The 2008 Presidential Campaign heated up even before the warm summer of 2007. There is much talk about money these days and who is leading whom in that category. Presidential Forums are all the rage and have allowed the candidates to expound on faith, poverty and race. At AFJN, we are interested in hearing what a future president may have in mind concerning Africa policy.
As mentioned in an earlier article, AFJN joined a group of other Africa-focused agencies to produce a questionnaire on Africa policy for the candidates. The questionnaire is ready and has been sent to candidates of both parties, requesting responses for August 1st. At that time, we will study their responses and issue a press release with our assessment. We will not, however, endorse a candidate. In October, all candidates registered with the Federal Election Commission will be invited to a Presidential Town Hall meeting on Africa here in Washington. Click here to find the questions and more about the Town Hall.
Here below is the questionnaire that was sent to the presidential candidates in preparation for the Town Hall meeting as well as to get them thinking about US Africa policy. As with any group effort, the document does not necessarily reflect in style or substance all of what AFJN would have liked to have included. However, the questionnaire covers a broad range of issues and working with a broad coalition presents us with a better chance of actually being listened to.

Presidential Town Hall Meeting
Africa Questionnaire

Africa is a continent that matters increasingly to the international community. African nations contain significant percentages of the world’s deposits of valuable natural resources, such as petroleum, gold, diamonds, cobalt and the newly-important coltan (used in computers, PDAs, etc.). Moreover, there are 18 operating stock exchanges in Africa, and the average return on investment in Africa is nearly 30% — higher than any other region in the world. Thousands of scientists, engineers and other professionals leave Africa each year, enriching the United States and the rest of the developed world with their expertise, but intellectually impoverishing African nations. A rising number of the doctors and nurses in America and the West are from Africa, which benefits our health care system, but diminishes African health care systems.

Meanwhile, diseases such as HIV-AIDS and West Nile Fever now plague the developed world, and for global safety reasons, the control of potential epidemics in Africa is increasingly in the interest of the international community. African poverty and preventable disasters draw American development assistance and charitable contributions that could be devoted to more sustainable ventures. Due to a lack of transparency in too many nations, billions of dollars in aid and national revenue have been diverted from their originally intended purposes. Poor governance in Africa provides havens for international criminal syndicates and terrorism.

Africa matters to America for these and a broad range of other reasons. After the increased engagement with Africa of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the next President of the United States will be faced with developing an Africa policy that effectively addresses the challenges and opportunities that Africa offers. The following questions are intended to elicit the views of the men and women who would hold that high office and will have to create an Africa policy in the complex world in which we live.

Despite international efforts to resolve the Darfur conflict peacefully, the killings and rape continue in western Sudan, and the conflict is described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. Similar mass atrocities have been visited on the people of northern Uganda and eastern Congo. If elected President of the United States, what specific actions would you take to end the genocide in Darfur, as well as the mass killings in Uganda and Congo? What preventive measures would you recommend to keep similar tragedies from becoming full-blown genocide in the future?

Africa is blessed with abundant natural resources, especially petroleum, diamonds and valuable products. Unfortunately, much of this natural wealth is not brought to bear for the benefit of African citizens. As President, how would you work with resource-rich but economically poor countries in Africa to ensure that their incoming revenues from oil, gas and mining, as well as from other resources, are used to promote poverty alleviation and development rather than simply to fill the coffers of corrupt officials? How would you act to effectively seek the recovery of stolen bilateral aid money?

Africa is facing several environmental challenges, including climate change that threatens traditional African livelihoods, dwindling water resources that deprive more than 300 million people access to safe water and may lead to conflict, diminishing agricultural capacity that has lead to food dependency and disappearing plant and animal species that threaten Africa’s great biodiversity. Given the importance of African ecosystems to the continent and the world as a whole, what policies would you pursue as President to help African nations face these challenges such that the solutions are linked to sustainable development practices?

Two years ago, the G8 discussed 100% debt relief for the poorest countries, a large increase in development aid and changes to world trade rules that to make it easier for African economies to grow. However, these ideas have yet to be fulfilled through the policies of donor nations. The United Kingdom took the lead on these issues, but the United States and other G8 nations have been reluctant to follow through. As President, how would you deal with the issue of African debt so that poor nations are not crushed under this growing financial burden while ensuring that monies that formerly went to debt service were now able to be devoted to the social and economic needs of these nations?

When the African Growth and Opportunity Act was first introduced in Congress in the mid-1990s, its mantra was “trade not aid.” However, at least 80% of AGOA trade involved oil and natural gas. What strategies would you propose as President to ensure that African small and medium enterprises outside the extractive industries more broadly realized the benefits of AGOA, which offer more than 6,500 items that Africans can export to America quota-free and duty-free? What would your guiding principles be as regards American trade and investment in Africa?

China has become a major international player in Africa through its increasing level of investments in Africa, especially in the extractive industries, as well as numerous infrastructure projects. The Chinese also have promised African leaders that they will double aid and scholarships for African students. However, the G8 nations have warned China that its promise of $5 billion in cheap loans and credit without conditions could worsen Africa’s debt crisis and cause a repayment problem. Moreover, Western nations are concerned that China will be an impediment to the promotion of transparency and good governance in Africa if China is not supportive of international efforts in this regard. What steps would you take as President to address the issue of China’s role in Africa? Do you see the Chinese role as harmful or helpful overall to African nations?

The creation of a combined Africa Command, uniting military, diplomatic and humanitarian assistance personnel under one umbrella, has many in civil society concerned about what is perceived to be a militarization of Africa policy. The concern is that the War on Terror is at the top of all considerations for U.S. action, such as has been the case recently in Somalia. As President, what would be your overall policy thrust toward Africa? How important a role would you assign to military and intelligence considerations in devising an Africa policy? What policies would be adjusted to minimize the security dangers from insecurity due to high unemployment among young, rising numbers of orphans due to AIDS and conflicts and the large number of internally displaced persons?

Africa’s institutions are increasingly more active in peacekeeping and peacemaking. Most notably, the Economic Community of West African States served as the primary mediator and peacekeeping force in the sub-region during the conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea Bissau. More recently, the AU has dispatched missions to Darfur, Sudan, Burundi, and Somalia. However, Africa’s sub-regional and continental organizations suffer from severe logistical, resource and capacity constraints. How will the US Government in your Administration work to increase their effectiveness in peace activities, as well as in other governance and economic pursuits?

Over the last five years, African states have taken bold steps towards institutional reform through the adoption of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and its accompanying African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). These new institutions seek to increase economic development and encourage good corporate and political governance. Indeed, the 2002 G8 summit at Kananakis, Canada, adopted NEPAD as the framework by which it would approach development assistance. How will you, as President, work to reinforce NEPAD and the APRM as development and accountability standards for Africa?

It is estimated that women in African nations are responsible for three-quarters of all agricultural work and comprise about three-quarters of overall economic output. Nevertheless, women continue to lack full ability to exercise their political and economic rights in many nations, and girls are still too often prevented from receiving an education that will enable them to take their full place in society. As President, how would you integrate efforts to enhance the status of women and girls in Africa into overall Africa policy?

Presidential Town Hall Meeting on Africa
Partner Organizations

Africa Action
Africa Faith and Justice Network
African PAC
The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa
Amnesty International – USA
Constituency for Africa
Education Africa USA
National Endowment for Democracy, Africa Program
Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa
Phelps Stokes Fund
Publish What You Pay
Save Darfur Coalition
US Africa Sister Cities Foundation