U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa: Insights From Prof. George Ayittey
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U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa: Insights From Prof. George Ayittey
Insights from Prof. George Ayittey (@ayittey) on the recently announced US Africa Policy
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Obama 4-Pillar (1)

On June 14, President Barak Obama unveiled a 4-pillar development strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa. They are:

1. Strengthen Democratic Institutions
2. Spur Economic Growth, Trade, and Investment
3. Advance Peace and Security
4. Promote Opportunity and Development

Each of the broad categories has five sub-objectives, except the fourth, which has six, making a total of twenty-one. However, before we assess whether this strategy will work or not, a little history would be useful. But first, a principle which is relevant in these matters.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor is a principle attributed to a logician and Franciscan friar called William in the English village of Ockham in the 14th century. His commanding credo was SIMPLICITY and the principle he enunciated later became known as “the principle of unnecessary plurality.” Over the centuries, that principle has been given various interpretations. Among them are:

• For every complicated problem, there is a SIMPLE solution.
• If you have two competing theories that make exactly the same prediction, the SIMPLE one is better.
• The KISS principle – Keep it simple, stupid

Over the past 30 years or more, various efforts have been made by Western donors, the international community, international financial institutions and African leaders themselves -- ranging from rock concerts to grand initiatives – to save or develop Africa. They all fell flat on their faces because they applied the “Reverse Occam’s Razor.” Convoluted and grandiose mega-plans collapsed under the weight of their own internal contradictions and complexity.

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Obama 4-Pillar (3)

Rock and movie stars also hopped onto the aid bandwagon. Back in 1985, there was “Live Aid” intended to save the famine victims in Ethiopia and a “Special Session on Africa” held by the United Nations to boost aid to Africa. Nothing more was heard of them in subsequent years. A year later in 1986, the United Nations announced a Program of Action for African Recovery and Development (PAAERD). Five years later came the United Nations New Agenda for African Development (UNNADAF) in 1991. Then in March 1996, the U.N. launched a $25 billion Special Initiative for Africa. They all fizzled.

In September 2005, the plight of Africa again took center-stage at a U.N. conference with clockwork precision. The international community mounted a campaign to boost foreign aid to Africa. The U.N. called on rich countries to increase their foreign aid to 0.7 percent of GDP by 2015. In Feb 2005, former South African president, Nelson Mandela, urged rich countries to back Britain's call for a doubling of international aid to the world’s poorest countries and act immediately on canceling their debts. Comparing poverty with slavery at a rally in central London’s Trafalgar Square, Mandela described the poor as “imprisoned, enslaved and in chains. Trapped in the prison of poverty, it is time to set them free" (The Washington Times, Feb 4, 2005; p.A15).

Tony Blair of Britain declared 2005 as the “Year of Africa” and set up a Commission on Africa, co-chaired by Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, to raise US$50 billion (euro38 billion) a year on the international capital markets, which Prime Minister Tony Blair made the centerpiece in Britain's presidency of the G-8 industrialized nations that met in Gleneagles, Scotland in July 2005. The G-8 leaders also agreed to write off $40 billion of poor nations' debts and pledged to double aid to Africa to $50 billion by 2010. Two years later, only 10 percent of those pledges have been fulfilled. Germany fell short of Gerhard Schroeder’s commitment by 700 million euros or $1.14 billion in aid to Africa. Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised to honor Germany’s remaining commitment but has not done so.

In 2005, the G-8 leaders were not all in agreement. John Taylor, the U.S. Treasury Department's undersecretary for international affairs in the George Bush administration, rejected the British plan as incompatible with U.S. budget rules. Washington would rather work through its own foreign aid program -- the Millennium Challenge Accounts (MCAs), helping poor countries through grants instead of loans in the future. Three other competing proposals were floated. France proposed an international tax on financial transactions, or items such as plane tickets while Japan favored a US$200 million fund to nurture private sector companies in Africa to improve the continent's investment climate and credit rating. In Jan 2005, the United Nations released its own report, co-authored by Columbia University economist, Jeffrey Sachs, calling on rich countries to increase their foreign aid to 0.7 percent of GDP by 2015.

