news analysis advocacy
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 9 Partner Sites



Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!

Print this page

Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

USA: Summit Documents, 2

USA: Summit Documents, 2
Date distributed (ymd): 000227
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+ +US policy focus+
Summary Contents:
Over 5,000 delegates and participants gathered in Washington February 16-20, 2000 for a "National Summit on Africa." There were actually at least four related but distinctive gatherings during the Summit. The first was the high-profile event of plenaries, receptions and dinners, featuring Presidents Bill Clinton, Daniel arap Moi and other dignitaries. There was the deliberative process culminating in a document with 254 policy recommendations. There were parallel programs on a host of topics. Perhaps most important if least visible were the countless informal meetings in and around the conference, in corridors, restaurants and other venues.

This set of three postings contains material, both official and critical, primarily relating to the high-profile event -- the only one on which there are now documents available in electronic format. The National Summit has announced a press conference on February 29 to present the National Plan of Action, which is promised to be available later, along with other materials, on the Summit's web site ( Additional news coverage is available at the Africa News web site
( APIC will post references to additional material later as it becomes available.

This posting contains a press release from the Summit secretariat, a critical statement presented by concerned delegates at the closing session, and a letter from a former Summit board member. The other two postings contain remarks by President Bill Clinton and a round-up article from the Foreign-Policy-in-Focus project.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

National Summit on Africa
Press Release

February 20, 2000

Contact: Sunni Khalid, Director of Communications 202-345-5180 (cell phone); 202-887-9682 #16 (phone); 202-861-8645 (fax)

The National Summit on Africa's Dialogue and Celebration Ends; Gathering Vows to Make Africa Matter to Americans

Summit Delegates Approve National Policy Plan of Action for US-Africa Relations

Washington -- The National Summit on Africa adopted its National Plan of Action and pledged to continue its work to promote a stronger partnership between the United States and Africa.

Leonard H. Robinson, Jr., the Summit's president and CEO, and the Chairman of the Summit's Board Dr. Herschelle Challenor, told the converence, which was attended by more than 2,000 delegates and 3,000 additional participants, at the closing plenary session that the organization plans to make an impact with foreign policymakers, the corporate community and with national, state and local officeholders across the country.

"We must not give up," said Robinson. "There are thousands of delegates and participants, thousands of people who have been affected and inspired by this process. There are thousands of non-government organizations, church groups and others who have been working on behalf of Africa all these years. They must be included in this process to lift up Africa."

Robinson spoke as the Summit's National Plan of Action was being passed out to some of the 5,100 delegates and participants who came to Washington this week to attend the five-day event. Delegates participated in deliberative sessions on five themes -- peace and security, democracy and human rights, education and culture, sustainable development and the environment, and economic development -- and produced 254 policy recommendations for U.S. pollicy towards the continent.

Among other things, the Summit's plan of action contains recommendations calling for:

  • support for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act;
  • increased funding for AIDS research, education and prevention;
  • The United States to support a ban on landmines;
  • An end of sales of small arms;
  • The United States to pay its arrears to the United Nations;
  • More financial aid for African refugees and raising the immigration limit for African refugees;
  • Increased support for peacekeeping training and missions to Africa; and,
  • Strengthened economic ties and financial assistance with Africa.

The complete National Policy Plan of Action will be available on the Summit's website (

The Summit president said that his organization would work with others to promote stronger ties between the U.S. and Africa.

"Those organizations that existed long before the Summit was a twinkle in anyone's eyes -- the Africa America Institute, TransAfrica, the Constituency for Africa and Africare -- why can't we work together to make this happen?" asked Robinson. "As long as The National Summit on Africa has a nickel to spend, we guarantee that we will work with anybody who has Africa -- not self-interest -- in mind."

The Summit president told delegates and participants that the Washington-based organization would work immediately to implement the National Policy Plan of Action. He said delegations in the 50 states and the District of Columbia would be encouraged to inform members of Congress and the Plan of Action. Delegations will also work to educate participants in upcoming Republican and Democratic primaries and caucuses from March to June, parety platform committees and national party conventions.

"We say to the world, particularly to the United States and Africa, that we have established a position on Africa because Africa Matters!" said Robert Cummings, the head of Howard University Department of African Studies, who also chaired the Summit's deliberative session on economic development. "We are about the business of fighting for this document because we are invested in it."

Summit officials put the total number of participants at this week's event at 5,100 people. Dignitaries included President Bill Clinton, as well as Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Assistant Secretary of State Susan R. Rice, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, Ambassador Andrew Young, the Rev. Leon Sullivan, former Gen. Colin Powell, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. Judith McHale of the Discovery Channel, former Congressman Ron Dellums and dozens of African cabinet ministers of diplomats.

Where is the Dialogue in the National Summit on Africa?

