Africa’s New Strategic Position
Location of Africa in the New American Strategy
Bush’s Enunciated Promises
The Unfulfilled Promises
The twenty first century announced more promising for the black continent as the US turned massively and determinedly to Africa. Despite previous attempts by former administrations, it was the Bush administration which showed more interest in an economically and politically distressed area for so long. In the light of the international competition over the continent’s resources, the United States possesses clear and compelling national interests in Africa. There are vital security, economic, and humanitarian interests, including reliable long-term access to energy, shared largely by the African people and the international community.
Yet, despite the rhetoric, did the Bush Administration really work to bring about a fairer and more just Africa? One of the central questions which need to be asked is to what extent did President Bush’s policy to help the African nations solidify the overall US policy? Or was his project implementation influenced largely by narrow American realpolitik perspectives thus missing the opportunity to lay the foundation for a well established Wilsonian idealism?
Although George W. Bush’s administration claimed to have made major new contributions to public health, promoting development, fostering democracy and peace in Sub-Saharan Africa : aid has increased in several areas and a major AIDS initiative launched, many scholars argued that foreign aid is losing its focus on development as political priorities come to the fore. Increasingly military approaches to fighting the “Global War on Terror” in Africa and securing energy imports carries serious risks for the region.
This paper will first examine the enunciated objectives and rational for the Bush’s policy project. Then, this will be followed by an assessment of the effect of these measures on the development of the continent and to which extent the rhetoric matches with reality.
Keywords: US foreign policy, rhetoric, Africa development, democracy, aid, alliances
President Bush on the Millennium Challenge Account:
“We have an obligation in this country to -- to continue to work with nations to help alleve poverty and disease. We will -- we will continue to push forward on the HIV/AIDS initiative, the Millennium Challenge Account. We will continue to do our duty to help feed the hungry. And I'm looking forward to it, I really am.”
George W. Bush, “The Next 4 Years: Press Conference”, Washington, DC, November 4, 2004
The renewed interest of the US neoconservative government in Africa had changed dramatically during the tenure of George W. Bush administration. The constant and long held US perspective had always viewed Africa as less vital to US interests and that the former colonial powers of Europe were more prone by historical legitimacy to engage in the continent. Consequently, Africa had never held a central position in US foreign policy. Having little geostrategic significance and lacking a strong and organized domestic lobby to push the continent’s issues onto the US foreign policy agenda, the continent had always received a second-rank treatment. Therefore, it came as a surprise to many that the Bush Administration might actually have done more for Africa than its more liberal predecessors.
The post-9/11 global landscape had radically altered the position of Africa in the United States’ priorities of its strategic interests and foreign policy. Since 9/11, the US neoconservative government had vastly expanded its engagement with the continent on virtually all fronts: military, intergovernmental, economic and humanitarian issues. Accordingly, the amount of assistance to the continent had increased conspicuously.
Once rhetoric is weighed against reality President George W. Bush had often been credited for adopting a vigorous Africa policy which had as core elements of concern the global health and development in poor countries. While the ideals of democracy and the protection of individual and human rights had constantly formed the backdrop of the US rhetorical commitments to Africa. However, these objectives remained shaped by the realpolitik of US interests in the region. Thus, while the Bush administration placed development in Africa firmly in the context of securing the national interest, it was formulated around the blend of development and security initiatives by incorporating the Africa policy in the broader framework of the War on Terror.
Africa had thus assumed a new strategic place in US foreign policy due to the legacy of the 9/11 events. This shift was reflective of how 9/11 altered the overall strategic US conception of global security. Many underlying factors were behind a forced review of Africa’s significance: Islamic radical terrorists, oil fields, armed conflicts, liberal markets and devastating pandemics (HIV/AIDS). Many scholars and political analysts have argued that the events of 9/11 led the Bush administration to reformulate its depiction of national interests in the black continent. Two main strategies had concurrently been issued. The inflation of American foreign aid to the region was a remarkable departure and the creation of AFRICOM sealed the mandatory policy shift.
The main interest of this article is to primarily address the underpinnings of Bush’s agenda to the continent and questions related to the effectiveness of the implement ation of the Bush policy in Africa and to what extent had this shift of policy affected the continent. Did the rhetoric of Bush’s promises meet the reality of redressing the ills of the continent? The answer to these questions as well as insight into development issues on the US agenda for Africa would eventually come out of the analysis of the contentious impact of 9/11 on George Bush’s policy toward Africa. What gave rise to Bush’s pro-African policy? What had been the strengths and limitations of Bush’s new agenda? Furthermore, what are some of the development issues on US agenda for Africa after 9/11 and how have they been applied? This is highlighted with specific reference to why US opted for anti-terror diplomacy rather than continuing with development policy inherited from the Clinton years.
