In June, the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, AFJN, and 13 other civil society organization partners submitted a questionnaire to each of the 2008 presidential candidates. It was our hope that such questions would encourage the candidates to think more critically about Africa in the upcoming campaigns. Unfortunately, few of the candidates have responded, indicating that Africa is not a priority in their campaigns. AFJN encourages you to read through these questions and to send a letter from our website to each candidate, telling them that Africa matters in 2008.
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
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.
1. 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?
2. 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?
3. 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
4. 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?
5. 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?
6. 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?
7. 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?
8. 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?
9. 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?
10. 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
The 14 partners with the Sullivan Foundation on the Presidential Town Hall Meeting are: Africa Action; Africa Faith and Justice Network; African PAC; Africare; 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 and the US Africa Sister Cities Foundation.