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Obama 4-Pillar(5)

Africa’s Own Mega-Plans. Since independence, African leaders have announced all sorts of grandiose initiatives and mega-plans at various summits. Nothing subsequently was heard of them after the summits: The Lagos Plan of Action (1980); the African Priority Program for Economic Recovery (1985); the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment (1989), the Abuja Treaty (1991) and others. In the late 1980s, there was much excitement about the creation of the African economic community. Nothing was heard of it since. At the thirty-fifth OAU Summit in Algiers (July 15, 1999), President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa shocked the delegates by reminding them that little has been done to implement the 1991 Treaty of Abuja, which established an African economic community (The Washington Times, July 15, 1999; p.A14).

There were other grand initiatives too: The Algerian and South African initiative, the Millennium Partnership for the African Recovery (MAP), and the Omega Plan, spearheaded by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal. They were finally integrated into a single plan called the Compact for African Recovery (COMPACT) by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Subsequently, COMPACT metastasized into the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). All these plans committed African leaders to democratic ideals; establishment of peace, law, and order; respect for human rights and basic freedoms; and a better management of their economies, among other things. They also entreated the international community, especially Western nations, to work in partnership with African leaders to help them to realize their goals.

NEPAD

The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) -- a synthesis of these plans and touted by Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal -- was presented at the G-8 Summit in Genoa in 2001 for Western financial support. NEPAD sought $64 billion in Western investments in Africa. The official NEPAD document undertakes "to respect the global standards of democracy, whose core components include political pluralism, allowing for the existence of several political parties and workers' unions, fair, open, free and democratic elections periodically organized to enable the populace to choose their leaders freely”. It also includes a "peer review mechanism" by which African leaders who misrule their countries would be subject to criticism by fellow African leaders according to commonly agreed standards. NEPAD was trumpeted as "Africa's own initiative”, "Africa's Plan”, "African crafted”, and therefore "African owned”. While African leaders deserve credit for at least making the effort to craft an “African initiative”, NEPAD was fatally flawed in many ways.

First, its pitch and analysis were faulty. Playing the guilt trip card, NEPAD claimed that the impoverishment of Africa has been "accentuated" by the "legacy of colonialism" and other historical "legacies" such as the cold war and the unjust "international economic system”. Colonialism subverted Africa’s "traditional structures, institutions and values”, creating an economy "subservient to the economic and political needs of the imperial powers" (para 21). Africa has been integrated into the world economy as "supplier of cheap labour and raw materials, draining Africa's resources rather than industrializing Africa" (para 21). Colonialism, according to NEPAD, retarded the development of an entrepreneurial and middle class with managerial capability. At independence, Africa inherited a "weak capitalist class”, which explains the "weak accumulation process, weak states and dysfunctional economies" (para 22).

Further, insufficient "rate of accumulation" in the postcolonial period led to "patronage and corruption". (para 25) The "vicious circle" of "economic decline and poor governance" has confirmed Africa's peripheral and diminishing role and "marginalization”. (para 26). More recent reasons for Africa's dire condition include "its continued marginalization from the globalization process" .(para 2)

The analysis was not balanced. It was too steeped in the “externalist orthodoxy” that nearly everything that went wrong in Africa was due to external factors such as colonialism, imperialism, the slave trade and hostile external factors, among others. While slavery and colonialism did harm Africa, the analysis ignored the equally important role played by internal factors such as bad leadership, senseless civil wars, corruption, economic mismanagement and military vandalism. The externalist card has excessively been overplayed by African leaders to conceal their own failures.

The second was the internal inconsistency of the Plan. NEPAD talked of "self-reliance" and argues forcefully that Africans must be "masters of their own destiny”. It railed against "the credit and aid binomial" that has led to a "debt deadlock", and perpetual rescheduling (para 3). Yet, NEPAD seemed incapable of breaking out of this foreign aid-dependency trap. It said that Africa needed to secure more aid and more credit (para 145) but that the "bulk" of Africa's capital needs up to the year 2015 "will have to come from outside Africa" (para 147).

