news analysis advocacy

Support AfricaFocus and independent bookstores!

Make non-profit your first stop for buying books.
See books recommended by AfricaFocus.


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!

Format for print or mobile

USA/Africa: Policy Prospects

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Apr 5, 2004 (040405)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

A U.S. election campaign, it seems, has room for one foreign policy issue at most. That space is fully occupied by Iraq. So it is no surprise that no African issues - not even the unfulfilled Bush administration promises on AIDS from January 2003 - have edged their way into election debates. The difference that this year's election could make for Africa policy is still largely a matter for speculation.

The March 29-30 meeting in Botswana on use of generic antiretroviral drugs (see AfricaFocus Bulletin for March 25 at produced a flurry of media attention. Editorial writers generally criticized the Bush Administration's refusal to accept international recommendations in favor of fixed-dose-combination generic treatment. But the Botswana meeting was inconclusive. Administration spokesman John Lange later conceded that the issue of lifting the administration's ban on funding these generic treatments would probably be addressed "by the fall" (see below). In an opinion article in the San Fracisco Chronicle (March 29), Abner Mason, chairman of the international committee of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, defended the administration's position by insisting that treatment for Africans suffering from AIDS should wait for approval under the "gold standard" criteria of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

This issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a brief update on the generic drug issue from the Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. (For additional updates and news coverage on this issue, see

The Bulletin also includes two background articles on U.S. election candidates. Charlie Cobb reports on what clues are currently available on the policies of Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry. Sabrina Miller reports on the unexpectedly strong Senate candidacy of Barack Obama, who won an overwhelming victory last month in the Democratic primary for the open U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. If elected, Obama, whose Kenyan father was a student in the U.S. in the 1960s, would be the third African American to serve in the Senate in this century. Obama has built a strong coalition for his Illinois race, and has good prospects for winning the general election [see].

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report

A service of

Thursday, April 1, 2004

U.S. Official Defends Policy on Generic AIDS Drugs; Business Coalition Says Policy Undermining Efforts To Fight Disease

Access this story and related links online:

Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS CEO Richard Holbrooke on Wednesday at a meeting organized by the coalition and the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the United States' delay in purchasing generic antiretroviral drugs is "tearing apart" efforts to fight AIDS in developing countries, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Nesmith, Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, 3/31). However, John Lange, deputy coordinator at the State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, speaking at the meeting said that the United States is not trying to avoid purchasing generic antiretrovirals but wants to "assure the quality, safety and efficacy of them," Reuters reports (Fox, Reuters, 3/31). Officials from HHS, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and the Southern Africa Development Community at a two-day meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, this week failed to reach an agreement over standards for generic antiretroviral drugs for use in developing countries. The medications in question are fixed-dose combination, or FDC, antiretroviral drugs, including Cipla's Triomune and Ranbaxy Laboratories' Triviro, which combine stavudine, lamivudine and nevirapine into one pill that is taken twice a day and costs as little as $140 per person per year. A regimen of the same three drugs purchased separately from patent holders GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Boehringer-Ingelheim requires six pills a day and costs about $562 per patient per year (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/31). "Fairly or not," the United States' reluctance to use antiretroviral drugs "is going to become a symbol that the United States is protecting" brand-name pharmaceutical companies, Holbrooke said, adding that the issue "could undermine all the good work we are doing" (Reuters, 3/31). Lange said that he expects the generic drug issue to be resolved by the fall (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/31).

Drug Access

Only 3% of the 3.9 million HIV-positive people who need antiretroviral drugs in Africa have access to them, according to a study released on Wednesday at a forum in Dakar, Senegal, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/31). The study was conducted by the Accelerating Access Initiative, a partnership between the United Nations and six pharmaceutical companies (Washington Times, 4/1). Despite an 85% drop in the cost of antiretroviral drugs over the past two years and the fact that 40 African countries now have national HIV/AIDS plans, only 150,000 HIV/AIDS patients in Africa are currently receiving treatment, according to the study. In addition, only 2% of sub-Saharan Africans have access to antiretrovirals, compared with 84% of people in Latin America, the study said. Delegates from 19 countries in Africa, Europe, North America and South America took part in the forum, which ended Wednesday (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/31).

John Kerry stands for... what?

Charlie Cobb*

ThisDay (South Africa), March 16, 2004

[reposted with permission]

* Charlie Cobb writes for THISDAY from Washington DC

There is no doubt in Washington political circles, and perhaps no doubt anywhere in the entire US, that later this year Massachusetts senator John Kerry will be officially chosen as the Democratic Party candidate to battle George W Bush for the US presidency. But because the real primary election campaigning by Democratic Party contenders centred on who could best beat Bush ("All the love that Democrats have for John Kerry is really hate for George Bush," says comedian Bill Maher) not much about what Kerry represents in terms of policy is clear.

