About the Author: Jendayi E. Frazer serves as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
I can look back on the past eight years of U.S.-Africa relations with pride that we made enormous progress. Six conflicts in six countries have ended. Overall American assistance has quadrupled in dollar terms, reflecting a deep commitment to the continent. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the largest foreign assistance program since the Marshall Plan; 12 of the 15 focus countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. President Bush has launched a major initiative to wipe out malaria, Africa’s number one killer. And that’s only the beginning of a long list.
We have accomplished so much because of a long overdue fundamental shift in our strategic thinking. President Bush recognized the strategic importance of Africa and followed up on this understanding with concrete action. At the heart of this shift is the idea of partnership. As Secretary Rice has said, partnership means working with, not for, Africans. We backed the efforts of African leadership to secure a more stable and prosperous continent. In this context, the African Union has organized with American training its first peacekeeping forces in Burundi, Somalia, and Sudan. ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) took the lead in helping end the gruesome civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is this formula that we are using to address the conflicts in Congo, Sudan, and Somalia.
Certainly there is much more to do. Terrible conflicts continue in Darfur and Eastern Congo. A weakly-governed Somalia continues to produce refugees, feed piracy, and serve as a breeding ground for terrorism. The tragedy of Zimbabwe grows starker with each passing day. Kenya and Nigeria experienced flawed elections that threatened the very fabric of those key nations. Recent coups in Guinea and Mauritania have reminded us that democratic governance and rule of law have a long way to go on much of the continent.
For too long the U.S. Government treated Africa mainly as a humanitarian concern. President Bush changed that. He deserves full credit for recognizing Africa’s strategic importance and the fact that its greatest resource is its people. True, we have a long way to go. But I can say with confidence that we are headed in the right direction in full partnership with Africans.