Third, it turned out NEPAD was not “African” after all; it was modelled after a foreign plan: The U.S. Marshall Aid Plan, which rebuilt Europe after World War II. How could NEPAD be "African crafted" when it is a copy of the Marshall Aid Plan? Or how could Africa claim ownership over someone else's idea?

Speaking at a forum in Nairobi, Prof. Adedeji Adebayo, the UN undersecretary general and executive secretary of the ECA, said that foreign aid had failed to solve Africa's problems for four decades and was not about to. "No Marshal Plan will work in Africa's underdeveloped markets. It worked in Germany because of Germans' hard work and intellectual resources. Africa requires building anew; not rehabilitation or reconstruction,” said Adedeji (East African, [Nairobi], May 6, 2002).

Fourth and more serious was the blatant dishonesty and double-speak that infused NEPAD rhetoric. Speaking at the four-day OAU Civil Society conference (June 10 - 14, 2002), President Obasanjo of Nigeria noted that the involvement of civil organisations was necessary to make NEPAD successful. "I would like to reiterate that much of what Africa has today gained in the areas of political and social sphere have been derived from the direct influence of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). This attitude should continue”, he added (Daily Monitor [Addis Ababa], June 14, 2002. Web posted at http://www.allafrica.com). Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia also weighed in, saying that the role of civil society is essential in making sustainable development in Africa. Meles noted that the success of NEPAD lies in the collective efforts of all Africans at the grass-root levels (Daily Monitor [Addis Ababa], June 14, 2002). NEPAD also claimed to be "people-oriented”. Yet, the reality was totally different.

No civic group, church, political party, parliament, or democratic body took part in its formulation. Only a small coterie of African leaders deliberated on the document, excluding the political leadership of the rest of Africa. On Jan 9, 2001, representatives of some 200 social movements, organizations, and institutions meeting in Bamako, Mali, issued "The Bamako Declaration”, which strongly condemned the lack of consultation with civic society. Another joust came in March 2002, when the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) slammed NEPAD, calling the plan "ambiguous" and some of its proposals "dubious”. The bishops averred that "NEPAD may not achieve its purpose because of lack of consultation with those the plan would affect" (Mail and Guardian, [Johannesburg], March 8, 2002).

Overall, NEPAD was an unmitigated failure. President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, one of the chief architects of NEPAD, expressed the same view. During a visit to Tehran, Iran, in June 2006, he said the initiative had not produced results and needed a new lease of life. "NEPAD has failed. We did not choose the right people, they are not managers able to complete projects. NEPAD has not built a single mile of road," he said (http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/africa/06/28/africa.nepad.reut/index.html)

In 2001, fewer than 14 of the 53 African countries were democratic; about 15 today. Never mind the absurdity of dictators standing in judgment of other despots. Even before the PRM was launched, there was backpedalling. President Mbeki of South Africa was reticent on how to implement peer review. "He talked vaguely about market reaction to the reviews, and a system of credit ratings for participating countries. Zambia's Levy Mwanawasa, who was elected in dubious circumstances in Jan 2002, argued that 'peer review must not be about isolation.' And Mozambique's Joaquim Chissano said it was too early to talk of peer pressure, even on countries as badly governed as Zimbabwe" (The Economist, June 22, 2002; p.44).

When the peer review mechanism was formally launched at the March 2003 Abuja meeting, it was "intended as a voluntary 'self-monitoring' system by which participating African countries would subject themselves to ongoing examination by other Africans in such priority areas as peace and security, democracy and political governance, and economic and corporate management" (Africa Recovery, May 2003; p.8). At the Abuja meeting, only 10 out of 53 African countries officially acceded to the PRM. Two years later, “Out of 53 members of the AU, only 23 have signed the Peer Review Protocol. Not even the shining example of democracy in Africa, Botswana, was prepared to subject itself to the Peer Review mechanism scrutiny . . . Of the 23 signatories only two, Rwanda and Ghana, underwent the PR process” (.Mmegi/The Reporter, Gaborone, July 12, 2005; web posted). Obviously, such a mechanism would not work if only the "good guys" signed up and there are no costs to the "bad guys" for nonparticipation.