[This statement, drafted by concerned delegates and distributed for signatures in the final two days of the summit, was presented at the closing session by Dr. Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome, a professor at Fordham University who was co-chair of the New York state delegation, who also spoke of the responsibility of Chevron for the death of a family member in the Niger Delta. An open letter by Dr. Okome to the Nigerian government and to Chevron, dated October 20, 1999, is available on the Africa Resource Center web site (]

The National Summit on Africa (NSA) has brought together thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations to move forward the dialogue on US-Africa relations. We recognize the efforts of all those involved. However, we are extremely concerned that the process has been organized in violation of many of the core values that motivate and drive our efforts to promote social, economic, environmental and political justice in Africa. We protest the use of our names and reputations of our organizations in ways that violate the following fundamental principles of democracy, transparency and accountability:

BALANCED AND OPEN DEBATE: Whereas representation by African official and privileged sectors is strong and African diplomatic statements were included in NSA orientation materials, representation within the official Summit process by other Africans in the US and by African civil society, including women's, farmer's, labor, human rights, youth and other grassroots organizations is woefully inadequate. If the NSA is about peoples' participation in policymaking, why are these views and voices not given (at least) equal prominence? Where are the opportunities for diverse opinions in keynote addresses and plenary sessions? If the goal of the deliberative process is to create a Plan of Action on priority policy issues, why are discussions of current issues affecting the continent absent? At the so-called Presidential Candidate's Forum, why were no opportunities provided for questions regarding the candidates' records and positions on issues affecting Africa? Where is the balanced dialogue?

DEMOCRATIC AND TRANSPARENT PROCESS: Decision-making and communication surrounding the NSA process has been concentrated in a small, centralized group without adequate consultation with the participants involved - e.g. over officials invited, fiscal accountability, corporate sponsorships and the future of the NSA. If the NSA's ideals are partnership and democracy, why would an African leader who has a well-documented record of human rights abuses be honored? Does the prominent role given to Daniel arap Moi represent the kind of governmental partnership we want reflected in US-Africa relations? Why were alternative Kenyan views not given equal visibility? If Moi was invited in the name of the California delegates, why were most California delegates unaware of it until their arrival in Washington DC? Where is the dialogue on good governance?

ECONOMIC JUSTICE: Why are corporate-friendly policies promoted, while worker- and environment-friendly policies are ignored? Why is the NSA promoting one particular piece of legislation -- the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)-- in its documents and plenaries? Why, given the rise of African and global social movements for economic justice, has there not been similar space allocated for their proponents to examine the role and impacts of the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO? Where is the dialogue on fair trade, economic reform and developmental alternatives?

CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY: Why is the NSA funded by companies like Monsanto and Chevron, known exploiters of workers, communities and the environment? How were the decisions to accept sponsorship arrived at? Did these contributions assure a privileged position of corporate voices and the absence of their critics? Where is the dialogue on corporate accountability?

WORKERS' RIGHT TO ORGANIZE: Whey were functions and delegates booked at the non-union Grand Hyatt? Where is the union bug on Summit documents? Why were African trade unionists not present? What do these anti-union acts tell African workers? While Al Gore refused to cross a picket line, why were NSA delegates and activists expected to cross that same picket line? Where is the dialogue on worker's rights and on solidarity between workers and unions in the US and in Africa?

In spite of these issues and failings much has been accomplished that can be built on over the months and years ahead. Before any NSA continuation plans can be considered, however:

  • A framework of Guiding Principles that enshrines the above values must be developed in a transparent and participatory manner;
  • A full evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses to date must be completed and discussed, taking into account the views of at-large delegates, marginalized and missing groups, as well as those who have left or opted out. These discussions should inform considerations about whether to take forward the NSA and in what manner.


TO: Members of the Board of Directors, National Summit on Africa
FROM: Salih Booker
RE: Summit Secretariat Proposals on the Future of the National Summit on Africa
DATE: February 8, 2000

As a former member of the Board I am very concerned about the proposals for perpetuating the National Summit on Africa that you are currently contemplating. I believe that these proposals represent a contradiction of the very Summit process they purport to continue and a betrayal of the original vision of the Summit. Nor do these proposals emanate from demands arising organically from successful subregional summit meetings during the past three years.

I strongly believe that the proposals to perpetuate the Summit as a new and permanent organization should be opposed for the following reasons:

  • They contradict the original vision of the Summit process and prejudge the Summit deliberations themselves;
  • They fail to seriously consider the desirability of ending the NSA, following its intended closure, in favor of strengthening the organizations that have a proven record of far more productive and cost-effective work on African affairs;
  • They suggest the creation of an entity dominated by US Corporations to act as a catalyst for working against the existing people-centered NGOs and their public education and public advocacy networking efforts;
  • They project a vision of a new vehicle focused on the corporate community that would itself be a duplication of other existing corporate-oriented Africa groups;
  • They fail to acknowledge that the NSA has not demonstrated that it has any comparative advantage in any of the areas it proposes to continue its work. Greater humility and a capacity for self-criticism would be welcome, as it appears that the original plans for a serious evaluation of the Summit process have -- like so many other decisions -- been abandoned;
  • These proposals will only lead to a further diminution of funding possibilities for existing Africa-focused organizations, especially politically and economically progressive organizations including African American ones.


