Letter from America

But there is a broader issue that focuses on the long-term implications of the US policy not only on Zimbabwe but Africa as a whole. Africa. There have been many concerns that the Bush administration is more interested in Europe and Asia than Africa. An independent task force on the US policy on

Africa will publish its report on December 5.

A summary of the report, given last week at the conference of the African Studies Association, recommended that the focus should be changed from humanitarian issues to those of security, investment and energy.

The report highlighted a deepening societal engagement with Africa in the United States on the part of public and private institutions like Human Rights Watch, the Gates Foundation, Open Society and Amnesty International. But in all cases, Africa was seen as a charity case, completely dependent on aid.

Africa is thus an object rather than subject of any policy of engagement. The time has come for Africa to be viewed as a proactive partner and subject of such engagement.

US interests in Africa go far beyond simplistic aid and humanitarian considerations. Africa is increasingly becoming a major supplier of energy, both oil and gas.

Fifteen percent of US oil supplies come from Africa, especially Nigeria. New natural gas finds in other African countries mean that US energy imports from Africa are likely to double to about 30 percent in the next 10 to 15 years. China is increasing her investment in Africa. It owns large oil investments in the Sudan.

The task force report also highlights terrorism, trade and conflict resolution as other important elements that should shape US policy on Africa. Eastern Africa, in particular, is a new base for al Qaeda operations. While the United States has a strong military presence in Djibouti there is no political oversight on how to counter terrorism in Africa.

On trade the report notes that while Africa’s share of the world trade is only one percent Africa has a very strong presence at the World Trade Center where it commands 40 of the 147 votes in the WTC. Africa can now block international trade deals – such as the ongoing negotiations on subsidies. Here the US spends $350 billion a year in subsidies to its corporations. Africa’s strong presence at the WTC has so far managed to block US initiatives short of outright removal of the subsidies.

The task force also views dispute resolution in Africa as important, and calls for US policy that will engage as full partners Africa’s institutions like the African Union and its newly-created peace and security council, SADC, ECOWAS as well as presidents of energy producing countries like Nigeria.

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