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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

USA: Africa Fund Consultation USA: Africa Fund Consultation
Date distributed (ymd): 970426
Document reposted by APIC


April 25, 1997

Contact: Richard Knight, The Africa Fund, 17 John Street - 12th Floor, New York, NY 10038 Phone: (212) 962-1210 Fax: (212) 964-8570 E-mail:

State Legislators Meet on U.S. Africa Policy

State legislators from across the United States gathered in Washington DC on April 18-19 to explore ways to strengthen U.S. aid, trade and investment ties and support for human rights and democracy in Africa. The legislators, including Tennessee Rep. Lois DeBerry, President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), Arkansas Rep. Irma Hunter-Brown, Oregon State Senator Avel Gordly, Mississippi State Senator Hillman Frazier, California Rep. Diane Watson and Wisconsin Rep. Spencer Coggs, met with leading U.S. and African political and human rights leaders, including California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, South African Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin and Carol Peasley, Acting Assistant Administrator for Africa in the U.S. Agency for International Development. The meeting, The National Consultation on U.S. Policy Toward Africa, was sponsored by The Africa Fund with the support of the Carnegie Corporation.

Assessing U.S. policy towards Africa, Congresswoman Waters told the legislators that it was time for the United States, and particularly African American leaders, to break with African dictators such as Nigerian military ruler Sani Abacha and Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko. Nigerian government lobbyists, Waters noted, spend "tremendous amounts of money" buying support in the African American community. "I am constantly contacted by African American ministers, heads of organizations and business people" on Abacha's behalf. "We are allowing them to advance the wrong leaders, leaders that are not about democracy, leaders that are starving people, leaders that are killing people." Abacha's apologists, said Waters, argue that the regime "is doing for Nigeria what no one else can do. And I almost always answer 'Yeah, in the name of dictatorship.'"

Creating American jobs and expanding trade and economic cooperation with Africa was a major theme of the conference. Massachusetts State Senator Mark Montigny described his state's relationship with South Africa's Eastern Cape province and noted that a Massachusetts trade mission was in route to South Africa to explore business opportunities. But he cautioned that free trade must also be fair. "Friends of commerce cannot be our partners if they are the enemies of justice. There can be no independence without political liberation, and no political liberation without social and economic liberation."

Connecticut Representative Reginald Beamon urged state legislators to become more involved with U.S. economic policy towards Africa. "Four years ago international trade was only a State Department issue. Now, with investment portfolios and pension funds, state governments are involved in trade policy." It was up to African American legislators in particular, he said, to promote aid, trade and cultural exchanges with Africa. New York State has a permanent trade office in South Africa, while Oregon recently passed legislation to establish a similar African trade mission. Texas Rep. Helen Giddings will host over 100 African business people and non-governmental organizations in Dallas later this year.

Gugile Nkwinti, the Speaker of South Africa's Eastern Cape Provincial legislature, applauded the growing state involvement in both economic development and democratization. "Local authorities [in South Africa and the U.S.] must hook up," he said. "Americans have experience with veterans, with serious crime, many such experiences we can learn from."

South African trade minister Erwin, a former trade unionist and anti-apartheid activist, told the conference that Africa was a continent of "massive wealth" and opportunity. With a population of over 135 million and vast natural resources, Erwin noted, the southern African region "is the richest economic zone in the world." Stressing the importance of development for the entire region, Minister Erwin added, "South Africa cannot be healthy unless our neighbors grow. We will build and build and build and not come begging to anyone. Soon the world will come to us."

The importance of the consultation for U.S. policy toward Africa, said Africa Fund Executive Director Jennifer Davis, lay in the engagement of elected officials outside of Washington. "We were fortunate to have with us many of the state legislators who helped end U.S. support for apartheid South Africa. Now we want to work in effective partnership with the new democracies in southern Africa, keeping faith with African people in countries like Nigeria who are struggling for democracy. To achieve these goals U.S. policymaking must itself become more inclusive and more democratic. With this consultation we have taken an important step in that direction."

