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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

US/Africa: More than a Trip?

Africa Policy E-Journal
July 3, 2003 (030703)

US/Africa: More than a Trip?
(Africa Action document)

With President Bush scheduled to depart on Monday for five days in five African countries, it is still unclear whether African realities will force the presidential party and press coverage to confront substantive issues, or whether the White House will succeed in focusing attention on spin and symbolism. "Is this for real or is this tourism?," former Reagan administration assistant secretary of state for Africa Chester Crocker asked last week at a Brookings Institution forum.

The most immediate challenge is now coming from demands that the U.S. make a substantive leadership contribution to multilateral peacekeeping efforts in Liberia (see separate posting later today on this issue, including background on how previous U.S. policy failures contributed to the decades of conflict in Liberia).

The rift between spin and substance is apparent on virtually every policy issue, however. Most tragically and deceptively, the Bush administration is taking credit for announcing promises of $15 billion for HIV/AIDS, while continuing to block efforts to provide resources now by funding the multilateral Global Fund and expanding access to generic anti-retroviral drugs for AIDS treatment.

This posting contains an op-ed by Africa Action executive director Salih Booker, originally entitled "Bush Africa Policy: It's a Trip," which appeared in the Chicago Tribune today, and talking points prepared in advance of yesterday's press briefing by Africa Action, TransAfrica Forum, 50 Years is Enough, and Foreign Policy in Focus, It also contains brief excerpts from yesterday's White House press briefing, in which White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer attempts to answer skeptical questions about the President's AIDS initiative.

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Chicago Tribune, July 3, 2003

Bush's lackluster Africa policy

By Salih Booker

President Bush is misleading a nation and a continent. He is misleading Americans by claiming his administration is taking real steps to address Africa's most urgent challenges. He is misleading Africans by declaring U.S. partnership with their efforts to fight AIDS and poverty and to promote peace.

In fact, the Bush administration is on a collision course with Africa because its policies are simply antithetical to Africa's interests. The White House's few new Africa policy initiatives that seem compassionate are actually fictitious because they are left underfunded.

The U.S. defines the most urgent international priorities as weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation and terrorism. The G-7 club of wealthy countries concurs. Yet the rest of the world, the global majority, is concerned less with these potential threats than with the more immediate threats to human security and global stability--AIDS, poverty and civil conflicts. The divergent priorities of the Bush administration and the people of Africa should be apparent when President Bush travels to Africa for his first official visit next week.

In West Africa, Bush will be confronted with the crisis in Liberia, amid growing calls from within that country for U.S. intervention to stop the latest violence. Bush has called for the removal of Liberian President Charles Taylor, but so far has been unwilling to take action to ensure a peaceful transition in that country and stability in the larger region.Despite America's unique historic ties with Liberia, the "hands-off" approach of the U.S. is undermining African peacemaking initiatives so important to Africa's people. This also is true in Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Bush also will visit Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and the fifth largest supplier of oil to the U.S. Washington's interests in West African oil have not translated into a commitment to Nigeria's democracy or to its economic development. Nigeria's efforts at poverty reduction are impossible under the burden of the $30 billion it owes in foreign debt. The refusal of the U.S. to support the cancellation of these debts reveals the absence of a real partnership between the U.S. and Africa's superpower.

In South Africa, Bush will visit ground zero of the global AIDS crisis, home to almost 5 million people living with HIV/AIDS.

While Bush has made much of his commitment to fighting AIDS in Africa, this is becoming a cruel hoax at the expense of those on the frontlines fighting AIDS in Africa. The president requested no new money to fight AIDS in Africa this year, and only $450 million in new money for 2004. He has virtually sidestepped the Global Fund to fight AIDS, thus undermining the most important vehicle in the war on AIDS in Africa Despite his declarations -- that he is committing $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean--Bush's failure to take action now is tantamount to breaking his promise.

Far more significant to the Bush administration is the so-called war on terrorism. The military footprint of the U.S. has been growing, particularly in East Africa where military bases and access to ports and airfields are of increasing strategic importance. U.S. military concerns run counter to the efforts of Kenyans, Ugandans and others to combat poverty, HIV/AIDS and broader insecurity. The new $100 million anti-terrorism initiative announced by Bush last week will not even offset the money being lost by the tourist industry in Kenya as a result of frequent terror warnings from Washington.

