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The Frederick Douglass Organization

Access Africa


Frederick Douglass IV, co-chair, US Global 8 African Coalition, is one of the signatories of the organization’s  op-ed which has been circulated internationally to leading daily, weekly and periodical publications.

The hallmark of the new generation of African leaders is their collective insistence that Africa's fate is in the hands of Africans…

America's Alternative Aid Model for Africa If you believe the rock stars assembled to 'end poverty' recently, it's easy to get the impression that America is not joining the rest of the international community. In some sense this is true. Not because Americans don't care - we give more than anyone - but we refuse to rely exclusively on the traditional model of aid. Fortunately, the US is implementing an alternative, quieter vision, which is already working and being funded as never before.

The G8 summit Under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Blair, has apparently already reached a commitment to double aid, which he claims sets us on the way to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. But while humanitarian aid can save lives, these arbitrary goals will never be hit by aid, only through domestic African growth. The old-style notion that traditional aid can spur growth is worrying.

This idea is underpinned by the UN Millennium Development Commission's theory that the 'poverty gap’ between what is actually saved in an economy and the amount of savings that would be required to generate sufficient investment to sustain that economy, can be ‘closed' by injecting outside money into it. Many countries have expressed skepticism to this idea, not least because of the risk of inflation, but also because fiscal rules in Canada, Japan and the US prohibit committing spending for future budgets.

The US has a different approach and has secured agreement from the other G8 members to write off the entire unrecoverable debt of 18 countries selected on the basis of their willingness to progress towards good governance. The IMF and World Bank will absorb the main cost of the $40 billion write-off and the US agreed to help compensate the 1enders. The US would like these countries to start with a clean balance sheet which would allow them to break out of the aidlloanlwelfare trap and allow them to borrow from the capital markets, like 'normal' investors.

There is no doubt that many countries suffer from a lack of credibility, which is exacerbated by the aid process. The perception that economies are bottomless pits into which aid money would be poured will only be overcome if those economies start to grow under their own impetus. President Bush's Millennium Challenge Account, which requires be governance structures BEFORE donations are made, is a step in the right direction, to ensuring far less waste.

Furthermore, the US is contributing the largest single source of official development assistance, which has already nearly doubled from $10 billion in 2000 to $19 billion in 2004, while assistance to sub-Saharan Africa tripled. For example, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is worth $3 billion a year, making it the largest health program ever for a single health issue and is treating hundreds of thousands with antiretroviral therapy. The US is also the biggest single backer of the multilateral Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Beyond official government aid, private US donations to developing countries by charities, corporations and philanthropists (notably the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) are estimated by the latest research from the Hudson Institute to be worth well over $20 billion a year.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act, offering duty and quota free US market access to essentially all products from Africa, is helping Africa to trade its way out of poverty. African leaders have asked the Western governments to stop spending hundreds of billions of dollars every year in subsidies to give their own farmers an unfair advantage over African producers competing for a share of the global market. G8 leaders should do this and do more.

Trade and investment will be the bedrock of the sustainable growth that can drive development and lift millions out of poverty. Many governments in Africa have seen first-hand the dignity and hope that comes with a pay check earned through honest toil by a person previously shackled by extreme poverty. And they have witnessed the awesome multiplier effect of that paycheck as it is redistributed through an extended family and spent on goods and services, raising hopes of entire communities for a future better than the present. For example, Coca-Cola is Africa's single largest private sector employer, and it is estimated that every payroll check cut by the company support 17 additional people. The dignity and hope that comes with economic activity, is beginning to transform a whole generation of Africans.

African leaders have not eschewed aid altogether: ongoing humanitarian crises in Africa require urgent, generous assistance. They want aid where it can be most effective in developing the infrastructure necessary to dramatically increase Africa's capacity to supply world markets and those within the continent.

The hallmark of the new generation of African leaders is their collective insistence that Africa's fate is in the hands of Africans, and that outside help must strengthen their own effort to help themselves. President Bush is right to offer Africa an economic partnership instead of paternalism.