Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US African Initiative Needs Refining

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US African Initiative Needs Refining

Article excerpt

President Clinton on his current trip to Africa can point to trade legislation passed earlier this month by the House of Representatives as an important indicator of US interest in Africa. Now awaiting Senate action, the bill grants special privileges to African exports and encourages investment in the continent.

This expression of interest will undoubtedly be a centerpiece of the president's message on his visits to Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana, South Africa, and Senegal.

While official foreign assistance is diminishing, the new initiative seeks to promote trade over aid. In addition, it hopes to encourage democracy and free-market systems by limiting benefits of the legislation to those countries that are committed to these principles. For 10 years, exports of approved nations will enter the US duty-free and quota-free. The US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) will establish special investment funds for Africa. Citing democracy and the free-market systems as norms for participating countries is essential in the US context, but, as with other congressionally imposed conditions, determining which nations are eligible may not be so easy. When is a country deemed to be, as press reports describe the terms of the legislation, "moving toward democracy?" Are elections enough? Or must working legislative and judicial institutions be in place? Of the countries the president is visiting, only two, South Africa and Botswana, are listed in the 1997 Freedom House report as "free" - countries that "provide their citizens with a high degree of political and economic freedom and safeguard basic civil liberties." Ghana, Senegal, and Uganda are considered "partly free,"and Rwanda is classified as "not free." The emphasis on trade and investment and the free market system provides further dilemmas. If past patterns are a guide, US business has relatively little interest in Africa. US exports to and imports from Africa constitute approximately 1 percent of total US foreign commerce. The $22 million of US direct investment in the continent represents about 1 percent of the US worldwide total. Foreign investors are responsible to their shareholders. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.