U.S. naval base,
and Washington is considering that invitation.
- President Bush
announced a new $100 million initiative last week, to support the
counter-terrorism efforts of East African countries.
Charles Rangel (D-NY) has written a letter to the Secretary of
Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, expressing concern over the expansion of the
U.S. military presence in Africa, and asking for an explanation of
Conflict Resolution & Peacekeeping
The refusal of the U.S. to participate in multilateral peacekeeping
efforts undermines African initiatives in this area. It also reveals
the lack of U.S. commitment to addressing Africa’s most urgent
- In Liberia, the political crisis is growing in the aftermath of the
breakdown of last month’s cease-fire agreement. The United
Nations, European powers, and the people of Liberia are asking the
U.S. to intervene to stop the latest violence. Although Bush has
called for the removal of President Charles Taylor, the U.S. remains
unwilling to take action to ensure a peaceful transition in Liberia,
and promote stability in the West Africa region.
- In the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC), the peace process is moving forward, and
stakeholders have approved a transitional government that should be
inaugurated soon. However, violence and insecurity persist,
particularly in eastern Congo, and a strong international commitment,
and a larger peacekeeping force, will be required to ensure the peace
process can be brought to a successful conclusion.
- In both Liberia
and DRC, the U.S. bears a large degree of historical responsibility
for the conflicts that have destabilized these countries. During the
Cold War, the U.S. provided billions of dollars worth of aid (and
arms) to dictators of African countries that were considered
geo-strategically important. Liberia, DRC, and Somalia are among the
countries that had
special Cold War relationships with the
U.S. and that fell into violence and political turmoil in the 1990s.
Despite this historical responsibility, the U.S. adopts a
approach to African conflicts, and it refuses to participate in
multilateral peacekeeping efforts, committing only bare logistical
support in some cases.
Africa’s Debt Crisis
Sub-Saharan Africa’s massive burden of external debt is the
largest obstacle to the continent’s development, and to the
fight against AIDS.
- African countries owe almost $300 billion to rich creditor
governments and to international financial institutions such as the
World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
- Each year,
African governments are required to pay almost $15 billion in debt
service to foreign creditors. These debts drain money from health
care, education and other essential services, and from the response to
the AIDS crisis.
- Most of Africa’s debts are illegitimate and
they should be canceled. Many of these debts were incurred by
dictators during the Cold War, who did not use the money to benefit
Africa’s people. Other loans were given for failed development
projects, which also did not benefit Africa’s people.
current international debt relief framework, the Heavily Indebted Poor
Countries (HIPC) Initiative, has failed to provide a solution to the
debt crisis. It was launched by creditors in 1996, and
enhanced in 1999, but it has failed to reduce Africa’s
debt to a sustainable level. Even the World Bank and IMF have
admitted that the HIPC initiative is not working. An independent audit
of these two institutions has shown that they can afford to cancel
Africa’s debts completely.
- The U.S. is the single largest
shareholder at the World Bank and IMF, to whom most of Africa’s
debt is owed, and it can use its power to demand a new initiative to
address Africa’s debt crisis.
- An inventory should be done of
the debts currently being repaid by African countries, to establish
what loans are being repaid, and whether the debts are legitimate.
The U.S. should support this proposal. Until a solution has been found
to the debt crisis, a moratorium should be declared on debt
repayments. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN, is among those
who have endorsed this idea.
The AIDS Crisis
The AIDS pandemic is the greatest global threat to human security that
exists today. It is taking its most devastating toll in Africa.
- Africa is
ground zero of the global AIDS crisis, home to 30
million of the 42 million people living with HIV/AIDS globally. More
than 18 million Africans have died of AIDS in the past 20 years, out
of 25 million people worldwide.
- The UN and the National Intelligence
Council emphasize that the global AIDS crisis is still in its infancy.
They project that over 100 million people will be living with HIV/AIDS
- In his State of the Union address in January, President
Bush announced a new plan to increase funding to fight AIDS in Africa,
but this is turning out to be a cruel hoax.
- Bush promised an
emergency plan to give $15 billion over 5 years to fight AIDS
in Africa and the Caribbean. But NO new money has been made available
in 2003, and only $450 million is being requested for 2004. The White
House has backtracked and said that the money will not just be for
Africa and the Caribbean, as the President said, but for the entire
- President Bush has requested only $200 million per year for
the Global Fund to fight AIDS, which is the most effective vehicle for
addressing Africa’s AIDS crisis. The Global Fund is transparent
and accountable, it has fewer administrative costs than bilateral
(USAID) programs, and it involves key stakeholders in decision-making.
But because the U.S. refuses to pay its fair share ($3.5 billion per
year), the Global Fund will not have sufficient money to fund a third
round of grant proposals in October 2003.
- President Bush has
acknowledged that affordable antiretroviral drugs are necessary to
fight HIV/AIDS. In order for African countries to have access to
these drugs, they must have the capacity to produce them for low cost
themselves, or else to import cheaper generic versions from Brazil,
India and elsewhere. But the U.S. trade representative is still
blocking African access to these drugs, and insisting that
pharmaceutical company patents take priority over people’s
- The absence of U.S. leadership remains the greatest obstacle
to a successful effort to defeat AIDS in Africa and globally.