Washington -- President Bush is not a rock
star or a producer but he has used the power of his presidency
to aid Africans beset by the seemingly intractable challenges
of poverty and disease more than anyone on the planet, according
to two celebrity activists who are dedicated to keeping
Africa's plight in the forefront of world attention.
Congolese children carry bags of food donated
by the U.S. Agency for International Development
in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo. Speaking
at the United Nations June 27, USAID Administrator
Andrew Natsios says that eradicating poverty in
developing countries is not only about giving
money, but also about mobilizing resources, enhancing
trade and investment, and promoting good governance.
"[Bush] has actually done more than
any American president for Africa," British producer
Bob Geldof, who is the leading organizer of the "Live
8" concerts that are being held worldwide on July 2
to raise awareness of Africa's development needs, told Time
Bono, lead singer of the Irish band U2 and
longtime activist for aid to Africa, echoed Geldof’s
praise for President Bush as he told an American television
interviewer June 26, "[Bush] has already doubled and
tripled aid to Africa .… I think he has done an incredible
job, his administration, on AIDS. 250,000 Africans are on
anti-viral drugs; they literally owe their lives to America."
As for an overall legacy, Bono said of Bush:
"If he, though, in his second term, is as bold in his
commitments to Africa as he was in the first term, he indeed
deserves a place in history in turning the fate of that
Government statistics indicate that American
assistance to Africa -- on all levels, private sector as
well as government -- are at an all-time high reflecting
an increased awareness of the continent's needs by the president
who pledged more funding, especially to combat HIV/AIDS,
during a trip to the continent in July 2003.
Now, both Bush and British Prime Minister
Tony Blair have pledged to make aid to sub-Saharan Africa
a central topic at the upcoming meeting of the Group of
Eight Nations (or G8, consisting of Canada, France, Germany,
Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United
States) in Gleneagles, Scotland, set for July 6-8. They
have also been the prime movers behind a recent announcement
by developed nations’ finance ministers of a massive
debt reduction for 14 nations in sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition, Blair is pushing a plan of
action for development aid to Africa put together by an
organization he established called the Commission for Africa
(CfA). It calls for a doubling of the more than $25 billion
in annual aid that currently goes to the continent.
On June 13, when President Bush met with
five African leaders, he assured them: "The United
States is committing to expanding our efforts to relieve,
hunger, reduce debt, fight disease on the African continent."
Calling AIDS "one of the greatest causes
of suffering in Africa, the president told them he made
combating the disease in Africa "a top priority of
my administration. This crisis is one that can be arrested.
And I want you all to know that when America makes a commitment,
we mean what we say," he emphasized.
That commitment involves a worldwide emergency
plan for AIDS relief focusing on sub-Saharan nations that
was allocated about $780 million to battle the disease in
2004. That amount grew to $1.1 billion in 2005.
Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick
has also placed Africa at the top of his agenda. He told
a business-finance gathering in Rwanda in early June: "U.S.
development aid to sub-Saharan Africa has risen three to
four times (since 2000) to about three to five billion dollars
over the past two years."
The private sector adds considerably to
the development equation, Zoellick added: "If you take
the amount of net private investment, personal remittances
to developing countries, and NGO grants, that amount from
the United States totaled $48 billion last year -- over
two and a half times the amount we had in overseas development
Furthermore, he said, "If you combine
development assistance, private capital flows, grants by
NGOs, and trade, the United States now supplies 70 percent
of the G-7 support to developing nations," which shows
how development aid is combined with other capital sources.
To help Africans pursue business-oriented
growth, President Bush established the Millennium Challenge
Account (MCA), an innovative way to help countries increase
a better business environment to attract investment. So
far eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa are eligible for
its funding and Madagascar has already signed an MCA agreement
worth $110 million to help develop its rural infrastructure.
For additional information on this program,
Washington File Staff Writer