A New Vision for Africa

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A New Vision for Africa

July 3, 2003 11 min read
Nile Gardiner
Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow
Nile Gardiner is Director of The Heritage Foundation's Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow.

On his seven-day tour of sub-Saharan Africa, President Bush must take with him a new vision for Africa, based on the universal principles of economic liberty, political freedom and respect for the rule of law.


But it must also be a vision backed by a greater willingness on the part of Washington to actively shape the future of the continent, working in conjunction with her key allies in London and other European capitals.


Issues of Concern
The President's tour comes at a time when the United States is facing increasing international pressure to play a more prominent role in the world's most troubled continent. The civil wars in Liberia and the Congo, the specter of tyranny and man-made famine in Zimbabwe, the spread of the AIDS epidemic, and the rising threat of international terrorism in East Africa, are all issues of mounting concern to Washington.


Much of modern-day Africa continues to be blighted by poverty, disease, misrule, corruption and inter-tribal rivalry. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the world's poorest region, with a GDP per capita income of just $568, and an average life expectancy of only 48 years. An estimated 40 million Africans are infected with HIV/AIDS, and a further 20 million have died from the disease.


Key Recommendations for President Bush
The Bush Administration has begun to offer some real solutions to the continent's vast problems, and this tour is a potent symbol of Washington's commitment to a continent with huge potential but which is all too often forgotten or at best ignored. A great deal more though will need to be achieved in the coming years if America is to play a lead role in shaping Africa's destiny.


The President's policy on Africa should be driven by a clear set of principles and priorities:


Security Co-operation to Combat Terrorism
The Bush Administration should increase its efforts to co-ordinate security measures with African countries at risk from terrorism. The recently unveiled $100 million US counter-terrorism package for East Africa was a welcome step in the right direction. The al-Qaeda threat continues to grow in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, and stronger measures will need to be taken by the United States in the region. The White House should consider the use of covert operations and precision strikes to target al-Qaeda cells operating in neighbouring Somalia, a failed state that has become a fertile breeding ground for Islamic terrorists. The United States must be prepared to take pre-emptive action if intelligence sources indicate that terrorists are preparing to use weapons of mass destruction. Where the terrorist threat is immediate and overwhelming, pre-emptive strikes are justified on grounds of self-defense.[1]


Zero Tolerance for Dictatorships
Since the end of the colonial era, much of sub-Saharan Africa has been a playground for spoilt despots wreaking havoc on their fiefdoms. In this trip to Africa President Bush must declare an end to the era of dictatorships. At the dawn of the 21st Century it should not be acceptable for tyrants to terrorize millions of their own citizens in the Middle East, Europe, Asia or Africa. The Bush Administration should operate a zero tolerance policy towards African dictatorships, imposing strict economic and political sanctions against those regimes that tyrannize their populations. In certain circumstances, particularly where the US national interest is involved, the credible threat of military force should be exercised.


Military Intervention In Support of Vital Interests
In the 1990s the United States was largely content to take a back-seat role in Africa. The US intervention in Somalia was America's only significant involvement in the continent in that decade. The ill-fated US military operation in Mogadishu weakened the resolve of the Clinton Administration to take a more pro-active role in Africa. Empty rhetoric about human rights replaced action on the ground. The world's major powers stood by while a million Tutsis were slaughtered by French-backed Hutus in Rwanda in 1994.


While Washington should remain wary of the perils of nation-building, the US must not be afraid to intervene militarily when vital national interests are threatened, or when military force can be effectively used to prevent genocide or other gross violations of human rights. The West's failure to halt the genocide in Rwanda must never be repeated. The US must work closely with its key ally Great Britain and with other European nations in intervening where necessary and feasible to stop genocide from taking place. The highly successful British military operation in Sierra Leone should serve as a role model for future intervention in Africa.


Although it may be advantageous in certain instances for a UN Security Council mandate to be sought for military intervention, US forces should not be placed under UN command or control.


Expanding Free Trade and Encouraging Good Governance
The United States is a major trading partner with sub-Saharan Africa, with trade valued at nearly $24 billion in 2002. US direct investment in the region amounts to $10 billion. The President must call for the further lifting of barriers to trade with Africa, and encourage the European Union and all developed nations to do the same through the World Trade Organisation. Free trade remains one of the keys to Africa's potential economic renaissance. As the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom demonstrates, there is a direct correlation between open economies and economic prosperity.


The President should also encourage free trade agreements with African countries with flourishing democracies and market economies. Washington should press ahead with negotiations to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the five members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU): South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. However, it should be made clear that the speed of negotiations with SACU will be linked to the pace of political reform in neighbouring Zimbabwe.


At the same time, the disbursement of development assistance in Africa must be linked to good government. The $5 billion per annum Millennium Challenge Account, launched by President Bush this year, is a bold proposal aimed at encouraging potential aid recipients to implement political and economic reform. The MCA is a revolutionary concept which if successful should serve as a model for international aid programs across the world.