As outlined in stump speeches, his basic ideas don't seem to differ that much from those of President Bush. As a senator, Kerry backed Bush's war resolution against Iraq, and during the primary campaign he struggled to explain his stance to angry Democratic Party voters, arguing that he objected to Bush's method of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Kerry says Bush did it in the worst way, by abandoning old allies and the United Nations.

And the world according to John Kerry? The US "will win the war of ideas" he says. The senator argues for an immediate increase of active-duty US troops ‹ by 40000. It's a "temporary increase" he said in a February 27 speech, "unlikely to last the remainder of the decade".

Kerry's strong support of Israel suggests that the Palestinians shouldn't count on greater support from him. In fact, he leapt to attack then-rival Howard Dean when the former Vermont governor said during one debate that there needed to be a more "even-handed" approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

His antiwar past, as part of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, when he called US troops in southeast Asia rapists and pillagers, would seem to conflict with his current chest out, I'm-a-Vietnam-War-veteran posture. Nonetheless, the election this November looks set to pit Kerry's Vietnam against Bush's 9-11. In his campaign book, A Call to Service, Kerry writes: "The time has come to revive a bold vision of progressive internationalism" and a "tradition" honouring "the tough-minded strategy of international engagement and leadership forged by Wilson and RooseveltŠand championed by Truman and Kennedy in the cold war".

Where Kerry strikes a somewhat different note than Bush is in the execution of his foreign policy. A Kerry White House would usher in "a new era of alliances" and abandonment of the present administration's go-it-alone approach to foreign policy. He has talked of "collective" rather than "imperial" US leadership. With his presidency, says Kerry, diplomacy will once again be the paramount tool of US foreign policy and the US will consider the UN a "full partner" and pursue collective security arrangements with the multinational body.

In terms of how he voted last year, the National Journal ranks Kerry the most liberal member of the US Senate. And in 1986, 1988 and 1990, casting more than 100 votes on the economy, social policy and foreign affairs, he did not side once with conservative Republicans.

What of Africa? Here there's not much to go on. Ignoring the continent has become traditional for both parties. In 2001, Kerry was one of the sponsors of the Hunger to Harvest bill, legislation urging the president to establish five-year and ten-year strategies to achieve a reversal of current levels of hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group is Kerry's key Africa advisor, though former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Susan Rice, who was advising Dean on African issues, may also play a role in this area. But their overall influence with Kerry's foreign affairs team remains as unclear as his policy.

Kerry says he would double the $15 billion Bush has put into the pot to fight HIV-Aids. More of that money would go to the Global Fund as well as be spread more widely among US agencies, but Kerry and Bush are pretty much on the same page when it comes to the ravages of that disease.

Kerry says that he is interested in increased trade with Africa and the Caribbean, but is not interested in trade deals that encourage dumping, unfair labour practices or environmental harm. As president he would review all trade agreements. This leaning towards protectionist sentiment is consistent with his champion-of-the-little-person campaign stance.

Responding more broadly to a National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) survey that asked if he would support "a policy of not infringing on African and Caribbean nations' responsibilities to pursue policies that they determine to be in the best interests of their people," Kerry said yes. There is, of course, much wiggle-room here. Who could say no to such a question?

On a linked issue that never came up during campaign debates, Kerry told the NAACP that "as president I will direct my Secretary of the Treasury to negotiate an agreement that would revise the Enhanced HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) Initiative to provide much greater debt relief." There are no details as to what he has in mind yet.

And there is Kerry's wife, the very independent, unfailingly interesting, Mozambican-born Teresa Heinz-Kerry, who during much of the primary campaign has helped shape both policy statements and strategy. She has described herself as "a daughter of Africa". It's hard to tell what that means in practice.

During the 1990s Heinz-Kerry was describing herself as an "African American". When asked, a spokesperson explained that Heinz-Kerry wasn't using a hyphen because "African-hyphen-American belongs to blacks". Perhaps it is partly her influence that is responsible for her well-born husband saying on the American Urban Radio Network that he would like to be the "second" black president. "President Clinton was often known as the first black president. I wouldn't be upset if I could earn the right to be the second."

The Next Black Senator?

Sabrina L. Miller

March 23, 2004

[Sabrina L. Miller <> is a Chicago-based freelance journalist who has written for the Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times, and covered City Hall for the Chicago Tribune. This article previously appeared on and on, and is reposted with permission.]