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Obama 4-Pillar(2)

First, the international efforts. Africa’s plight seems to follow a ten-year attention deficit cycle. Every decade or so, mega-plans are drawn up and rock concerts held to whip up international rescue mission for Africa. Acrimonious wrangling over financing modalities ensues. Years slip by and then a decade later, another grand Africa initiative is unveiled.

First to appear on the scene were the World Bank and the IMF with their Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). Their main goal was to dismantle the statist interventionist behemoth and move African economies to rely more on the private sector. The state’s pervasive hegemony in the economy was to be rolled back. Price and other controls were to be removed and unprofitable state-owned enterprises were to be sold. In return for these reforms, the Bank provided some $25 billion in loans to run the programs from 1981 to 1991. It was foreign aid conditioned upon the implementation of economic reform. After the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1989, the Bank and Western donors added a political conditionality – multi-party democracy. In 1994, the Bank released its report, which stated that, of the 29 adjusting African countries only 6 were deemed to be “success stories,” giving a failure rate of more than 80 percent. These countries were Gambia, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Worse, within two years, Gambia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe had vanished from that phantom success list. Since then, the Bank keeps trotting out another phantom list of “success stories” each year only to see them evaporate a few years later. The conditionalities have gotten so outrageous that now there are at least 34 of them – like what cigarettes do you smoke -- Camel or Galouise – before you qualify for a loan! Ridiculous.

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Obama 4-Pillar(4)

Sensing an opportunity with the G-8 in disarray, China declared 2006 as the “Year for Africa” and convened an Africa Conference in Beijing in October. To feed the voracious appetite of its economic machine galloping at a dizzying 9 percent clip, China was trolling for resources in Africa. It wooed African leaders with euphonious verbiage and diplomatic platitudes about “equal terms” and lofty promises of foreign aid without conditions. Miffed at the West’s insistence on conditionalities for its aid, 40 African heads of state trekked to the conference and threw themselves at the feet of China, signing a multiplicity of deals.

China came up with a 3-Point Agenda for Africa that stressed peace, development, cooperation, and scholarships for African students, among others: http://bit.ly/Lpcrh0/ China has spent billions of dollars securing drilling rights in Sudan and Angola, and has exploration or extraction deals with Chad, Gabon, Mauritania, Kenya, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia. The Chinese have invested in the booming copper industry in Zambia and Congo. They have been major buyers of timber in Gabon, Cameroon, Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea and Liberia. Across Africa, Chinese companies are muscling out Western and other foreign companies, winning contracts to pave highways, build hydroelectric dams, upgrade ports, lay railway tracks and build pipelines -- all of which stand to help Chinese companies more effectively transport African resources. Such infrastructure improvements often are explicitly traded for raw material contracts. For example, in Angola, China has promised $2 billion in aid for infrastructure as part of a deal for oil rights.

China's overall trade with Africa rose from $10.6 billion in 2000 to $55.5 billion in 2006, a jump of 40 percent from the previous year, propelling Africa’s growth rate to 5.8 percent in 2008; its best performance since 1974. It has reached $120 billion today. China is now Africa’s second largest trading partner after the U.S., importing a third of its crude oil from Africa.

There is nothing wrong with China driving a hard bargain and pursuing its interests in Africa; all foreign entities do. Increased competition for Africa’s resources should be good for Africa. Furthermore, Africa needs the investment – in particular, to rebuild its infrastructure that has collapsed after decades of abject neglect and destruction from senseless civil wars. According to a World Bank Report (Africa’s Infrastructure: A Time for Transformation, Nov 2009), “the poor state of infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa—its electricity, water, roads and information and communications technology (ICT)—cuts national economic growth by two percentage points every year and reduces productivity by as much as 40 percent.” To close the infrastructure gap, an annual spending of $93 billion would be required. Thus, Chinese investment in Africa’s infrastructure ought to be seen as god-sent. But this is not exactly how things have turned out.

