The main streets of Mozambique's capital, Maputo, are still
named for Karl Marx and Mao Zedong. But they no longer show a
socialist direction in the government, the path taken by most
African countries when the post-colonial era began in the 1960s.
Today they are just signposts of a disastrous past that
Mozambique wants to put behind it as it embraces free-market
capitalism and democracy, Africa-style.
President Clinton came to Africa on a trip that ends April 2
to celebrate the "African renaissance," a term coined by South
African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki. From Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)
to Dakar (Senegal), democracy is gaining strength, business is
growing, and peace is making progress, Mr. Clinton said in a speech
to the South African parliament. "In coming to Africa, my motive in
part was to help the American people see the new Africa with new
eyes," he said.
Of the 48 sub-Saharan African states, the State Department
now counts 23 as democracies, compared with five in 1989. Annual
economic growth in such notoriously poor places as Mozambique and
Uganda tops 7 percent, outstripping the rates of Canada and the
United States. "Africa is not a backwater, a jungle with bodies
floating down river," says Susan Rice, US assistant secretary of
state for Africa.
In a landmark speech last year, Mr. Mbeki described his
"African renaissance" as the "third moment" in African liberation.
The first, he said, was the struggle for independence from overt
colonial rule. The second was the struggle for release from
neocolonial rule - gross mismanagement by Africa's own leaders.
Mbeki said East Asia's leap out of poverty, ignorance, and
impotence could be repeated in Africa. In 1960, for example, Ghana
had a per capita gross national product equal to that of South
Korea. Today, South Korea's is 10 times larger. The "African
renaissance," Mbeki said, depends on good governance and decent
education; fair access to world markets and information
technologies; and the emancipation of women, the backbone of
Africa's subsistence-farming economies.
Focusing on 'trade, not aid'
Cynics say Clinton came to sunny Africa only to get away from
the grim grind of scandals and accusations at home. But in fact, he
has been boosting Africa for the past year. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright visited 11 African countries on her 1997 tour.
That was followed by the US House of Representatives passing
Clinton's African Growth and Opportunity bill in early March, which
awaits action in the Senate.
The bill signals Clinton's determination to make "trade, not
aid" the basis of the US-Africa relationship. It has been
criticized here for offering Americans more advantages in African
markets than it does Africans in American markets. "Our trade with
Africa is 20 percent greater than our trade with all the former
Soviet Union," Clinton told listeners in Johannesburg, with people
back home clearly in mind. "It supports 100,000 American jobs. The
average annual return on investment - I hope they're listening back
in America ... is 30 percent."
In that speech he also promised to try to alleviate some of
the huge foreign debt owed by African countries. The
administration's budget request, he said, would permit up to $1.6
billion in bilateral debt relief for Africa. "I challenge others in
the industrial world to offer more relief, so that we can free up
resources for health, education, and sustainable growth," the
After years of wars and disastrous economic mismanagement in
many countries, Africa's 740 million people have nowhere to go but
up. Between the end of colonialism and the end of the cold war,
they lost everything from dependable infrastructures to social
cohesion. Despite decades of (usually misguided) foreign
assistance, African countries still occupy the bottom of the United
Nations Human Development Index. …