I first met Barack Obama in the old Kroch's and Brentano's bookstore on 53rd Street in Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago. His memoir, "Dreams From My Father," had just been published and he was just beginning to emerge as a name to know in the post-Harold Washington, black political Chicago of the mid-1990s. And I -- not one to miss an opportunity to meet a progressive newsmaker, not to mention a fine brother -- approached him. I was the only person in the store who did.

He looked every bit the law professor, peering studiously at displays in the store and jotting down notes, clearly wondering where his book was and why it was not out front. I sidled next to him with a broad smile and asked, "So how's the book doing?" He took my extended hand, smiled back and said, "I'm trying to figure that out right now."

Obama, 42, has clearly "blown up" since that quiet, bookstore encounter. First as a popular and effective lawmaker in the Illinois Legislature; then as a candidate in an ugly and unsuccessful Congressional race against former Black Panther Bobby Rush; and now Obama, who won the US Senate primary in Illinois against seven candidates, is poised to make history.

And now he can't go anywhere without scores of people recognizing and approaching him.

Obama is now positioned to carry the November election in this overwhelmingly Democratic state. If that happens he will join an elite club of African American US senators, becoming the second from Illinois behind Carol Moseley-Braun, and the first black man to hold a US Senate seat since Republican Edward Brooke of Massachusetts served from 1967 to 1979.

His political positioning and rising star should be unsurprising because for much of his life Obama has been a "First Black," gaining attention most notably for being the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. But in Chicago's well-established African American political community, which prefers its leaders homegrown, Obama has struggled against criticism from some blacks who mocked his Ivy League education, biracial heritage and African name, painting everything from his smooth speech patterns to the multiculti neighborhood where he lives as anything but "authentically" black.

The stinging loss in 2000 to a lackluster, unpolished and largely inarticulate Bobby Rush, who was successful in painting Obama as an over-educated, elitist outsider, led to a retooled image for Obama in this campaign. The revamping of Obama's image has made it difficult, if not impossible, for his presumptive African American political base to see him as anything but theirs.

He makes fun of his name ("My name is Obama, not Yo Mama") but speaks little of the prominent, long-dead Kenyan father for whom he was named. Although the African Committee to Elect Obama in Illinois has held fundraisers for him, they are largely on the margins of Obama's campaign. He speaks little of a childhood spent in Indonesia and Hawaii and offers little about the white mother who raised him. He said recently that his mother, now deceased, recognized that "he was a black man in the United States and my experiences were going to be different than hers."

"My view has always been that I'm African American," he said recently. "African Americans by definition, we're a hybrid people."

Campaign commercials made reference to his historic appointment at the Harvard Law Review but his status as an alum of Columbia and Harvard, and as a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago, were downplayed.

Played more prominently is Obama's early work as an organizer, registering 100,000 African American voters in Chicago in the early 1990s. He touts his membership in one of the city's most popular black churches, Trinity United Church of Christ -- something that clearly endears him to older, more traditional black voters. He has also leveraged political relationships with people like Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and others who haven't always supported him in previous races. He has an African American wife (let's face it, sisters wouldn't have it any other way) and two daughters whose presence is prominent in campaign literature.

The strategy worked. Through an already strong network of black professionals and liberal whites, Obama built a campaign that appealed broadly to urban voters and those in predominantly white-collar counties and rural areas downstate.

"He was always a part of us but somehow it seemed to be a secret before. White people are always looking for somebody black who pulled himself up by his bootstraps and can tell the Horatio Alger story," said Chicago political consultant Delmarie Cobb. "That doesn't play well in the black community because we've always done that."

"What makes him attractive to white people is that he's biracial. But he has never distanced himself from the black community, even when others tried to distance it from him," she said.

Oddly enough Rush, the former Black Panther, persisted in singing the "he's not one of us" song and supported Blair Hull, a white, independently wealthy trader. The baiting fell on deaf ears and now Rush finds himself on the outs with black Chicagoans, who are suspect of his support for a rich, white man who has never held elective office.

Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, one of the most powerful black elected officials in the state, said at a prayer breakfast for Obama that politicians like Rush will eventually regret that they were "on the wrong side of history."

"Barack Obama is our son. All of the other candidates combined do not have his intellect," Jones said. "This is our son and our son deserves a chance."

Whether he realized it or not, Jones had invoked the most African of sayings in urging black Chicagoans to vote for Obama: I am because we are and because we are, I am.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see

Read more on |Africa Health||Africa Politics & Human Rights|

URL for this file: