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

Current Themes in U.S.-Africa Policy

Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Chatham House
London, England
May 16, 2006

Thank you very much. I am really honored to be here this evening with you and look forward to our dialogue, our discussion. So, I am going to try to keep my remarks rather short, but I do know that I can go on and on, so I’ll ask my friend Ann to cut me off at any moment, so that we can have a really good opportunity to engage in some discussion about our shared favorite topic -- on Africa.

Let me also say what a pleasure it is to visit London, because the United States and the United Kingdom have a very special relationship. Our two countries have enjoyed a remarkable relationship that is both enduring and is extremely strong. I remember when I first arrived in South Africa as a U.S. Ambassador. Ann took me in hand. Before I could even land, she had written to me and she said, "Look, we’re neighbors. We live next door to each other, both in Pretoria as well as in Cape Town. We’re partners, and let me tell you what we’re doing in South Africa." I’ll never forget it.

And, indeed, we have proven to be partners over time. Regardless of our head of state, regardless of the political party in power, the United States maintains a very close bond with Great Britain, based upon our shared values and our heritage. We believe in the power of liberty, the importance of human rights, and the primacy of individual dignity. We are likewise joined by a common language, literature, and history of supporting the spread of freedom against the tide of oppression and servitude. We share a very distinguished history together. So, today I feel that I am privileged to speak amongst friends, as we consider the current trends in Africa and in U.S.-Africa policy.

And, I must say that my title of this presentation changed three times over the course of a couple of days. So, I did some refiguring, but as I understand it, the topic today is "Current Trends in U.S.-Africa Policy."

But what I would like to do today is to challenge all of us and people all over the world to think differently about the countries of Africa and Africa’s place in a very fluid international system. I say that because we have to challenge the common assumptions about Africa. It seems that the mere mention of Africa stirs up certain stereotypes and prompts certain assumptions. In the next hour or less, I hope to debunk some of those preconceived notions and prompt a reexamination of our attitudes toward Africa.

It was only about 40 years ago that Europe turned over the reins of power to various African leaders, and while some states were able to move to stability and growth, many nations we have seen fell captive to dictators and military rulers that resulted in the decline of open civil societies, stable fiscal policies and economic growth, and infrastructure. Without these basics, countries fell into extreme poverty, hunger, and disease, which in turn created more conflict and perpetuated a downward cycle.

Many Westerners have only this view of Africa. For years, we’ve looked at the continent as poor and needy. It was a place where we didn’t want to see people suffering. So, we gave countries money to relieve our own conscience. Things did not change much by doing that. Colonialism, despite the myth, did not prepare the territories well for independence. Paternalism today will equally fail.

I believe that in the past few years, we’ve actually started to move beyond those stereotypes, those assumptions -- that paternalistic attitude. We’ve moved towards greater dialogue and exchanged a conversation where two parties talk to each other, where we move together toward mutual interest as we have done in Congo and the Sudan. And, as Ann Grant knows well from our days in South Africa, we also at times agree to disagree with our African colleagues. This is seemingly the case on Zimbabwe today.

The bottom line for the Bush Administration approach to Africa is recognizing that, as President Bush has said, "Africans are plenty capable of handling their affairs," and as Secretary Rice has described Transformational Diplomacy, we will use American power to help others help themselves. Secretary Rice’s foreign policy methodology, which guides our approach to U.S.-Africa policy, is worth elucidating because it is the defining feature of our approach.

In the speech that she delivered at Georgetown University on January 18th, she defined the guiding principle as "partnership, as opposed to the paternalism of the past." Transformational diplomacy is about doing things with people, not for them. The Secretary said, "We seek to use America’s diplomatic power to help foreign citizens better their own lives, build their own nations, and transform their own futures." It is that spirit and directive that frames the current U.S.-Africa policy.

Our priorities are four -- we have four major, and I would submit, very ambitious priorities. They are somewhat common. I think our approach is somewhat different. First, we want to support and promote democratic governance and political freedom across the continent. Second, we seek to expand economic growth and opportunity, particularly through trade and private enterprise, but also by leveling the playing field, again, so Africans can do for themselves. Third, we have to fight disease on the continent, especially HIV and AIDS, Malaria, and TB. And finally, my favorite goal of all is to end all wars in Africa. I think we can do this.

Let me start with our first goal and go through a bit about where we are, our approach as an Administration, where the continent is, and how we plan to engage in transformative diplomacy. On supporting the spread of political freedom throughout the continent, the United States will continue to support the institutions that are essential for democracy, that being: a free press, an independent judiciary, sound financial system, and vibrant political parties.

Over the next three years, I, as Assistant Secretary, will focus particularly on two areas. First, building the capacity of independent national electoral commissions to conduct free, fair, and transparent elections that engender public confidence when election results, as they are commonly in Africa, contested. We have to have an institution that is perceived as neutral by the public, that can conduct a fair election, and that can rule fairly and justly when the outcome is contested.