As Bush travels to Africa, we must recognize the dichotomy between U.S. global priorities and those of Africa's people, and we must work to bridge the deadly gap. A failure to demand more of U.S. policies toward Africa will ensure a continuation of America's historic disdain for Africa, with all of its terrible consequences.

Africa Action
July 2, 2003

Talking Points on President Bush's trip to Africa and on the Bush Administration's Africa Policy

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.


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 anti-AIDS drugs.
  • 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 billion.
  • 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 development.


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.
  • The 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 Guinea.


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 economic challenges.

  • 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.
  • The U.S. has consistently failed to commit the level of aid that would be commensurate with its own interests and obligations, or with African countries' needs.

Military Relations

The U.S.' "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 reasons.

  • 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 Gulf.
  • 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.
  • Representative 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 U.S. plans.

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 challenges.

  • 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 "hands off " 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.
  • The 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 by 2010.
  • 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 world.
  • 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 lives.
  • The absence of U.S. leadership remains the greatest obstacle to a successful effort to defeat AIDS in Africa and globally.

Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer

2 July 2003

Q Ari, AIDS advocates had a couple of reactions to the Tobias appointment and administration AIDS policy in general. First of all, they're saying that Tobias' history as a drug company executive show that that's where the administration's real allegiance lies, is in policies that foster the profits of the drug companies, rather than AIDS victims in Africa who would benefit from low-cost generic drugs -- that sort of thing. And they are also criticizing the administration for not seeking full funding in the first year of the AIDS initiative ... Can you address those two?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, first of all, I'm not sure who you're quoting, but I can tell you for certain they don't speak for the majority of AIDS activists in the country. Let me cite you somebody who has spoken out about this appointment, and this is Sandra Thurman, who was the Director of the White House AIDS Office in the Clinton administration. She is now the President of International AIDS Trust. She called Mr. Tobias' selection "good news." And she added, "This is clearly a person with tremendous stature and management acumen."

And, indeed, that's right. The President wanted to appoint somebody to undertake a massive $15-billion 5-year program who had sound business and management judgment. ...

Mr. Tobias is a known and innovative leader. He's a successful businessman. He has worked with billion-dollar organizations before to make certain that they were run effectively. ...

Q Does he support revising his trade policy to make it easier for African countries to get low-cost generic drugs?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, the President's proposal for AIDS focuses on getting low-cost anti-retroviral drugs to people who suffer from AIDS. That's part and parcel of the program. That's exactly what he's going to administer.

Q And then the funding question?

MR. FLEISCHER: On the funding question, I don't recall off the top of my head whether the funding proposal in its first year was $2 billion or $3 billion. But it's a $15 billion, five-year initiative. Listen, I think -- the President has tremendous sympathy with all the advocates who are fighting for more. This is the President who has delivered the most. And he understands that for people who suffer, the most will never be enough. But this is the President who has tripled funding for AIDS around the world, who has made a front-and-center State of the Union national priority fighting AIDS in Africa. He understands that there are people who have friends and relatives who suffer. But he is leading the way around the world and bringing help to those who need it.

Q And then on the trip. On Randy's question, on HIV/AIDS, some are saying that this is going to be a victory lap, a photo op in Africa. And they're saying that it's all about the President's promises for HIV/AIDS, this $15 billion. And it still has yet to be allocated. And many Republican congresspersons are trying to underfund this. There's a concern, many people want to hear from the administration, one, if the HIV/AIDS will be fully funded, as well as the millennium program, and if this funding will be of new money, not taken from any other developmental projects.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, one, the House and the Senate just passed this with overwhelming, big votes, a full $15 billion. So the President announced it in his State of the Union in January. In June, a mere five months later, Congress passed it. And now we're in the middle of the appropriations cycle, as you know. You've been around, you're an expert. You know the timing that Congress acts under. So now comes the important appropriation process to back up the authorization level, and members of Congress in both parties know that this is a top presidential priority and the President is going to fight for every penny of this funding.

Q But at this point, it's a promise. Is the President going to put this on the fast track? Is he going to say -- MR. FLEISCHER: I think he already has. It's clear to all.

Q But it's a promise at this point. Many are talking about underfunding this. How is this going to be fully funded to $15 billion --

MR. FLEISCHER: I just -- I don't understand how right after Congress overwhelmingly just voted the full $15 billion you can say that it's being underfunded. It was just voted on.

The Africa Action E-Journal is a free information service provided by Africa Action, including both original commentary and reposted documents. Africa Action provides this information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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