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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of African Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2006: African Affairs Remarks

Transformational Diplomacy and the New Africa Agenda

Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Remarks to the Harris Lecture Series at Howard University
Washington, DC
April 19, 2006


Good afternoon, and thank you, Chikondi, for that warm introduction. Also thanks also to Ambassador Dawson and Dr. Ingalls for the invitation. It is a pleasure to be here at Howard University to discuss Transformational Diplomacy and the new Africa agenda.

It seems fitting to have this conversation at Howard, because I know that this university has a long-standing commitment to working with partners in Africa, and that you open your doors to African students every year. Of course, I also hold your school in high esteem, because your Distinguished Advisor for International Affairs is my own Chief of Staff, Ambassador Ruth A. Davis.

Of all the times to be Assistant Secretary of African Affairs, this is a great one. Not only do I have access to the counsel of experienced Africa hands, like Ambassador Davis, but I have the honor of serving an activist President and Secretary of State. President Bush and Secretary Rice both care deeply about the people of Africa, and believe that Africa merits more attention from foreign policy circles.

Africa is part and parcel of the Secretary's Transformational Diplomacy agenda, which is remaking U.S. foreign policy to more effectively pursue American national interests in a world that has moved beyond Cold War divisions.


As you may know, Transformational Diplomacy is the name Secretary Rice uses to describe her foreign policy approach. The guiding principle is partnership, as opposed to the paternalism of the past. It is an activist philosophy that calls for more doing and less reporting.

Having recently returned from a trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I'd like to note that Transformational Diplomacy is inherently a policy that supports African leadership and seeks to build Africa 's institutional capacity.

Transformational Diplomacy is about “doing things with people, not for them,” the Secretary explained, “we seek to use America 's diplomatic power to help foreign citizens better their own lives and to build their own nations and to transform their own futures.”

This concept accounts for the geopolitical shifts we've seen since the end of the Cold War and recognizes that there are new, rising strategic powers, including among the 48 nations of sub-Saharan Africa . Nigeria and South Africa have used their diplomatic, economic and military power to shape the continent for the better. Angola and Equatorial Guinea have access to significant oil resources that can transform their societies. Mali, Madagascar, Mozambique , Lesotho, Benin and others are leading the way in showing the world the power of democratic freedom.

The changing world order raises a lot of questions and opportunities to better appreciate Africa 's geo-strategic importance. Under President Bush's leadership and vision, the Administration has challenged long-standing assumptions about: the wisdom of traditional foreign aid, health programs, and conflict resolution.


This is certainly not the first time the U.S. has transformed our policies of engagement. A century ago, this nation was getting its sea legs in the international arena. The President who led the charge was the ever colorful Teddy Roosevelt, who remarked: “It behooves every man to remember that the work of the critic is of altogether secondary importance, and that, in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does things.”

President Bush is a man who does things. He is action oriented, and he has taken an interest in Africa from the outset. He met in his first two years of office with more African heads of state than any previous U.S. President during their terms. Compassion and respect shape his views and policies. Instead of short-term solutions, this President has focused his attention on innovative ways to reshape the landscape.

President Bush has introduced a new paradigm, but understanding that action is worth a thousand words, he has also been eager to establish mechanisms that make these innovations lasting. Among the noteworthy changes in the President's agenda for Africa is a greater emphasis on partnership and cooperation with African political and civil society leaders.

As part of this outreach effort, we are reaching out to new partners. For example, in February, I met with Bono to discuss ways that the State Department and his organization, DATA, might work together on shared goals. Beninese native Angelique Kidjo visited with Africa Bureau staff in March to discuss her work with UNICEF to expand education opportunities for African girls.

So, we are reaching out to Africans for the ideas and approaches that will be effective in Africa. The Bush Administration's policies for Africa are forward looking, rather than reactive. This is nothing new. President Bush has implemented ideas he introduced as far back as his first Presidential campaign.

Looking back at the second presidential debate from 2000, you'll notice that then-Governor Bush mentions debt relief, while speaking about Africa . This was a radical notion six years ago, which is why it's remarkable that within a few years' time, the President has succeeded in canceling all bilateral debt incurred by the Heavily-Indebted Poor countries, many of which are in sub-Saharan Africa. And he has consistently called for all new aid in the form of grants rather than new loans or more debt.

In the President's mind, this was a common sense adjustment. The only way to move forward was to end the cycle of borrowing and amassing debt. This blank slate approach or new start for Africa , offers hope for development and real progress in the poorest countries.

Every country is different, and the President understands that well. Like the traditional American notion of our federal union being a ‘laboratory of the states,' the President defers to local individuals and organizations to develop the best solutions for their own communities.


So, we gather at an exciting time. Africa is undergoing tremendous changes, as peace and stability gain traction in more corners of the continent, and the United States has been part of the force for change.

In the realm of peace and stability, we also see the President's foresight and follow-through. During the second Presidential debate in 2000, Governor Bush also said he would respond to conflict in Africa by building and supporting Africa 's capabilities. We see today the U.S. as the main contributor to the AU force in Darfur, Sudan .

On the second day of his presidency, President Bush instructed his National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, to work toward a political solution in Sudan. The President was interested in ending the 22-year North-South war in Sudan that was responsible for over two million deaths. The U.S. worked with Kenya as the lead mediator to successfully broker a political settlement between the government and the SPLM rebels and helped to implement Sudan 's current Government of National Unity.