Africa’s New Strategic Position
It is almost common sense among American policy makers that Africa holds a momentous position in the system US interests over the world. For them the continent retains imperative strategic commercial crossings and seaports on the Indian and Atlantic oceans and an extensive area of inland territory, making it an important region for the United States imperial drives where to extend the operations of its military deployment as a tool of American global hegemony. The existence of an abundance of mining riches and various raw materials such as oil, cobalt, copper, gold, etc. represent a strong appeal to the covetous American multinationals seeking a large African raw market comprising more than 750 million People widely open to US trade and investment activities. Last but not least, there is also a cultural, historical and political link between both populations: Black Americans and Africans. There are nearly 30 million African American voters in the US, the fact that puts the continent high on the foreign policy agenda of US presidential candidates.
Perhaps less obvious, only after September 11 did the United States begin, retrospectively, to appreciate fully how five factors over the previous decade have steadily elevated the significance of Africa to US national interests. This implicitly stimulated a historic challenge of the United States to respond in new, innovative ways. These drivers include HIV/AIDS, terror, oil, armed conflicts, and global trade.
Following the rising security flaws and political stakes in the Middle East, Africa has become more and more indispensible to American interests because of its growing role in supplying the world with oil, gas, and non-fuel minerals. In the next decade, Africa may provide as much energy as the Middle East and with fewer expenses. The continent’s production may double and its capacity for natural gas exports will grow even more. Expanding oil wealth, tied in part to US investment and markets, is an opportunity to diversify US imports from outside the Persian Gulf.
However, this opportunity is not easy job as the United States is facing intense competition for energy and other natural resources in Africa from rising superpowers with comparable concerns such as China, India, Malaysia, North Korea, and South Korea which are all becoming active challengers in the search for these resources and for both economic and political influence on the continent. Similarly, European countries and Brazil are stepping up their aid and investments as well. China presents a particularly important challenge to US interests and values. China does not share US concern for issues of governance, human rights, or economic policy. Conditionality is not a vocabulary in Chinese leaders’ rhetoric. That is why more African states , given the nature of their autocratic regimes, are concluding more agreements with china than with other states.
Nevertheless these opportunities are further undermined by the growing threat of terrorism and terrorist networks that had acquired a stronghold in the unstable African states. Africa is becoming more implicated in the war on terrorism as more Africans are being recruited for terrorism in Iraq and Syria and have been implicated in bombings and other attacks on innocent civilians in different places in the world. Terrorist cells struck US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Terrorist organizations more recently have sought refuge in West Africa’s Sahel region and the US is compelled to truck down the terrorists’ activities and plotting that may put American interests in jeopardy.
Moreover, Africa has attracted more attention and is more important today because of the outbreak of fatal pandemics, devastating diseases and natural disasters. It constitutes the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is rapidly rising concern among world nations and reaching a critical level of not only reaping uncountable lives steadily but also undermining social and political stability in the continent as well as the prospects for economic progress. The HIV/AIDS pandemic swiftly ravaged eastern and southern Africa in the 1990s. Only in recent years has the reality of its destructive power, in Africa and elsewhere, become manifest and raised concern among senior US officials and begun to generate serious action. The salvation and progress of these communities lies tightly in the hands of the international community and is dependent on cooperation and assistance from the developed countries. As a consequence, Global cooperation have become a required strategy for the achievement of the basic components in modern development policies.
The American neoconservative government understood the main requirements for the establishment of enduring relations with the African countries. Thus, the September 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States set specific goals to enhance growth and development in the continent through free markets and free trade. The strategy stressed the importance of trade and investments as powerful engines of economic growth. On the other hand African states began to cooperate on the global stage by creating global pressure entities and coalitions to affect the international scene. The emergence of an African voting bloc in the WTO may impact US worldwide trading interests positively or negatively. For example, African nations, with nearly a third of the votes in the World Trade organization (WTO), are in a position to provide critical support to the United States in the current world trade negotiations. Meanwhile, they are “challenging the United States and Europe to make major changes in agricultural trade practices” that would enable “Africa to build its export capacity and become better integrated into the world economy”. Consequently, Africa received more interest and emphasis from major powers. The new features of the continent’s world situation made the US reconsider its stand on its implication with the countries of the continent.
