(Text as delivered)
Why Africa Matters to the United States
Thank you, Ambassador Cutler, for that kind introduction. It is a
pleasure to be with you this evening to launch this important and timely
Meridian International/Smithsonian Forum on Africa. I understand you
have assembled an impressive roster of Africanists for the series,
including my former boss, Anthony Lake, and two of my most distinguished
predecessors, Ambassador Hank Cohen and Chester Crocker. I am honored to
be asked to set the stage for the first Smithsonian forum on Africa. The
decision to devote this degree of time and attention to Africa reflects
an apt understanding of the fact we are at a pivotal point in Africa's
This has also been a momentous year in U.S.-African relations. It is the
year we heralded Africa's substantial progress during the first-ever
comprehensive visit to the continent by a sitting American president.
But, more recently, it has also been a year tinged with skepticism,
regression, and even, by mourning.
The bombings of our East African embassies just two months ago were a
sobering reminder of the real and continuous threat Americans and
Africans face from international terror. The blasts in Nairobi and Dar
Es Salaam left over 200 dead, 51 of whom--Africans and Americans--were
working on behalf of American interests in the region.
Some may point to these cowardly terrorist attacks as evidence of
Africa's fragility. When viewed in light of recent conflict in the Horn
of Africa, Congo, and Angola, cynics argue the U.S. ought to give up on
Africa or, rather, never give it a chance. Recurrent instability has led
a number of commentators to conclude rather hastily that the so-called
"African Renaissance" must be a hallucination. Others maintain: We are
witnessing the "birth-pains" of a new Africa.
Time will tell, but it may be relevant to recall that the European
Renaissance lasted over two centuries. Bloody, protracted war--and
plague--dominated at least half that period.
But, analogies aside, Africa's future is, in fact, uncertain. Still our
stake in Africa's success has never been clearer. I believe the logic of
the defeatists, the so-called Afro-pessimists, is both flawed and
shortsighted. Dismissing Africa's promise as well as its problems is
detrimental not only to Africa but to fundamental U.S. national
Today, Africa stands at a crossroads--a decisive time when its future
hangs in the balance. The challenges and opportunities facing the
African people stand in stark relief. Africa can overcome its troubled
past, or lunge back into self-destructive conflict. The United States
can stand on the sidelines, or we can recognize and act upon our growing
interest in a thriving Africa that can take its rightful place on the
Despite today's headlines, there is considerable reason for optimism
about Africa's future. Economies that were growing at less than 2% at
the beginning of the decade are registering growth at more than twice
that level. Some countries are recording double-digit growth rates. The
citizens of over half of all Sub-Saharan African nations are choosing
their own governments freely and holding their leaders accountable.
Indeed, the number of democracies has more than quadrupled in less than
Regional organizations such as ECOWAS and the Organization of African
Unity are intensifying their efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts.
Others, such as the Southern African Development Community and the
revitalized East African Community are moving toward the establishment
of regional common markets that can become economic engines for the
future. From the resurgence of war-torn Mozambique to the demise of
apartheid in South Africa; from the budding democracies in Benin, Mali,
and Namibia to a fresh start for the great people of Nigeria, there is
reason for real hope for the people of Africa.
Yet, clearly, Africa's progress has been neither linear nor universal.
In recent months, we have witnessed significant setbacks in several
regions. Some countries which were beginning to recover from conflict
have picked up arms again, some societies which were rebuilding are
tearing down, and some governments which had taken fragile steps toward
democracy and reconciliation are drifting back toward tyranny and
At least eight African nations are involved in a bitter war in the
Congo--potentially one of the most serious conflicts in the world today.
Humanitarian crises in Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Sudan; uncertainty in
Lesotho and Liberia; the face-off in the Horn of Africa; and the
faltering Angolan peace process all must be of significant concern to
the United States.
Indeed, whether the challenge is adversity or opportunity, the reality
is that the end of the Cold War calls for a new paradigm for U.S.
policymakers in Africa. We must resist the temptation to dissipate our
energies in responding solely to the crisis of the day. Our horizons
must be longer term.
African leaders and the African people will determine whether they are
able to achieve their vast potential or fall prey to the failures of the
past. Yet America, acting in its own interests, can and must play a
constructive role in the region.
First, as one of our two major policy goals, we must work in concert
with Africans to combat the many transnational security threats that
emanate from Africa just as they do from the rest of the world. These
include not only terrorism, but weapons proliferation, narcotics flows,
the growing influence of rogue states, international crime,
environmental degradation, and disease. Continued and closer
collaboration with Africans to counter these threats to our mutual
security should be an important priority for U.S. policymakers.
