Remarks on U.S.-Africa PolicyGregory L. Garland, Chief, Press and Public Affairs, African Affairs
West & Central Africa Oil & Gas Conference
June 13, 2007
Honorable Ministers, fellow speakers, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
It is an honor to be here today. The fact that we are here today in Houston talking about West and Central Africa is evidence of Africa's growing importance for Americans, and I might add, Houston's importance for Africans.
Houston of course is the capital of the energy industry. It is only natural that Africans over the years have come here in growing numbers to learn the oil business, to go to school, and to live, giving you one of the largest African immigrant communities anywhere. It is only natural, too, that your links to Africa have multiplied -- in education, culture, business, politics, even tourism.
I was living in Angola when the first direct air service to the U.S. was established a few years ago. It wasn't to New York or Washington; it was to Houston. Since then, more than a few American officials based in Angola have returned home via Houston. That's a powerful symbol that needs no explanation.
Today, I will present an overview of U.S policy in Africa, highlighting this administration's and this country's historic engagement with what many call the Mother Continent. It involves a new approach that focuses on partnership, a relationship of equals. I want you to leave here knowing that Africa now lies front and center of American foreign policy.
Ladies and gentlemen, you're probably wondering about this map behind me. Obviously, it's way out of date. But it's a map I'm certain that many of you have seen, some probably several times. Can anybody here tell me where this map is from? Yes, sir, you are correct. It's the opening shot in the great film classic, Casablanca...It's a shot that lasts two seconds.
Casablanca was produced in 1942, and won Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Director. To this day, it consistently ranks #1 on American lists of favorite movies. It is embedded in our collective memory perhaps like no other film, and perhaps no other work of art.
Look at this map. It is Africa. Casablanca, the most influential movie ever made, is a movie set in Africa. But it is a movie set in an Africa without Africans. Instead, it's about an American who runs an American-themed bar, a Norwegian, a Czech, a Frenchman, and some Germans.
This, I submit, emblemized an American view of Africa that persisted all too long. In World War II, Africa was a strategic stepping stone to the places that mattered in Europe. In the Cold War, Africa was a sideshow to the struggle that mattered -- in Europe and East Asia. Even as we Americans set in place well-intentioned economic development policies, it was too often with the idea of doing good for Africa, rather than with Africa. Like Casablanca, Africa for too long was an exotic backdrop where Africans were sight unseen.
II. FOREIGN POLICY VISION
A. PRESIDENT BUSH
Instead, the Administration has implemented a strategy to pursue more effectively American national interests in a world where non-state actors, and illegal trans-border activity, can pose essential threats to even the most powerful of countries. September 11, 2001, brought this home to all of us.
Globally, the President has set his priorities as: (1) combating terrorism; (2) preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction; and (3) promoting democracy not as end in itself, but as the key to the rule of law, and thus prosperity.
B. TRANSFORMATIONAL DIPLOMACY
She has described her approach as "doing things with people, not for them." Note the key prepositions: with, not for. In a word, this means partnership. This vision supports African leadership as strategic partners and seeks to build up Africa's institutional capacity. In other words, doing things with Africans, not for them.
We believe this vision dovetails with Africa's own growing emphasis on the values of freedom, the rule of law, and collective security, as embedded in the African Union's New Partnership for African Development. The NEPAD Peer Review mechanism reinforces African leaders' own efforts to promote democracy and good governance among their peers.
The U.S. understands that there are new, rising strategic powers around the world, including Sub-Saharan Africa. Nations such as South Africa and Nigeria that have used their diplomatic, economic, and military power to shape the continent for the better. Mali, Mozambique, Liberia, Botswana, Benin and many other African countries are leading the way as examples of the power of democratic rule of law.
U.S. Africa policy seeks to nurture relationships with such strong, capable, and well-governed Africa partners.
III. REGIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
To do so, we work directly with lead Africa mediators and multilaterally with the United Nations, African Union, and sub-regional organizations like ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States. In the Gulf of Guinea, we are working directly with governments on maritime security, an issue that needs no explanation to you here today.
There's plenty of evidence that this approach works. We've had success working with African partners in ending wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Burundi, and Sudan North-South conflict. The jury is still out on Darfur, which continues to shame us all for the collective failure to stop the killing. In Somalia, Africa has an opportunity to turn a failed state into a functioning one. The African Union has taken the lead there and in Darfur, with United Nations and American backing.
IV. INVESTING IN PEOPLE
B. PMI -- MALARIA
In 2005, President Bush announced a 1.5 billion dollar initiative to fight this disease in fifteen African countries. This includes insecticide treated bed nets, indoor spraying, and life-saving anti-malaria medications.
To take one case, Angola, this initiative helped increase the number of children protected by nets from less than 5 percent to nearly 70 percent. In the first year this initiative expanded malaria protection to more than six million Africans. This year -- the second year -- we expect the total to reach 30 million people.
That engagement is happening for several reasons:
Let me close by returning to Casablanca, if I may. There's a famous scene at the end where French Inspector Renault offers to send Rick to Brazzaville. Rick agrees with the unforgettable words, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." He goes to Brazzaville because that's where the Free French forces are, deep in the heart of what was French Equatorial Africa. Their goal is not to stay in Central Africa, however. Their intention is to fight for France and end up in Paris. Africa is just a prop.
You, my friends, know better than most, that Africa is no longer the prop; that Brazzaville nowadays is the stepping stone to Pointe Noire, within shouting distance of Cabinda, Equatorial Guinea, Luanda, Sao Tome, Gabon, and of course modern Kinshasa across the Congo River. When you go to Brazzaville in 2007, it is to work with Africans as partners, some of whom are here today.
In this spirit, I say to you that the U.S. has placed Africa front and center where it belongs, and where it will stay. I'll be happy to take any questions you might have.
Released on June 19, 2007