The initial enthusiasm that greeted China in Africa has now cooled. “There is mounting objection to China’s deepening forays into Africa” said News Africa (March 2007). Former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa warned against allowing China’s push for raw materials to become a “new form of neo-colonialist adventure” with African raw materials exchanged for shoddy manufactured imports and little attention to develop an impoverished continent. Rene N'Guetta Kouassi, the head of the African Union's economic affairs department echoed this warning: “Africa must not jump blindly from one type of neo-colonialism into Chinese-style neo-colonialism " (AFP, Sept 30, 2009). Some African commentators are less charitable, denouncing what they see as “chopsticks mercantilism,” alluding to the chopsticks dexterity with which China picks off at its leisure platinum from Zimbabwe, copper from Zambia, and oil from Angola, Nigeria and Sudan.

Clothing manufacturers in Lesotho, Nigeria and Zambia complain bitterly of cheap Chinese goods destroying their markets and jobs. In Nigeria, the influx of Chinese products has devastated Kano’s manufacturing sector. In 1982, 500 factories churned out textile products in Kano, but fewer than 100 remain operational today, most at far less than full capacity. Kano's Kwari textile market, the biggest in West Africa, has swelled with stall after stall of Chinese fabrics and clothing. A decade ago, 80 percent of the fabric sold at Kwari was made in Nigeria, compared with 5 percent now. There are more beggars and other visible signs of poverty in Kano than ever before. It is not far-fetched to link the decline in the textile industry in Kano and the consequent loss of jobs and social destitution to the rise of Boko Haram.

In South Africa, the textile union says some 100,000 jobs have been lost as Chinese synthetic fabrics replace cotton prints in street markets across Africa. In 2007, the unions threatened to boycott anyone selling Chinese products. The backlash against Chinese investments has been particularly strong in Zambia due to workplace accidents, poor working conditions and below-minimum wage pay at Chinese-run copper mines. More than 50 Zambian workers died in a 2005 mine explosion and dozens of others were sacked by Chinese security guards last year. In the run-up to Zambia’s general election in September 2006, the opposition leader Michael Sata made China's investment in the country a campaign issue. According to Sata, Chinese businesses employ relatively few Zambians. "Our Chinese don't bring in any equipment or create any sensible employment. In fact, to every Zambian in a Chinese company, there are about 15 Chinese . . . Sata called the Chinese profiteers, not investors, in a country where unemployment is about 50 percent and more than 73 percent of people live in poverty. Chinese investment has not added any value to the people of Zambia," he charged (The Washington Post, Sept 25, 2006; p.A16).

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Obama 4-Pillar (6)

The U.S., for its part, has also crafted three special initiatives to help Africa since the 1990s. The basic reason why many well-intentioned aid programs came to grief was that the commitment on the part of many of African leaders to put their own houses in order was simply not there. They took the aid money and did the “Babangida Boogie” – one step forward, three steps back, a flip and a sidekick to land on a fat Swiss bank account. This prompted even former President Bill Clinton – regarded as a “friend of Africa” – to bemoan it. "The responsibility rests with African countries to commit themselves to these objectives and to make policy choices that will enable them to achieve these objectives. Help from outside Africa cannot overcome lack of commitment or wrong choices by the governments of Africa", President Clinton said in his Feb 5, 1996 Report to Congress: (U.S. Government Report, 1996, 3). Clinton subsequently took bold steps to move away from aid paradigm, replacing it with the slogan “trade not aid.” He then crafted the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which open the vast US market to any African country that pursues certain types of reforms. It was signed into law in 2000 but after a decade in operation, only Lesotho and Mauritius could be termed success stories although trade between the US and Africa has increased substantially.

Clinton sincerely cared about Africa but his overall US-Africa policy was not successful because it was “leader-centered,” rather than being “INSTITUTION-BASED.” He was always looking for an “Abraham Lincoln” seeking to transform his African country and form cozy partnership with. During his historic trip to Africa in March 1998, he hailed Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Isaiah Afwerki of Eritrea, Laurent Kabila of Congo DR, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda as the “new leaders of Africa.” But as it turned out, these so-called “new leaders” were old wine in new bottles. Barely two months after his return to the US in 1998, Ethiopia and Eritrea were at war and the rest of the other new leaders were at each other’s throat in the Congo war. And the rest of them turned out to be reform acrobats and crackpot democrats.

