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Background Briefing by a Senior U.S. Administration Official on Africa
International Media Centre, Savannah, June 9, 2004, 13h04
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you, and good afternoon to all of you. What I'd like to do today is to give you a pre-brief on the Africa outreach lunch, which will be held tomorrow afternoon, from noon to 2:00 p.m.
The lunch involves an invitation from President Bush, as chairman of the G8, to six African nations as I said, a two-hour lunch. The nations are Nigeria, President Obasanjo; South Africa, President Mbeki; Senegal, President Wade; Ghana, President Kufuor; Uganda, President Museveni; and Algeria, President Bouteflika.
These six leaders were invited as representatives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development. Four of them were part of the steering group that created the plan for continental transformation. The other two, President Kufuor and President Museveni, have been leaders in the Africa Union, and leaders on economic, trade and development.
The issues that will be discussed during this session well, before I get into the issues, let me just give you an outline of the event, itself. First, they'll start with a group photograph, the G8 leaders with the African leaders. Then it will be a two-hour lunch, leaders only. They will be the only ones in the room. And then it will end with the African leaders holding a press conference, a 30-minute press conference. So I hope all of you will be there. They'll be broadcasting from Sea Island, so the leaders, themselves, will still be at Sea Island.
The issues that will be covered and this was at the suggestion of the African heads of state is to focus on private sector-led growth and development in Africa: Specifically, how can Africa attract greater investment? How can we expand our trade relationship? How can the countries in the G8 and Africa cooperate on building a health infrastructure? And how can we coordinate better on peace and security issues?
I would expect that during the lunch discussion they will also discuss some of the G8 initiatives that are coming out of this summit, specifically the G8 initiative on enterprise, tapping the power of entrepreneurship; the global HIV/AIDS vaccine enterprise, again, coordinating, trying to move from our approach that focuses on treatment, care, but also to get an actual cure for HIV/AIDS. And then the peacekeeping initiative that is coming out of the G8.
The theme, as you know, of this G8 is, advancing freedom by strengthening international cooperation to make the world safer and better. And this particular lunch will focus on that theme through the vector of private sector-led growth to address poverty alleviation and to increase health. I think it affirms and reflects President Bush's priorities in terms of his U.S.-Africa policy on HIV/AIDS, which the emergency plan for AIDS relief is a centerpiece of our approach to addressing the pandemic on the continent. And this Global Vaccine Initiative will be a continuation of that leadership.
His leadership on development and poverty alleviation, on which the Millennium Challenge Account, the $5 billion new development assistance over five years, and then doubling our ODA is a reflection, again, of that commitment to poverty alleviation, with eight of the 16 first selected countries being African. And I think this is important because it also reflects the President's follow-up on the commitments at Kananaskis in which we said that at least 50 percent of new development assistance would go to African countries that justly invest in health and education and promote economic entrepreneurship.
And then, finally, his commitment on basic I'm sorry, his commitment on peace and security reflected, I think, in our programs on East Africa counterterrorism initiative, which is $100 million. We try to build on capacity building. And then the new G8 initiative on global peacekeeping.
With that, I'll turn over to my colleague who can talk more about the relationship between Africa and the G8.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you, very much. There has been a longstanding relationship between the African nations and the members of G8. However, beginning in Kananaskis, in 2002, there was a much more formalized relationship, in that the African leaders who are a part of the New Partnership for Africa's Development, NEPAD, met with the G8 members, and flowing from that was the Africa Action Plan, that covered NEPAD, it covered peace and security, it covered health, trade, debt relief, water, institutional government, peace and security, as I said earlier.
The plan outlined the steps that would be taken by the G8 members in the bilateral or joined together, working under a partnership arrangement, which is attempting to change the way I in which the donor community works with the African leaders.
The next summit, Evian, there was the requirement coming out of Kananaskis that there would be a report on the Africa Action Plan, the status. So you can go into the Africa Action Plan on the site for the G8 and see the way in which the G8 members had, up to that point, followed through on their commitments. And I won't take the time now, but I can answer questions on it.
Now, at each of these summits, the G8 members met with the steering committee of NEPAD. Between the summits, there are ongoing meetings of representatives of the G8 with representatives of the African leaders. The effort there is to continue to work to change the relationship to one of a partnership where the African leaders are responsible for, accountable for definition of the problems and the solutions, and the donors bring where they can add value, they bring that to the table.
So this summit is the next follow-on, and the plan is for the discussion as my colleague outlined it. The next summit in the U.K. will then give another report on the status under the Africa Action Plan.
So I think with that, you probably have questions.