Robust and Pro-Active Africa Policy
In an increasingly globalised world, the United States and other leading nations cannot afford to ignore Africa's problems. The Bush Administration has shown a refreshing commitment to the future of Africa and is beginning to demonstrate real leadership on African issues internationally. President Bush's call for President Charles Taylor to step down as leader of Liberia, and Secretary of State Colin Powell's vociferous condemnation of the Zimbabwean regime have sent shock waves through Africa.


Still more is needed. The Bush Administration must adopt an even more robust and pro-active Africa policy that places the United States at the forefront of international efforts to deal with Africa's vast problems. The US must play a key role in shaping Africa's future, and in helping the continent to fulfill its huge potential.


Nile Gardiner Ph.D. is Visiting Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy at the Heritage Foundation.



President Bush's Africa Tour ~ July 7-12 2003

The President's trip includes visits to English-speaking South Africa, Nigeria, Botswana and Uganda, as well as Francophone Senegal. The highlight of the trip will be the meeting in Pretoria between President Bush and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, the continent's economic and military powerhouse. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will accompany the President in South Africa.




Population:    1.8 million
Head of State:   President Festus Mogae
Location: Southern Africa
Key Issues for Bush:  Economic growth; good governance; AIDS; Zimbabwe.


















Botswana is one of Africa's most well run democracies, and was recently ranked the least corrupt country in Africa by the World Economic Forum. The world's largest diamond producer, it is also one of the most prosperous nations on the continent. Economic growth has averaged over 7 per cent per annum over the past 20 years, the most spectacular record of any country in Africa. Botswana is one of Africa's few middle-income countries, with a Gross National Income (GNI) of $3,700 per capita. On the downside, 39% of adult Botswanans are infected with HIV; life expectancy remains pitifully low, at just 39 years for men, and 40 for women.





Population:    124 million
Head of State:   President Olusegun Obasanjo
Location: West Africa
Key Issues for Bush:  Liberia; corruption; foreign debt; ethnic/religious violence.


















President Bush will be looking to Nigeria to help end the brutal conflict in nearby Liberia. Domestically, President Obasanjo faces mounting economic problems as well as sectarian violence in parts of the country. Ethnic and religious tensions remain high, and more than 10,000 people have been killed in religious and ethnic clashes over the past four years.

Nigeria has sub-Saharan Africa's largest population and second largest economy, in addition to being the world's sixth largest exporter of oil, yet per capita income remains extremely low, at just $290. Two thirds of the population lives below the poverty line, and the average Nigerian is now worse off than he was before independence from Great Britain in 1960. Nigeria is heavily in debt, and owes over $28 billion to foreign governments.

Corruption continues to blight Nigerian society on a vast scale, acting as a major deterrent to foreign direct investment. Transparency International has rated Nigeria one of the two most corrupt countries in the world.



Population:    10 million
Head of State:   President Aboulaye Wade
Location: West Africa
Key Issues for Bush:  Good governance; investment; foreign debt.









Senegal is regarded as one of Africa's most promising emerging democracies. It has over 40 political parties and a solid constitution with entrenched civil liberties. The election of Aboulaye Wade as President in 2000 brought to an end 40 years of one-party Socialist rule. The country continues though to be plagued by poverty, illiteracy, and a foreign debt estimated to be 71% of GDP.



South Africa  
Population:    45 million
Head of State:   President Thabo Mbeki
Location: Southern Africa
Key Issues for Bush:  Zimbabwe; trade and investment; HIV/AIDS








President Bush's discussions with his South African counterpart are likely to be dominated by the political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. The turmoil in neighbouring Zimbabwe is threatening to have a major destabilizing effect on South Africa and the region. An estimated two million Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa, and regional instability has acted as a major deterrent to foreign investors. However, there is little sign that Pretoria is willing to deal with the crisis. President Mbeki has come under increasing criticism for his controversial policy of 'silent engagement' with the Mugabe regime, and is seemingly content to pursue a strategy of appeasement towards the Zimbabwean government.

Relations between Washington and Pretoria have been damaged in recent weeks by South Africa's criticism of US policy in Iraq. Former President Nelson Mandela remains an outspoken critic of President Bush.



Population:    26 million
Head of State:   President Yoweri Museveni
Location: East Africa
Key Issues for Bush:  HIV/AIDS







President Bush has pledged $15 billion for fighting AIDS over the next five years in Africa and the Caribbean. Bush Administration officials have cited the Uganda model as a shining example for the rest of Africa to follow. The Ugandan government has led the way in combating the spread of AIDS through its highly successful ABC policy. While AIDS has continued to rise in much of the continent, the HIV rate of infection actually fell in Uganda from 6.9% in 1999 to 6.1% in 2002. Nearly a million Ugandans died of the disease between 1982 and 2002, reducing life expectancy there to just 38 years by 1997.


[1] This strategy is outlined by James Phillips and Larry M. Wortzel in 'International Terrorism: Containing and Defeating the Axis of Evil', Heritage Foundation Issues 2002.


Nile Gardiner
Nile Gardiner

Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow