Much of Africa is growing dynamically today. Political and
market liberalization are revitalizing and energizing the
continent. There is a new generation of leaders implementing
democratic reforms, expanding economic growth, and unleashing the
human spirit that will help bring greater stability, prosperity,
and democracy to African nations.
However, Africa's progress has not reached enough people. Too
many are unemployed, undereducated, and living in poverty. While
political stability has improved for much of the continent, some
nations are still plagued by political unrest. And though economic
growth is healthy, development is slowed by political and economic
barriers hindering Africans from reaching their fullest potential.
Official thinking in the US about Africa has undergone a major
shift. While economic aid and humanitarian assistance remain
essential tools in coping with Africa's inevitable crises,
policymakers have chosen to utilize other methods to encourage and
support economic and political reforms under way. For example, the
proposed African Growth and Opportunity Bill - championed by Reps.
Philip Crane (R) of Illinois, Charles Rangel (D) of New York, Jim
McDermott (D) of Washington, and Donald Payne (D) of New Jersey -
encourages African development, self-reliance, and free trade.
But it is not our wisdom, or the limited wisdom of any leader,
that will bring prosperity to Africa. It will be the people
themselves. And, in order for people to flourish and prosper, they
must be free. The most important tool, the essential tool, for
building and developing any economy is freedom - not only market
freedom but civil and religious freedom as well.
I can't help but notice some common themes in the policy mix of
African countries enjoying strong economic growth: (1) reasonable
tax rates, particularly on personal incomes, that allow individual
Africans to flourish and prosper; (2) stable monetary and
exchange-rate policies; and (3) balanced policies on foreign
investment with a focus on privatization and economic growth. Other
African nations must be encouraged to follow in the footsteps of
However, a somewhat more ambitious approach may be possible. The
initiative can come from Africa, and in a great sense it already
has. The East African Community, with its progress toward
tariff-free trade and, soon, even a common passport, is only one
example. In the south of Africa, the Common Market of Eastern and
South Africa and the Economic Community of Western African States
have formed other trading blocs. …