Transnational security threats are most difficult to combat where
national institutions are weakest, where people are poorest, and
conflicts most enduring. Strong, democratic, economically viable
societies are less likely to provide terrorists or drug traffickers with
material support, safe havens, or a gullible following. In contrast,
where democracy fails, poverty prevails, and strife is the norm, we risk
seeing whole countries, even regions, that grow more vulnerable to the
influence of our most dangerous adversaries. Therefore, we must invest
in new strategies in partnership with African countries, the G-8, and
others to combat global threats effectively before they become more
pernicious and pervasive.
We have made a start along this path but, in truth, we have a long way
to go. Two years ago, the U.S. signed the Africa Nuclear Weapons Free
Zone Treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons now and forever in Africa, but
too few African countries have ratified the agreement. We have cleared
thousands of acres of land mines in Africa, but thousands more acres
remain. We have provided modest amounts of anti-terrorism training to
African countries as well as information on the activities of terrorist
groups, but we need congressional support to do much more. We have been
working with law enforcement authorities from Nigeria to South Africa to
interdict illicit drugs before they hit American streets, but the U.S.
must go further to craft, fund, and implement a continent-wide counter-
narcotics strategy. We have urged concerted international action to stem
the flow of arms, ammunition, and explosives into Africa's conflict
zones, but weapons sales continue unabated.
Finally, the Administration has recognized the risk to U.S. citizens and
soil from inadequate aviation safety and security systems in Africa.
Thus, we are launching an innovative "Safe Skies for Africa" initiative
to increase the number of Sub-Saharan nations that meet international
aviation standards. The initiative seeks to make air travel safer for
Africans and Americans and to strengthen airport security to help
interdict would-be criminals and their contraband. The United States
also is sharing our medical expertise through the Centers for Disease
Control to combat deadly diseases, like malaria and AIDS, that know no
borders. For the protection of people everywhere, we cannot allow Africa
to remain the world's soft and most accessible underbelly for terrorists
and others determined to do evil.
At the same time, we must press ahead to achieve our second principal
policy goal in Africa; that is, accelerating Africa's full integration
into the global economy. Increasingly, the U.S. economy is fueled by
exports. As we grapple with the consequences of turmoil in both our
traditional and emerging markets from Asia to Brazil to Russia, the
United States cannot afford to write-off any potential new export
market. A vast and growing market of 700 million potential consumers,
Africa is in many ways the last frontier for U.S. exporters and
For, despite areas of instability, Africa's economic trends remain
positive. Two-thirds of African nations--roughly three dozen countries--
have implemented economic reforms to open markets, stabilize currencies,
and reduce inflation. African governments have privatized over 2,000
state enterprises in the past few years, raising over $2.3 billion in
government revenue to invest in infrastructure, education, and health
care. The U.S. relies heavily on the African Continent for petroleum and
strategic minerals. In volume terms, nearly 14% of U.S. crude oil
imports come from the continent, as compared to almost 18% from the
Middle East. Within a decade, Africa is projected to be the source of
well over 20% of our imported oil.
America's commercial interests in Africa will deepen as U.S. companies
continue to tap this nascent market. American businesses exported over
$6 billion worth of goods last year to Africa and imported more than $16
billion. The U.S. is now Africa's second-largest industrial supplier.
U.S. companies have edged out European and Asian competition to complete
major deals in the region. Examples abound: Coca-Cola recently made a
significant investment in a production and distribution facility in
Angola; a consortium comprised of Enron and the Industrial Development
Corporation signed a $2 billion agreement to construct a steel plant in
Mozambique; in West Africa, Ghana's stock exchange--although tiny--is
one of the top performers in the world.
A visionary economic policy toward Africa is in our own long-term
interest. Thus, we must continue and intensify our efforts to pass the
African Growth and Opportunity Act. This landmark legislation remains
key to establishing a mature trade and investment relationship with
Africa as we have with trading partners in other emerging markets.
At the same time, we are implementing the President's Partnership for
Economic Growth and Opportunity in Africa. We are providing technical
assistance to help liberalize trade and investment regimes, launching an
anti-corruption initiative, extinguishing bilateral concessional debt,
and organizing the first-ever U.S.-Africa Economic Cooperation Forum.
This ministerial level consultative group is scheduled to meet for the
first time late this year. These various steps are important, because
sustained economic growth is key to eradicating Africa's endemic
poverty--and the civil unrest which often accompanies it--and thus to
moving Africa toward lasting peace and prosperity.
Democratic governance and respect for human rights are also crucial to
the goal of integrating Africa into the global economy. Recent history
has taught us that governments which safeguard human rights as well as
political and economic freedoms can more effectively establish the
conditions for sustainable economic growth.
