Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Seven Questions Interview: Q&A Nr. 5-3

U.S.-Africa Relations: People helping people, the private sector and NGO’S

So getting back to your original question, what was your original question? Oh yeah, “In which areas do I think that America has made a significant contribution to Africa’s development?” Well, despite the false starts and problems over the past 50 years, let me list just a few of the many positive contributions that come to mind:

Agricultural research, development, and improved crop protection.

Environmental science and conservation programs.

Education and scholarship (including student and scholar exchanges).

Medical research, development and technology transfers.

Democracy building and governance programs.

Military and public security (police, customs) training and assistance.

Conflict resolution initiatives and peace negotiations.

Justice (courts) and legal training and development programs.

Public services and national health care programs.

Economic assistance and financial management support.

Export and regional markets development and trade.

Infrastructure financing, energy generation and distribution projects.

Clean water sourcing, management, and distribution.

Private sector investment and entrepreneurial development.

Humanitarian assistance and crisis and disaster relief.

Listing the various programs and projects and initiatives showing how the American people have attempted to help in the positive development of Africa would be a very long list indeed. But what is of utmost importance is that the assistance works and that Americans and others work in close partnerships with the African people (the stakeholders). It is also important that aid has a positive impact on the lives of people, that it is easily measurable and has transparent goals and objectives. I hope that someday the people of the U.S.A. working together with Africans and with our international partners can help African countries reach the goal of not needing foreign aid to survive, but for some countries that day still seems a very long way off.

So for the past 50 years the U.S.A. along with some economically developed nations in Europe and Asia and the Middle East have contributed billions in financial aid and development assistance to African countries. And what did they get in return for their good deeds? Several donor nations received favorable trade relationships and slick business deals for strategic natural resources, political support at the United Nations and other intergovernmental bodies and commissions, and for all of the humanitarian assistance and relief aid donated some people are able to sleep better at night.

Recent studies carried out by leading economists and development experts on the effectiveness of aid has shown that some foreign aid is not working for the people of Africa. Foreign assistance in the form of grants, loans, and food has too often been squandered and stolen bringing little if any benefit to target groups. Aid effectiveness is a hotly debated topic among some of the world’s leading economists and policy makers and is the focus of the September 2008 meeting of international development ministers and organizations in Ghana (Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness).

Official Development Assistance (non-military grants and loans) and foreign aid effectiveness are under intensive review in the U.S. including agencies of the government and leading economic experts and civic organizations. President George W. Bush in a March 2002 speech proposed a drastic reform of U.S. foreign assistance policy and programs that he termed the “New Compact for Development” (see text of Bush speech at the UN Financing and Development Conference in Monterey, Mexico). The Economic Perspectives journal (March 2003 issue) featured an article by former Secretary of State Colin Powell speaking about the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). The Bush administration proposed a USD $5 billion increase in U.S. foreign assistance by FY 2006. The Millennium Challenge Corporation was launched in January 2004 to administer the Millennium Challenge Account programs.

Yet in 2008 the foreign aid administered by the Millennium Challenge Corporation is in trouble and is facing cutbacks by the U.S. Congress due to an inability to rollout projects and programs in Africa. The U.S. Congress has approved less funding than requested by the Bush Administration for every MCC budget since the programs inception. Budget shortfalls for FY 2008 (the budget request = USD $2.225 billion) are predicted to be around $500 million dollars. The Millennium Challenge Corporation maintains two blogs in addition to their webiste where you can find more information and interact with the staff and the CEO (Ambassador John Danilovich on Supporting Africa: Action Speaks Louder than Words).

U.S. foreign assistance budgets are considerable amounts of money (the U.S. ODA budget for FY 2005 reached US$ 27.6 billion), but it is a drop in the bucket compared to what the U.S. Government spends on its own military, foreign military assistance, and the war against illegal drugs. Note: the U.S. Government has spent more than USD $69 billion per year worldwide for the last 40 years on the Global War against Illicit Drugs. This amounts to a sum of approximately US $2.5 trillion dollars and guess what____ we are losing taxpayer’s money and the War on Drugs!

The U.S.A. provides more than 25% of all government aid spent by the 30-member countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), and the FY 2005 figures show an increase in ODA as a percentage of U.S. Gross National Income to 0.22%. According to USAID fact sheets the U.S. is the leading importer of goods and commodities from developing countries, reaching an import dollar value of USD $449 billion in FY 2001, eight times the total amount of Official Development Assistance from all OECD donor countries. When U.S. direct foreign investments, aid from private foundations and NGO’s, remittances from immigrants working in the U.S., and private charitable donations are added to the U.S. Official Development Assistance figures for 2005, total U.S. foreign assistance to developing countries dwarfs the total amount from any other country.

Many people are not aware that the bulk of U.S. foreign aid and economic assistance comes from the private sector in the U.S.A. (private citizens, small companies and big corporations, philanthropy foundations and charities, universities and colleges, and huge religious organizations and networks). According to the 2007 Index of Global Philanthropy report (Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Philanthropy) Americans contributed 79% (US $95.5 billion) of the total US $122.8 billion in foreign aid provided by the U.S.A. to developing countries in 2005. So for all those critics and pundits who claim that the U.S. Government is not doing enough in the area of economic assistance to developing countries you need to think about these numbers. You might come to the realization that you have been barking up the wrong tree. It’s the people of the United States of America who contribute the lion’s share of $$$ for international aid and economic development___ not the agencies and departments of the U.S. Government.

U.S. Food Aid Policies and Africa

It has also been revealed through careful research and study that some developing countries’ continued dependence on foreign food shipments and emergency food aid for the prevention of hunger and starvation are destroying the livelihood of millions of small farmers. Combined with the devastating effect of the illegal commercial fishing fleets and pirate fishing off the coast of West and East Africa, Africa’s fishermen and small landholder farmers are struggling to survive. It’s another urgent problem that U.S. and international officials and policy makers must address in the next months and years along with effects of climate change, drought and the fresh drinking water shortages in Africa. Chatham House in the UK has setup a special website to inform the public about IUU fishing (illegal, unreported, unregulated) which is costing developing countries between USD $4-9 billion per year in lost revenues.

Link to Seven Questions Interview: Q&A Nr. 5-4 (next page), 5-2 (previous)
Link to Seven Questions Interview: Q&A Nrs. 1, 2, 3, 4

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