Secondly, we need to encourage both opposition and governing candidates and their parties to focus on policy issues and service delivery to gain public support. Too often, politics is politics of personality. We’ve got to move beyond that to policy issues and service delivery -- actually earning a vote, rather than relying on theft and protest—theft by ruling governments, protests by opposition leaders who opt out, rather than engaging.

I also am committed to speak out for liberty and against repression. And, in particular, this is true in a country like Zimbabwe, where there are grave human rights abuses and lack of basic freedoms. But, Zimbabwe is the exception in Africa; it’s not the rule. The prospects across the continent are extremely good. In the last decade, more than two-thirds of Africa’s 48 countries have held free elections.

And moreover, one of, I think, the harshest critics of freedom and democracy in Africa is Freedom House, and, in 1990, Freedom House classified only four countries out of those 48 in sub-Saharan Africa as free. And they classified 20 as partly free. Twenty-four were free or partly free, and 24 were not free. So, the majority were not free in 1990. In 2006, the numbers have reversed. Eleven were classified as free -- eleven, as opposed to four in 1990. Twenty-three were partly free, and only 14 were classified as not free. So, the trend offers a rare hope for the continent with 44 of the 48 countries now on the freedom path.

We cannot, however, take progress for granted. I believe it is important to embed the values of freedom in African institutions like the African Union’s New Partnership for African Development. The NEPAD Secretariat and its continental plan will reinforce African leaders’ own efforts to instill positive attitudes toward democracy and good governance amongst their peers. The United States will support that NEPAD vision by leveraging substantial resources such as that of our Millennium Challenge Account, which is to provide five billion dollars over three years to countries that are well-governed, that invest in health and education, and that promote economic good governance, the rule of law. So, we have a major initiative to support our efforts toward promotion of political freedom across the continent.

Secondly, our priority is to expand economic opportunity and growth, focusing on, as I said, private entrepreneurship, as well as leveling the playing field in our global economic institutions. I often characterize Africa as a rich continent in an impoverished state. The wealth of that continent is unbelievable across the board—across from north to south, from east to west.

Over the next three years, I, as Assistant Secretary, will hope to focus on supporting African entrepreneurs to transform the continent’s natural endowments into prosperity for its people. This will require opening markets to create jobs, mainly through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which provides duty-free access to 37 countries for over 6,000 product lines.

We will encourage domestic reforms to support small and medium sized businesses, domestic reforms like the startup costs, the startup time for establishing a business, the cost of starting a business. To change those, to reform those regulations, we hope to level the playing field in the global economic arena, and we will provide development assistance as a catalyst for growth especially focusing on empowering women and girls. Our aid budget this year is 4.1 billion dollars to sub-Saharan Africa, up from 2001, which was about 700 million to 800 million dollars. So, it has been exponential growth in development assistance.

When I talk about structural reform, of the global economic institutions and leveling the playing field, I am really talking about the World Bank, the IMF, and the World Trade Organization. And here, we’ve actually achieved debt cancellation for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries. President Bush has called for ending all agricultural export subsidies, by transforming the World Trade Organization in the Doha round, and he’s also called for reform of the World Bank to provide all new assistance to the poorest countries in the form of grants, rather than loans. We’ve got to cancel the debt, and we have to stop the debt -- future debt -- by providing grants to these countries.

Again, when we look at Africa in the trend lines, the progress is positive on the continent. The 2006 World Development Report has come out with new statistics, and it shows that there has been a remarkable economic recovery in sub-Saharan Africa since 2000. Since 2000, 20 of the 48 countries grew by more than 5 percent. In 2004, the average for the developing world was 4.8 percent. And, many people would say that that growth was in petroleum-producing countries because of the price of oil, but, in fact, 15 non-oil-producing countries had median growth rates of 5.3 percent since 1995. And, over the last four years, per capita income growth in Africa has been equal to, or exceeded, that of the high-income economies in every year, over the last four years. It has exceeded the growth in Latin America in six of the last ten years. So, Africa is outperforming Latin America and is on par with high-income economies today.

Just like on the democracy front, on the economic front, Africa is doing well today. We need to get beyond the stereotype of a continent of misery and a continent of dictatorship.

Our third priority is to fight disease on the continent -- especially HIV/AIDS -- the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. We all know that the HIV/AIDS pandemic presents a unique challenge to Africa’s future, and we have to take this on. And, I think the United States has taken a leadership role in this global struggle. Particularly, the President’s Emergency Plan for HIV and AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) provides more resources -- $15 billion over the next five years -- more resources than all other donors combined.

The goal is to provide treatment to two million HIV-infected individuals, to prevent seven million new infections, to offer care to ten million individuals already infected, or affected, by HIV and AIDS. So far, PEPFAR is on track to meet these goals and, most importantly, an anti-retroviral drug, because that’s really what was new about this new initiative. As of September 30th 2005, more than 395,000 people in Africa in Focus Countries were receiving U.S.-supported treatment because of the PEPFAR program. There is a lot more work to do in terms of transformative diplomacy. We need to build the institutions and healthcare infrastructure of Africa, so Africa can address this challenge, obviously with the support of the world system, but to address it through its own national institutions.