Therefore, the Administration is actively supporting emergent
democracies in Africa. We do so in full recognition that elections--
although necessary--are not sufficient to sustain democratic change. As
a result, we are investing also in the institutional foundations upon
which lasting democracy thrives. We are helping to train legislators,
foster independent judiciaries, encourage constitutional reforms, and
establish genuine respect for human rights. We are active in newsrooms,
universities, churches, community centers, and army barracks to bolster
press freedom, build strong civil societies, and teach African
militaries the virtues of subordination to civilian leadership.
Equally important, the United States continues to play an active role--
diplomatically and operationally--to help prevent and resolve African
conflicts. Peace and stability are essential to nurturing a civil
society that protects democracy and human rights and fosters an enabling
environment for economic growth and investment. Today, too many of Sub-
Saharan Africa's 48 countries are involved in regional or civil wars,
causing serious humanitarian suffering and destroying the daily lives of
millions of innocent civilians.
U.S. leadership and resources were instrumental in bringing to an end
the protracted conflicts in Mozambique and Liberia. We continue to work
to encourage a peaceful solution to the stand-off between Ethiopia and
Eritrea and to avert the resumption of widespread conflict in Angola and
Burundi. We are also pursuing an immediate cease-fire and a lasting
solution to both the internal and external causes of the widening
conflict in the Congo.
As we work to address the crises of the day, we remain committed to
helping Africans over the long-term to build their own capacity for
peacekeeping and conflict resolution. President Clinton's African Crisis
Response Initiative is designed specifically to train rapidly
deployable, interoperable, peacekeeping battalions across the continent.
Indeed, African nations have already made important progress in
safeguarding their own citizens and maintaining peace in their own
backyards. West African ECOMOG peacekeepers, for example, helped restore
the legitimate government in Sierra Leone in March and supported
democratic elections in Liberia last summer. Peacekeeping units from
West and Central Africa helped to secure the fragile peace in the
Central African Republic. These are important efforts that we must help
For in Africa, as elsewhere, there can be no progress where conflict is
pervasive. There can be no freedom and respect for human rights where
neighbor is pitted against neighbor. There can be no honest trade nor
honest day's work when government budgets are diverted from development
to destruction and no serious investment in the future where children
are torn from schoolyards and forced to march in armies.
Ultimately, Africans themselves must determine if their dreams for a
better future will become a reality. We cannot make that choice for
them. Africa is not--and has never been--the United States' own to "win"
or to "lose." But the United States must continue to work in concert
with Africans to help secure the continent's future if we are to be
smart about securing our own. If Africa succeeds, we all--Africans and
Americans--stand to benefit. If Africa fails, we will all pay the price.
Still, we would be foolish to measure Africa's progress in months or
even a few short years. It would be na ve in the extreme to assume that
deep-rooted problems that have plagued parts of Africa for decades will
disappear with the quick wave of a diplomatic wand. Future progress, as
in the present and the past, will be uneven and fitful. There will be
rough patches and occasional reverses. In this regard, Africa's
experience will be no different from that of Europe, Latin America, or
Asia. The difference is: America has never debated whether our interests
lie in remaining actively engaged, even in difficult times, in these
other regions of the world.
The dangers of taking a short-term approach to Africa policy--crisis by
crisis, leader by leader, election by election--are akin to trying to
make a fast buck in today's troubled stock market. If we seek quick
returns over long-term gains, we will never be well-positioned to
advance important U.S. economic and political interests in Africa.
As we approach the turn of the century, the world as a whole faces
daunting challenges--regional instability, upheaval in the world's
financial markets, the resurgence of terrorism and of misplaced nuclear
ambitions. Nowhere can the U.S. afford to be an idle bystander. Africa
is no exception. An old Asian proverb states, "When fate throws a dagger
at you, there are only two ways to catch it, either by the blade or the
We cannot watch passively, waiting for Africa to achieve perfection
before we engage actively in helping to shape its future. If we temper
our engagement or hold back until the whole of Africa is on even
footing, we will concede important opportunities to our competitors and
worse still, leave doors open to our adversaries.
We must invest the United States' commitment, talent, resources, and
energy in Africa in order to promote lasting peace, security, and
prosperity here at home. As President Nelson Mandela said a few weeks
ago in the Capitol Rotunda, "Though the challenges of the present time
for our country, our continent and the world are greater than those we
have already overcome, we face the future with confidence. We do so
because despite the difficulties and the tensions that confront us,
there is in all of us the capacity to touch one another's hearts across
oceans and continents."
Working with Africans we must continue to support democracy, economic
reform, and political stability. Together, we can and must achieve the
great promise of our common future and fashion a brighter next century
for all our peoples. Thank you.
[end of document]
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