Even worse, more African countries have imploded under Clinton’s watch after he took office in 1992: Somalia (1993); Rwanda (1994); Burundi (1996); Zaire (1996); Congo-Brazzaville (1997); Sierra Leone (1997); Congo (1998); Ethiopia/Eritrea (1998); Guinea (1999). Though the Clinton administration set up the Africa Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) to deal with Rwanda-like conflagration, it failed miserably – few African countries contributed troops to support it. The final indignity came in 2000 when ACRI went to Ivory Coast to train Ivorian soldiers – it was the same year Ivory Coast convulsed into mayhem in Oct, following a stolen election by General Robert Guie.

Nor was Africa's democratization process successful under Clinton's watch. The process has in fact stalled -- the number of African democracies has remained stuck at 15 -- out of 54 African countries -- since 1995. Though Ghana and Senegal did make a successful democratic transition in 2000, the Ghana model was hardly the success story the Clinton administration touted it to be when he visited the country in 1998 -- the first African country on his itinerary. The regime of Fte./Lte Jerry Rawlings had turned out to be the most corrupt, the most brutal and the most incompetent in Ghana's post-colonial history. When Rawling's ruling party lost the general elections in December 2000, jubilant Ghanaians poured out into the streets to celebrate. Said one Efua Nyarkoa of Accra:
"I had not been born when Ghana attained independence in 1957, but I've heard of the euphoria that the joy of freedom brought to all. Those who were blessed to be part of it speak of the way it transformed their lives. But now the jubilation that has swept the entire country following the fall of the (P)NDC, they say, far surpasses Ghana's liberation in 1957.

"This is true independence," I heard it said on the street corners and shouted from the roof tops. Never since the colonial era had Ghanaians been oppressed as they were under the (P)NDC and never have they felt so liberated. Its exit has lifted the greatest burden off our shoulders and suddenly a calm has settled over the land." (The Statesman, January 19-25, 2001; p.9)

Clinton's Africa policy came under fire even in the black American community he sought to please. Last April, black American Congresswoman, Rep Cynthia McKinney (D, Georgia) berated: "I am sorry to say this administration has no Africa policy -- or what it has has tremendously failed" (The Washington Times, April 14, 2000; p.A17). And in a January interview with The East African newspaper, she described Clinton's Africa Policy as "such an abysmal failure." "How can someone so friendly end up with such an outrageous, atrocious, horrible policy that assists perpetrators of crimes against humanity, inflicting damages on innocent African people?" she asked. Similar sentiments were expressed by Randall Robinson, executive director of TransAfrica that spearheaded the campaign against apartheid in South Africa. He dismissed Clinton’s policies in Africa as a “disaster.”

Clinton, however, had a sort of mea culpa and seemed to have abandoned his “leader-centered” approach. During an interview with the BBC on Jan12, 2011, regarding Haiti reconstruction efforts, a frustrated Clinton said, what will pull Haiti out of its misery are “strong institutions.” Amen.

The Bush administration’s policy toward Africa, by contrast, was more “hands-off” and tougher because he knew past US foreign aid programs in Africa had not been successful. He wanted aid to be performance-based and results-oriented. Accordingly he crafted a new approach called the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) in 2003. Foreign aid was to be replaced by GRANTS to be given to only those countries that “show results” in:

a. Ruling justly
b. Promoting economic freedom, and
c. Investing in people.

Each of the three broad category areas has sub-categories that must be satisfied for a country to be deemed eligible for an MCA grant. For example, “Ruling Justly” specifies the following 6 benchmarks or indicators: civil liberties; political rights; voice and accountability; government effectiveness; rule of law; and control of corruption. “Encouraging Economic Freedom” also has 6 benchmarks and “Investing in People” has 4, bringing the overall total to 16.