Location of Africa in the New American Strategy
In the wake of 9/11, Africa assumed a new status in American strategic thinking. On the assumption that weak states were believed to pose an existential threat to the US, American aid to Africa consequently more than tripled in the years following 9/11. Africa became important because weak and failing states were claimed to be a danger to America’s security. Unable to provide for the basic needs of their people and lacking full control of their borders, failing states in Africa provided both a breeding ground and safe haven for terrorist organizations.
President Bush arrived at Monterrey pledging a 50% increase in American foreign aid over three years and talking about linking greater contributions to developing nations with better democratic performance and economic freedom. “We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror,” he told his fellow leaders. “We fight against poverty because opportunity is a fundamental right to human dignity. We fight against poverty because faith requires it and conscience demands it.” He also said in Monterrey, “To be serious about fighting poverty, we must be serious about expanding trade». Moreover, President George W. Bush had said that combating poverty was a moral imperative and had made it a US foreign policy priority.
To meet this challenge, President Bush called, at the Inter-American Development Bank on March 14, 2002, for “a new compact for global development, defined by new accountability for both rich and poor nations alike. Greater contributions from developed nations must be linked to greater responsibility from developing nations.” The President pledged that the United States would lead by example and increase its core development assistance by 50 percent over the next three years, resulting in an annual increase of $5 billion by FY 2006. These funds went into a new Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) on top of the regular USAID development budget. Since, vigorous policies and good governance are prerequisites for adequate development, the President announced that the Millennium Challenge Account would be “devoted to projects in nations that govern justly, invest in their people and encourage economic freedom.”
Among the most empirical explanations for this shift in prioritization is mainly attributed to an amalgamation of threats, vulnerabilities and opportunities brought in by the Global War on Terror. The arrival of the neoconservative cabal into the Bush administration with their ‘Project for the New American Century’ (PNAC) had enhanced the position of the continent on the government’s agenda as part of Americans strategic efforts to curtail the influence of terrorism worldwide and alleviate the adversities that motivate such a phenomenon. Pandemics, civil wars and violence, corruption and smuggling in arms and drugs created serious vulnerabilities for terrorist activities rising immediate concern from the world community. Accordingly, the strategic significance of Africa has risen greatly since 9/11 for the US.
The attacks of September 11 altered the overall strategic US perception of global security and forced a reconsideration of how Africa should be involved. Although, the continent was not as highly prioritized as other areas of the world it had, nonetheless, acquired a new significance in US commitment. America’s initiatives in its GWOT strategy were not directed exclusively to Africa. It was expected that the continent would receive large shares of the dedicated funds. American effort to involve the continent in its post-9/11 foreign policy has incurred more important moves toward the continent’s economic, political and social development. Several motives have been put forward to justify the Bush administration’s increased attention to Africa, including fulfilling the president’s agenda of “compassionate conservatism” in the pursuit of alternative oil supplies and resources in Africa.
 Anthony Lake and Christine Todd Whitman, “More than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach toward Africa”, the Council on Foreign Relations. INDEPENDENT TASK FORCE REPORT No. 56, 2006. p 10
 Awareness has grown that in many high-prevalence countries the worst is yet to come, as the explosion of new infections in the 1990s translates into mass illness and death in this decade, along with a steep rise in demand for treatment. Further, Nigeria and Ethiopia, with a combined population of more than 200 million, stand at risk of rapidly escalating prevalence rates that, if not effectively stanched, could radically raise the numbers of persons in Africa living with the HIV virus. See Walter H. Kansteiner III and J. Stephen Morrison, “Rising U.S. Stakes In Africa: Seven Proposals to Strengthen U.S.-Africa Policy”, A Report of the Africa Policy Advisory Panel, May 2004.
 Trudi Hartzenberg, “Regional Integration in Africa”, World Trade Organization Economic Research and Statistics Division. Staff Working Paper ERSD-2011-14, October 2011.
 “Building Trade Capacity in the Developing World”, USAID STRATEGY, U.S. Agency for International Development, March 2003.
 “More than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach toward Africa”, Report of an Independent Task Force. Council on Foreign Relations, 2005.
 President George W. Bush, Monterrey, Mexico, March 22, 2002.
 See Hall, N. A. (2010). "How Compassionate Was George W. Bush's Conservatism?"Student Pulse, 2 (05). Retrieved from http://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=243 (accessed
- Quote paper
- Assistant Professor Abdelkrim Dekhakhena (Author), 2013, A New American Century for Africa: Rhetoric or Reality?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/277318