Liberia is another prime example. After 14 years of nearly continuous civil war, this West African nation has a democratic government. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa 's first elected female head of state, is on track to heal and repair her nation. The President sent his wife Laura Bush and Secretary Rice to represent the U.S. at President Sirleaf's inauguration in January.   However, this could not have come about without the involvement of the Economic Community of West African States, known as ECOWAS, and the firm commitment of the United States . President Bush supported ECOWAS in putting together a peace agreement, as well as maintaining peace. In 2003, U.S. military forces were dispatched to Liberia to support ECOWAS forces, marking the first time American boots touched African soil for peace operations in nearly a decade.   I firmly believe that Africa is on its way to a future free of war. I also believe that we are on the cusp, and that we can end every conflict still raging in Africa . We are making progress toward that goal.  


In the last five years, we have seen wars give way to peaceful negotiations in six conflict settings, those being: Angola , Burundi , Liberia , Sierra Leone , the North-South element of the Sudan crisis, and Democratic Republic of Congo. Perhaps the most important change stemming from newfound stability is the greater opportunity to shape new institutions and consolidate democratic gains in Africa. 

Under the Secretary's charge for transformational diplomacy, it is not enough to end the wars, we must move beyond post-conflict transformation to consolidate democracies.   As I mentioned earlier, I visited Congo earlier this month. While there, I had the opportunity to hear about the 26 million Congolese who have registered to vote. The Congolese Independent Elections Commission has done a remarkable job of fielding candidates and organizing polling, and there is palpable excitement among the public. The Congolese are eager to choose their leaders.   It has taken more than 40 years to reach this point, since Lumumba expressed his vision of a democratic Congo . But, Congo now seems to be on the verge of realizing Lumumba's dream of peace and stability.   In neighboring Burundi , which I also visited on my recent trip, conflict has given way to an elected government.  

The West African nation of Benin is also worth noting. The nation held two rounds of elections in March. International observers unanimously classified the polling as fair and transparent. Voter turnout was high – well over 70% for both rounds – and results were announced promptly. The winner, Dr. Thomas Boni Yayi, beat 25 opponents by promising the Beninese people that he would implement reform and root out corruption.  

Benin 's long-time leader, President Kerekou, paved the way for a peaceful transfer of power by stepping down, as the Constitution instructed. Taken together, the credible elections and smooth change in leadership constitute a powerful model, born of African will.  

To express American admiration for these developments, President Bush appointed Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes to lead the U.S. delegation -- which included former U.S. Ambassador to Benin , Ruth A. Davis -- to the April 6 inauguration. Dr. Yayi's ascent to leadership was momentous for Benin and is likely to reverberate around the continent.  

We are witnessing a hopeful historical shift. We see that Africans are increasingly taking control of their own collective destiny, with the African Union (AU) and its New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) Program of Action, contributing to better governance across the continent.  

The momentum is gathering for better security, as well as greater political and economic freedom. Moving toward these goals requires decisions that Africans must make for themselves. The U.S. government offers support, as governments adapt to accommodate their people, but not instructions. This is the era of collaboration and local control.


Local involvement is central to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which is popularly called PEPFAR. This program is part of President Bush's response to HIV/AIDS, which has taken parents from their children and stolen years from the lives of many in Africa . Most PEPFAR resources are targeted to 15 focus countries. Twelve of the fifteen are in sub-Saharan Africa. This $15 billion program has a five-year horizon, but its goals surpass a simple reaction to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

PEPFAR works through non-governmental organizations already working in the focus countries, but the guidelines also call for establishing a timeline to transfer control to local groups. The idea is for the U.S. to shift from the lead to a supporting role.

So, PEPFAR policy is purposely structured to sow the seeds for a permanent African health care infrastructure that offers preventive care and treatment, and can respond to a whole spectrum of ailments. The program also underscores an important point, namely that government cannot operate effectively without engaging its people.

For institutions to take root in a society, there must be buy-in and participation from governmental leaders, as well as non-governmental organizations and other civil society leaders. We are in this together.

These ideas inform President Bush's thinking about economic issues, and foreign aid in particular. During his presidency, he has expanded economic opportunity for sub-Saharan Africans by expanding the provisions of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, commonly called AGOA.

The President has also introduced a new mechanism for distributing direct foreign assistance, known as the Millennium Challenge Account, which seeks out nations that have committed to: good governance, economic reforms, and have a history of investing in their own people.

The U.S. has already completed compacts with Madagascar and Cape Verde, and Benin is the newest Millennium Challenge recipient. Our $305 million compact with Benin is impressive, especially if you consider that 25 years ago, that was approximately the size of total U.S. spending on the entire continent.

Indeed since 2001, U.S. assistance to Africa has grown from approximately $700-800 million to about $4.6 billion.


We've come a long way, and so have the people of Africa . I expect that we will continue to see great advances in security, democracy, economic growth, and individuals' health.

The way forward will require cooperation and exertion, but we can all take comfort in knowing that all those indicators are trending positive, our President has a sense of where we are heading, he is firmly committed to working with our African partners to get there.

Thank you, and now I would be happy to take any questions.

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