The program of speakers at the National Consultation on U.S. Policy Toward Africa included the following:

Africa in the 21st Century

Chair: Tilden LeMelle, Chair, The Africa Fund

Jennifer Davis, Executive Director, The Africa Fund - The Africa Fund - Impacting in a New Age

Thelma M. Awori, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Policy and Program Support, United Nations Development Program - Africa's Challenges, Africa's Initiatives

Alec Erwin, Minister of Trade and Industry, South Africa - The SADC Perspective

Representative Irma Hunter Brown (Arkansas), Chair, International Affairs Committee, National Black Caucus of State Legislators - Why We Are Here

Aid, Trade and Investment Getting the Mix Right

Chair: Assemblyman Albert Vann (New York)

Carol Peasley, Acting Assistant Administrator, USAID - The Role of U.S. Aid to Africa

Salih Booker, Senior Fellow, Africa Studies Program, Council on Foreign Relations - U.S. Aid, Trade and Investment - Getting the Mix Right

Representative Reginald Beamon (Connecticut) - Legislative Respondent

Promoting Constructive Trade And Investment in Africa

Chair: Senator Mark Montigny (Massachusetts)

Mr. Gugile Nkwinti, Speaker of the Legislature of the Eastern Cape, South Africa - Building Links Between South African Provinces and U.S. States

Rosa Whitaker, for Representative Charles Rangel (New York) - The Africa Trade Initiative

Frank McCoy, Business Editor, Our World News, former Senior Editor, Black Enterprise Magazine - Promoting Progressive Investment in Africa

Mark Clack, OxFam America - Respondent

Luncheon Plenary

Chair: Jennifer Davis, Executive Director, The Africa Fund

Introduction: Representative Lois DeBerry (Tennessee), Speaker Pro Tem and President, National Black Caucus of State Legislators

Speaker: Representative Maxine Waters (California), Chairwoman, Congressional Black Caucus

Dialogue Sessions: Local Initiatives - National Impact

Group One

Chair: Senator Diane Watson (California)

Representative Helen Giddings (Texas) - The Texas Initiative

Senator Hillman Frazier (Mississippi) - Building Educational Links

Group Two

Chair: Representative Spencer Coggs (Wisconsin)

Senator Avel Gordly (Oregon) - Promoting Oregon Trade

Kenneth B. Sylvester, Director of Pension Policy, Office of the Comptroller, City of New York - Socially Responsible New York City Policy for Investing in Emerging Markets in Africa

Democracy and Human Rights in Africa

Chair: Senator Virgil Clark Smith (Michigan)

Gay McDougall, Executive Director, International Human Rights Law Group - Democracy and Human Rights: Advances and Challenges

Dapo Olorunyomi, Fellow, Panos Institute, former editor, Concord and Guardian newspapers, Nigeria - The Nigerian Case

Dr. Alice Palmer, University of Chicago - Respondent

State Legislators and U.S. Policy

Chair: Representative Laura Hall (Alabama)

Dumisani Kumalo, Director for U.S. Relations, Department of Foreign Affairs, South Africa - Constituency Impact on Policy - Agenda for the 21st Century

Jennifer Davis, Executive Director, The Africa Fund - Concluding Remarks and Thanks


Host: Ambassador Franklin and Mrs. Joan Sonn

Background Documents provided for participants included:

U.S.-South Africa Foreign Policy (Interhemispheric Resource Center and Institute for Policy Studies, by Jennifer Davis)

Provincial Government in South Africa (Africa Fund)

Africa Policy Outlook 1997 (Africa Policy Information Center)

Mobil In Nigeria: Partner in Oppression (Africa Fund, by Michael Fleshman)

The Struggle for Freedom in Nigeria (Africa Fund, by Michael Fleshman)

Human Rights Activism in Africa: A Frog's Eye View (Codesria, by J. Oloka-Onyango)

New Strategies for U.S. Foreign Aid to Africa (Africa Fund, by Jim Cason)

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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