Dr. Susan rice on US Interests in Africa
On October 20th, African diplomats and scholars along with members of New York's African community came together at the Institute of African Studies, Columbia University to hear Dr. Susan E. Rice, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs speak on "US Interests in Africa". Rice called for a renewed commitment to Africa and for African development in the post-Cold War era. The renewed commitment would enable Africa to attain its full potential and "take its rightful place on the world stage."
Dr. Rice acknowledged that "the end of the Cold War calls for a new paradigm for U.S. policymakers working on Africa." While continuing to support the nascent democracies, promote human rights, peacekeeping and land development assistance to the region as well as stem the flow of arms and illicit drugs, the US is trying to "help integrate Africa into the global economy." Rice acknowledged that a visionary US economic policy towards Africa is in the US's long-term interests. Of critical importance to US efforts in this area is the African Growth and Opportunity Act. This grid-locked legislation, she said, is the key to "establishing a more mature trade and investment relationship with Africa, as [the US] has established in the past with trading partners in other emerging markets."
She added that the US must "resist the temptation to dissipate our energies solely in responding to the crises of the day," advocating a longer term US involvement in Africa. According to Rice, the US cannot afford to write off any potential new markets. She went on to say "a vast growing market of 700 million potential consumers, Africa is in many ways the United States' last frontier for exporters and inventors. "She added that "despite the many areas of instability, Africa's economic trends remain positive." Rice commended the fact that two-thirds of African nations have implemented economic reforms to liberalize markets, stabilize currencies and reduce inflation.
Dr. Rice cited World Bank findings that African markets now register some of the highest rates of return on investment, with average returns on direct investments for 1990-94 estimated at almost 28% - three times the rate elsewhere in the world.
"America's commercial interests in Africa will deepen as US companies continue to tap this nascent market", Rice predicted. This phenomenon is already happening, as trade with Africa is on the rise. American businesses in 1997, exported over $6 billion worth of goods to Africa, and imported an excess of $16 billion in goods from the continent. Already, the US relies heavily on the African continent for petroleum and strategic minerals. In volume terms, nearly 14 percent of US imports of crude oil comes from Africa, as compared to almost 18 percent from the Middle East. Within a decade from now, Africa is projected to be the source of well over 20 percent of oil imported to the US.
Rice acknowledged the numerous crises that continue to plague the continent - from the bombings last summer of US embassies in East Africa to illegal drugs and weapons trafficking; from conflict in the Horn of Africa to the escalating war and genocide in the Congo. These negative developments are the evidence of the continent's fragility, which form the basis for the conclusion by cynics for Africa to be abandoned altogether. Nonetheless, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa is optimistic about the continent's future.
"Dismissing Africa's promise as well as its problems is detrimental not only to Africa, but to fundamental US interests," she warned. "If we seek quick returns over long-term gain, we will never be well positioned to advance important US political and economic interests in Africa."
In conclusion, Rice reiterated the US's commitment to lend long term assistance to Africa in dealing with her numerous problems. However, she also pointed out that there can be no progress in the presence of conflict, no human rights and no honest day's work in the presence of corrupt leaders. "Africans ultimately must make a choice, ... if Africans succeed, all stand to benefit, if not, we all will pay the price." Quoting Mandela, Rice ended her address by saying we can face the future with confidence because despite our differences, we have the capacity to touch each other across continents and across cultures.