Finally, our fourth major priority, I said, was to pursue the ambitious goal of ending all wars on the continent. We’re doing this by backing African conflict mediation and strengthening Africa’s capacity to carry out peace support operations and to fight terror. Our approach is to work with lead African mediators and multilaterally with the United Nations, African Union, and sub-regional organizations like ECOWAS. I believe that our approach has worked.

If you look at the trends in Africa, in 2001, there were at least six -- more than six, but at least six -- wars raging on the continent. They’ve ended. What are those six wars? People don’t realize that in six years we’ve ended war in—and, I say we, collectively. I’m talking about Africans, United Nations, and international partners—we have ended wars in Sierra Leone, in Liberia, in Congo, in Burundi, in Angola, and the North-South conflict in Sudan, which had killed two million people and was a civil war that had raged for 22 years.

Clearly, we still have lots of work to do. Particularly, in those six years, the conflict in Darfur broke out. It’s a human tragedy. We all know the scale of this conflict. We work on it every single day. We can talk about it during the discussion part of our talk today, but clearly, Darfur is a human tragedy. We saw the outbreak of conflict in those six years the North and South in Cote D’Ivoire. We continue to have lots of work to do in Eastern Congo to "mop up," as I call it, the negative forces. We’ve got good cooperation taking place between Congo and Rwanda, and to some degree, Burundi and Uganda as well.

And, clearly, there’s this nasty little group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda, which is just creating havoc -- killing kids, kidnapping people -- and we have to take care of that problem. We need to work together to do so. It certainly is going to be a priority of President Bush’s Administration to get rid of the LRA before the end of this year, if we can, working together with others.

So, the important point is that we are working in partnership again, in every one of these conflict mediation cases in an African country or several African countries, where the lead mediator, the sub-regional organization, stepped up to the challenge, and the international community, and certainly the United States, has backed that leadership and supported their efforts.

We also obviously have challenges on countering terror, but this is a global challenge. We treat it as a global challenge. Our approach in Africa is especially the hotbed of east and the Sahara region to try to work through the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Initiative (TSCTI) to build capacity in terms of intelligence sharing, information sharing, border control, immigration control, pushing the countries themselves to cooperate together, and training where necessary. So, we’re trying to work, in the broadest sense, on the CT (counter-terrorism) threat not to see it as just "a bunch of bad guys," but to see it as building the capability of nations to actually control their territory and to know what’s going on between their borders.

Just to step back from the priorities and talk about the way in which we hope to engage, or we’re trying to engage. I look at it in terms of types of states. One, we’re trying to nurture strategic partners. Those strategic partners are those like Nigeria, South Africa, and others who have the diplomatic influence, the economic power, and the military power to support the building of capability, for instance, in the African Union. Nigeria played a key role in getting the Darfur Peace Agreement. And that’s just because of the reach of that state in terms of its ability to project influence across the continent. South Africa has done the same in the Congo, and in Burundi, and other places. So, we need to nurture these strategic partners to build the regional and sub-regional organizations.

We also need to invest in success. That’s what our Millennium Challenge Account is. There are these small countries—Ghana, Mali, Benin, and others—that are doing the right things. They have reform agendas, they have democratic governments, and often they’re overlooked, because they are actually doing the right thing. Too often, we’re chasing the conflict, rather than supporting those countries that are stable states in their sub-region. So, we need to invest in success, and we try to do that through our Millennium Challenge Account.

Then, frankly, we need to contain and change failing states, and there’s one that I’ve already mentioned in this speech: 1000% inflation, an economy that’s in a freefall, and a country that used to be the breadbasket for its region. We have to contain that disaster and help to change it, so there’s a return to democracy.

And then, we need some leverage to regional organizations. Obviously, this is not about building hegemons or anything. It’s about trying to influence institutionalization of these democratic, economic, and conflict mediation progress, by institutionalizing it within the regional organizations and the continental organizations.

So, in conclusion, I believe that U.S.-Africa policy and U.S. policy, generally, has helped to create a fluid moment in world history that will allow us to advance freedom, peace, and prosperity in Africa. I think that we need to capture this unique window of opportunity by institutionalizing a new way of engaging or doing business in Africa guided clearly by U.S. interests, but also with the goal that Africa be squarely in the community of democracies, building an international system based on shared values and contributing to global peace and prosperity.

The approach involves working in partnership with Africans to build the institutions that will sustain progress across generations. My vision and the priorities for U.S.-Africa policy derive directly from President Bush’s charge to make the world better and safer, and the Secretary’s guidance that the State Department will pursue its goals through transformational diplomacy. And, I’m very, very happy to take any questions that you might have.

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