Q The NGOs and a lot of the groups that have been advocating debt relief have been telling us that there's some sort of plan in the works here on HIPC. Can you tell us anything about that, and more generally address the question of whether the Iraqi debt relief is going to have to be tied to debt relief of the developing world?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't speak to the question of Iraqi debt relief being tied to the developing world. I can speak to the issue, to some degree, on HIPC. There's been a continuing commitment within the G8 to address HIPC and to, what we call, top up where necessary the substantial debt relief that's provided under HIPC. It's important to remember that HIPC has measures in it in which countries have to commit to reform, commit to the debt relief going to particular sectors health and education, et cetera. And so they have to go through a process. In the time that they're going through that, meeting the obligations of HIPC, sometimes they're exogenous shocks that, then, lead to their debt sustainability level being higher than is required under HIPC, which then leads to the topping up.
And so I think that you can expect out of this G8 a continuing commitment to topping up HIPC. Any other discussions on debt relief, you'll have to wait until, I think, the end of the summit when the leaders themselves can report on what further they're doing.
Q Just a follow-up to that. We were also told that there would be an extension of the number of countries eligible under HIPC and an extension to the time frame, as well. Is that true?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That I don't know. I can say that the number of countries that are in HIPC now from sub-Saharan Africa are about 38 countries. But I don't know about an extension of the time frame. The sunset clause on HIPC, I believe, it ends in 2004. I would expect that we would, since HIPC continues to be the framework for debt relief, that that would be extended. But let's wait until the leaders speak to this issue on debt relief.
Clearly, most of the debt that these countries hold are to multilateral banks. And so it's going to be important over time to address that. But we when a country reaches its completion point, the United States provides 100 percent debt relief, bilateral debt relief to them.
Q I was just wondering if you could elaborate a little bit on the private sector-led initiatives that might be discussed?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, there's an initiative called the Enterprise Initiative that will be part of the discussion. The Enterprise Initiative focuses on remittances to the developing countries; it focuses on micro-finance; it focuses on using bonds to increase, for instance, the housing market, secondary housing market bonds. And so it's looking at unleashing that.
And I would just give one example of why this initiative is important. In Nigeria as I said, President Obasanjo will be here official remittances from Nigeria from abroad come to about $12 billion per year, of which about half of those remittances for Nigerians come from the United States. But that's $12 billion that will be infused into that country. I think the totals are about $100 billion annually comes from remittances into developing countries. And so I think it's a critical initiative. And the leaders can speak to it more when they in their negotiations today, they're finalizing the details on these initiatives.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was very interesting in the discussions that my colleague and I had with the African ambassadors planning for the meeting it's very interesting to note that although they're most appreciative of aid, and know that it's been necessary, their point is they're never going to become a part of the global economy unless there's foreign direct investment, unless there are more jobs created, unless there's more credit. And so they are welcoming recognition on the part of the G8, that discussions about Africa and Africa's future ought to be around economic growth such as this particular initiative, in addition to continuing to talk about debt relief and talk about ODA, development assistance.
Q I'm wondering if I could ask about a specific problem country that you haven't mentioned, but that perhaps may come up at least from President Bush's point of view, given the fact that President Obasanjo and President Mbeki will be there, and that's Zimbabwe. While you guys are here discussing private-sector led growth and development, President Mugabe's government has announced plans to nationalize all arable land in the country. And I'm wondering if you think the President will see this as an opportunity to press President Mbeki and President Obasanjo a little harder about Zimbabwe.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It very well may come up in their discussions. Clearly, the situation in Zimbabwe continues to decline. There needs to be a return to democracy there. The leadership of NEPAD clearly has a responsibility to help push for and advocate for the people of Zimbabwe. This announcement on continuing to seize land is obviously going to further harm the economy, which will have an impact on South Africa. And so it very well may come up in the conversation, both on growth and development, but also in terms of the commitments of the NEPAD leadership to peer review, and how they then would address Zimbabwe.
Q It's your opinion right now that NEPAD and NEPAD has not done enough, at all?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Zimbabwe is not one of the peer review countries at this point. But I do think that the leadership in Africa needs to do more to address the situation in Zimbabwe.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll just make two points. The first is that Zimbabwe has come up at the last two summits, it has been referenced in the summit reports in the Africa Action Plan. And with regard to the NEPAD, one of the problems that people had with NEPAD and the peer review process was the fact that there was an expectation that the Africans would be much stronger at the outset in speaking out against Zimbabwe. I think that it's honest now to say that they have their standards in place and a way in which, were to Zimbabwe to happen today, at the outset, they would be much further along in knowing how to handle it.
But it has served as, I think, the point at which some people have been pessimistic about the peer review process. And the Africans are going to have to prove that it's serious, since they did not act on Zimbabwe.
Q What's your own assessment of NEPAD thus far? I sense from what you were saying, that you share the view that it's slower than had been hoped. And secondly, could you address why Ghana and Uganda were chosen to be included in this year? Is it because they're doing well?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll take the last, and then ask my colleague to speak on NEPAD, since she's our Africa personal representative who is responsible for implementing and helping the African countries work to implement NEPAD.
On Ghana and Uganda, as I mentioned, they are representative of the leadership of the Africa Union. In particular, Ghana is the Vice President of the Africa Union. They've been a leader on peacekeeping efforts. They are the chair of the Economic Community of West African States. So we felt that they would have a tremendous amount to contribute to any discussion, particularly on peace and security, but more generally.
Similarly, Uganda has been a lead partner of ours on trade in the context of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, in the context of the World Trade Organization. And so we felt that President Museveni, as a leader, on this issue, would be useful to have as part of the discussion. But both Ghana and Uganda are both NEPAD countries, they're simply not the original steering group of NEPAD.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think I speak for myself and for the members of the G8 working on Africa when I say that we're optimistic about the potential success of NEPAD, and that we have been required to be much more realistic about what it can do in what period of time in this regard. At the outset, the Africans asked for examples of the developed nations evaluating one another's democracy, so that they could use that model. Now, no one had a model for them. The OECD does do some review, but there is no example of countries going in and looking at their neighbors in terms of whether or not they are carrying out the democratic process.
I'm saying that to say this: We are optimistic, and we are also required to be realistic about what the African leaders have said they were going to do, and whether or not it can be carried out in a short period of time. They now have countries that have agreed to go through the peer review process, and that is a good thing.
The only other point I would make is that the donor world has been working in Africa for a long period of time. Billions have been invested in various ways in Africa. And still, Africa is the one continent that will not probably not meet the Millennium Development goals in 2015. I say that to say this: It means that the developed world has not had the answers to solving the problems on the continent.
And we and the G8 believe that the answers will come from the leaders on the continent and the people on the continent, and that NEPAD is probably the first and the strongest indication of a coordinated effort on the part of the Africans to be held accountable for the problems and solutions. And therefore, we are optimistic, but we all have an obligation to be realistic at the same time.
Q Just following up on Barry's question. Could you cite some concrete examples of progress that has been made in NEPAD since the Kananaskis Summit, just some concrete examples?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can give an example on the peace and security side of the importance of NEPAD as a plan for the transformation of the continent. When we were working on Liberia, the crisis in Liberia, the NEPAD leadership absolutely stepped up to the challenge there, with President Obasanjo being the lead force, putting troops on the ground in Liberia, under the mandate of the Economic Community of West African States and the Africa Union, of which NEPAD is their plan for action of the Africa Union.
As you recall, when Charles Taylor was escorted out of the country, the leaders that were in Liberia were President Mbeki, President President Obasanjo wasn't there, it was his plane, but it was President Mbeki, President Chisano, the head of the AU; President Kufuor was also there.
And so I think that they've taken concrete action because remember, NEPAD is not just an economic plan, but it's also a plan that affects peace and security and social development. And so I think that would be one example that I would cite.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think, also, that NEPAD has forced the developed world, the donor world, to take seriously the importance of agriculture on the continent. For years, the World Bank and many of the donors funded agriculture and then pulled resources back, a variety of reasons. But the NEPAD secretariat and the council there have said, we all have to be honest about the percentage of the population on the continent living in rural areas and dependent upon agriculture for their livelihood. And so the pressure has come from NEPAD to the World Bank and to the donors to reinvest in agriculture.
And I'll just say one other thing. The NEPAD secretariat and the G8 are working very hard to keep NEPAD from becoming a project driven. Their power and their success will be more in how they direct the policy, how they evaluate the effectiveness of it, than becoming another group of people organized to get grants. And so far, they have resisted that. It is a great temptation. But they won't be successful if they drive themselves to become just another grantee.
Q Can I just follow up on that? Do you expect there to be any discussion on the issue of agricultural subsidies?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, subsidies. If you had stopped with agriculture. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would expect that there will be discussion on the question of agricultural subsidies. And I think that President Bush has been very clear on this point, which is that we need to address the subsidies within the context of the World Trade Organization discussions, and that he had supported the elimination of agriculture subsidies, but it needs to be done, Europe and the United States together.
Source: Official G8 Sea Island site
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