In 1993 I was contracted by the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation to undertake a review of ten American organizations and programs that focused on African affairs and to review the changes in US foreign policymaking toward Africa that were then emerging with the end of the Cold War. This study has unfortunately never been publicly released. Principal among its findings was that Africa did not lack a constituency in the US but rather that there were multiple constituencies. The report further outlined the potential convergence between African objectives of attaining security, democracy and development and those of the US of promoting global security, enlarging the community of democracies and increasing economic growth and prosperity in the world. The report recommended -- inter alia -- working with the existing leading Africa-focused organizations to build a shared policy agenda and to develop means to increase public participation in the policymaking process. It noted that those most effective in impacting policy had historically been excluded from foundation funding. The report identified a need for greater cooperation among existing groups, based on their unique strengths and focused on a shared agenda, rather than the creation of new and competing organizations further draining scarce resources. The Summit was designed to help build such cooperation within a specific timeframe while avoiding the creation of a new and permanent diversion of the limited funds available for Africa work in the US.

In 1995 I was contracted by the Ford Foundation to develop the concept paper for the National Summit on Africa. That report was given to Africare as the organization designated by Ford to develop the concept into a funding proposal and to serve as a 'midwife' for the creation of the Summit process. In 1996 I served along with my close colleague Dr. Cherri Waters as a consultant to Africare to develop the Summit funding proposal. As the individuals responsible for articulating, in writing, the vision of the National Summit on Africa necessary for foundation consideration of the project's merit and feasibility, we know that the idea of creating a new organization, especially a hegemonic one, is antithetical to the original vision of the Summit process.

As you all know, the NSA was modeled on the United Nations World Conferences model (e.g. the Earth Summit, the Conference on Women, etc.). A secretariat supported by expert groups prepared written resource materials designed to inform democratic debate in a series of preparatory conferences in each subregion of America. These meetings produced draft plans of action and elected delegates to the National Summit. The deliberative process at the Summit is to produce a final plan of action with recommendations for improving and increasing US relations with Africa not only in the realm of foreign policy but among all major sectors of American society. The process was originally intended to identify priorities in US-Africa relations and to strengthen those organizations that work full-time on Africa by facilitating their use of the process to educate and engage new participants in their various programs, and to help them shape their programs to meet newly identified interests. These core organizations were seen as the institutional vehicles upon which the post-Summit efforts would depend. Indeed, the Summit process -- as an extended educational and mobilization campaign -- was intended to help deliver new people and new resources to those organizations best able to service the needs of expanded constituencies and to cooperate with one another on specific work. Though this approach has consistently been ignored or resisted, it remains -- in my humble opinion -- the most important and still salvageable potential outcome of the Summit.

At the start of the Summit process in 1996, myself and others involved in its creation invested a great deal of personal and political capital in convincing numerous constituencies that they should participate in the Summit project and help shape it through its democratic processes. Progressive constituencies were often skeptical and claimed that there was a hidden agenda to create a new organization that would tie its fortunes to the private sector's narrow profit-making interests in Africa, and that it would be organized almost exclusively around elites and big ceremonial functions. We fought hard against such criticisms and insisted on the commitment to a people-centered process with transparent governance and employment practices. We fought to bring representatives of the Africa-focused groups onto the Board following their initial exclusion. And we tried to direct the NSA toward helping strengthen the work of the Africa-focused organizations.

After two years on the Board of Directors, I resigned in protest over the poor governance of the process, the poor management of resources and the absence of an ethical policy on fundraising. I became convinced that the Summit would not accomplish its original objectives and that its continuance would come to represent an enormous opportunity cost while consuming unprecedented levels of funding in this field of work. The donors themselves became increasingly skeptical and though they continued to renew and increase grants to the Summit they lowered their expectations. One donor said that the revised objective was that "no-one gets hurt".


I now must apologize to the many whom I helped persuade to support and participate in the Summit, including several of yourselves. If the Summit perpetuates itself in the form proposed, many organizations and efforts on African affairs will indeed be hurt. We all understand that the Summit has gathered some people together, generated some interest in Africa, and even created some momentum. But anytime you spend the kind of money that was available to the Summit it is to be expected that at a minimum a number of people will respond. Well meaning constituencies may even momentarily see a need for a continuation, but the funding available for this kind of activity has become a zero sum affair. The question that Summit leaders and leaders in the philanthropical community must ask is: given the limited resources available for work on Africa in the United States is this a good investment versus strengthening the considerable talents - and potential for cooperation and synergy -- among the existing Africa-focused organizations. The creation of the Summit itself resulted from a similar question. We should not ignore the costly lessons of the past three years.

I appeal to you, Members of the Board, to resist the temptation to support these proposals.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen international policy debates around African issues, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

URL for this file: