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U.S. Aid to Africa Hits Record Levels

Geldof, Bono praise Bush before Group of Eight Summit in Scotland

Posted: June 28, 2005

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. (ŠAP/WWP)
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.

"[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 Magazine recently.

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 continent around."

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 assistance."

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, see Millenium Challenge Account.

Jim Fisher-Thompson
Washington File Staff Writer



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