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“Year of Africa” Provides Opportunity to Go Beyond Feel-Good Humanitarianism
December 4, 2005—2005 was the “year of Africa,” with world summits and rock stars focused on the plight of the continent. But a report by an Independent Task Force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations finds that “a policy based on humanitarian concerns alone serves neither U.S. interests nor Africa’s.”
“We will know that the response to this opportunity has failed if, in another ten years, U.S. policymakers link hands once again with other world leaders around Africa’s problems and the world witnesses another global concert to end Africa’s poverty. The United States cannot afford to let another decade go by without effective solutions, and Africa deserves far better,” concludes the Task Force.
The report, More than Humanitarianism: A Strategic Approach Toward Africa, notes that Africa is of growing international importance, playing an increasingly significant role in supplying energy, preventing the spread of terrorism, and halting the devastation of HIV/AIDS.
African production of oil and gas is increasing rapidly as U.S. competition with China and other countries is intensifying for access to resources on the continent. By 2010, Africa may be supplying the United States as much of America’s energy imports as the Middle East.
The continuing atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan are also testing the international community’s resolve to devote meaningful resources to Africa. The Task Force calls on the United States to “mobilize international support to secure the ground and compel a negotiated settlement.”
The Task Force notes that some 40 percent of African states are now electoral democracies and calls for greater partnership to support the many positive changes taking place in Africa. “A core of democratically elected presidents is leading the continent in the direction of greater democracy, improved governance, and sound economic policies,” says the report.
The Task Force is chaired by former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake and former EPA Administrator and member of the board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Christine Todd Whitman. Princeton N. Lyman, the Council’s Ralph Bunche senior fellow and director of Africa policy studies, and J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, serve as directors. The Task Force brought together religious and business leaders, humanitarian and human rights advocates, and security and foreign policy experts.
The Task Force recommends that Africa be more fully integrated into the global economy and that Africa be an active partner in U.S. programs to assure reliable supplies of energy, combat terrorism, reduce conflict, control pandemic diseases, and enlarge the worldwide community of democracies.
The following priorities and goals are central to a comprehensive Africa policy:
- Integration. The United States should advance a policy to help “integrate Africa more fully into the global economy,” so the advantages of globalization no longer bypass the continent. It should also “follow on the president’s commitment at the UN to eliminate all tariff and subsidy barriers in agricultural trade [with Africa] if other nations do so, by urging all the members of the WTO to set firm timetables for going down this path.”
- Darfur. “The United States must press for urgent international action” in Darfur, including: broadening the peacekeeping forces beyond the African Union, enforcing the no-fly zone against the government of Sudan, hardening sanctions on Sudan and pressuring China to cooperate, and pressing both sides to negotiate an immediate settlement.
- Energy. “The United States should establish a U.S.-Africa energy forum . . . to promote regional cooperation” and “develop public-private partnerships . . . that enable the United States and U.S. companies to participate and compete more effectively for infrastructure and other projects needed in Africa.” The United States should pay particular attention to West Africa’s energy rich Gulf of Guinea by encouraging the responsible use of oil and gas proceeds and providing military, security, and intelligence-sharing assistance.
- Failed States and Terrorism. “The Department of State should exert more political oversight over counterterrorism programs to avoid collusion or unintended support of repressive regimes.” Also, “the United States needs to rebuild its intelligence capabilities in Africa to understand better the dimensions of the threat.”
- HIV/AIDS Pandemic. UNAIDS projects a 50 percent increase in donor requirements in just the next four years. “The United States must mobilize other donors to commit to a rising level of support for HIV/AIDS programs as the pandemic reaches major proportions on the continent.”
- U.S. Assistance. “The United States should fulfill the president’s pledge at the 2005 G8 Summit to double U.S. aid to Africa by 2010.” Such increases must be over and above emergency assistance and focused on long-term commitments in sectors that promote growth and reduce aid dependency.
Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward Africa
J. Dennis Bonney
The Brookings Institution
Chester A. Crocker
Alex de Waal
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Helene D. Gayle
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Victoria K. Holt
Gregory G. Johnson
U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Richard A. Joseph
Nicholas P. Lapham
African Parks Foundation of America
Rick A. Lazio
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
Raymond C. Offenheiser
The Brookings Institution
John H. Ricard
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Gayle E. Smith
Center for American Progress
Founded in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, national membership organization and a nonpartisan center for scholars dedicated to producing and disseminating ideas so that individual and corporate members, as well as policymakers, journalists, students, and interested citizens in the United States and other countries, can better understand the world and foreign policy choices facing the United States and other governments.
Contact: Anya Schmemann, CFR Communications, +1-202-518-3419,