Unfortunately, so stringent were these conditionalities that few African countries could meet them. So “the Millennium Challenge Corporation approved an $11 million grant to Tanzania to combat corruption and qualify for a bigger aid package” (The New York Times, Feb 2, 2006; p.A13). In other words, Tanzania which did not meet the conditionalities, secured aid to help it meet them! And how successful has Tanzania been in fighting corruption?

Alas, when President Bush visits Tanzania on Monday, Feb 18, he will find that the country which is receiving $698 million in MCA grant has no cabinet. The entire Cabinet has been dissolved over a corruption scandal, involving the award of $172.5 million contract to supply 100 megawatts of emergency power to a Texas based company that does not exist. Even the anti-corruption czar, Dr Edward Hosea, is implicated. Other African countries that received MDC grants were dubious “success stories.” Among them were Kenya, which gripped by political violence and Uganda, which is no democracy.

The question is, would Obama’s 4-pillar strategy navigate through this junkyard of aid wreckage and succeed? Not likely.

Like Clinton, Obama takes the “engagement approach,” seeking relationships and “partnerships,” unlike George W. Bush. There is nothing wrong with his 4 broad policy goals.

1. Strengthen Democratic Institutions
2. Spur Economic Growth, Trade, and Investment
3. Advance Peace and Security
4. Promote Opportunity and Development

I particularly like the emphasis on INSTITUTIONS. However, there are 4 problem areas with Obama’s 4-Pillar Strategy and it is not entirely his fault. The first is the term “partner” as in “development partner.” Oh, how I hate that word. Partnership with whom in Africa? Partnership may sound like a nice diplomatic term but if pursued, the US may find itself in “partnership” with rogue regimes and corrupt and incompetent despots and bandits in Africa. This may well open the US to accusations of propping up despicable regimes in Africa.

Second, Obama’s emphasis on strong institutions and his partnership with African governments may create the impression that it is these governments or leaders who must create these strong institutions and the whole idea can be debauched. Don’t be surprised if you hear an African government set up a “Ministry of Strong Institutions,” just as Tanzania set up a “Ministry of Good Governance.” Strong institutions are created by CIVIL SOCIETY, not governments or leaders.

Third, partnership with African governments to “Strengthen democratic institutions” and “Spur economic growth and investment” REINFORCES the belief in state interventionism and expansion of the role of government in society and the economy. In Africa, the state IS the problem and Africans certainly don’t want more of it in their lives. Recall the quip by the traditional Lesotho chief: “Here in Lesotho, we have two problems --- rats and the government.” Don’t ask Kenyans, Nigerians, Tanzanians or Zimbabweans what they think of their governments, let alone give them more of it.

Fourth, there is little Obama can do to help Africa if there is no commitment on the part of African leaders to help their own continent. Recall that Clinton lamented this lack of commitment. Help from outside Africa cannot overcome lack of commitment or wrong choices by the governments of Africa", President Clinton said in his Feb 5, 1996 Report to Congress: (U.S. Government Report, 1996, 3). Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan hammered on the same theme at the Jan 2000 African Union Summit in Abuja, Nigeria. At the Summit, he told African leaders of their lack of progress on meeting the UN’s Millennium Development Goals that they agreed to in 2000. Five year earlier, he was less restrained, lashing out at African leaders and blaming them for most of the continent’s problems (The Daily Graphic, July 12, 2000; p.1).

To be fair to President Barak Obama, you cannot fault him if African leaders choose to develop their pockets instead of their countries. Furthermore, Obama is in a diplomatic straight-jacket. In dealing with African governments, he is limited to a “partnership” by diplomatic protocol. Foreign governments deal with African governments and the relationship is termed a “partnership.” My preference would be for say the US government dealing directly with CIVIL SOCIETY groups but in many African countries this may be regarded as subversion.

In sum, past efforts to develop Africa have failed because they applied the REVERSE OCCAM’S RAZOR. Is Africa a stubborn and incurable patient? No, I say sack the doctors!

NEXT: I will Tweet about the smart way to develop Africa WITHOUT foreign aid.

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