FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush Returns to Africa

This week, President Bush sets out on his second state visit to Africa. The six-day trip will take him to Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Rwanda and Tanzania. Yet it is far from clear what the people of Africa stand to gain from the visit. A lame duck president with a hostile Congress at home, Bush has little to offer the continent but platitudes.

President Bush has used his presidency to make a succession of grand statements on human rights and democracy, which he has then followed by returning to his own reactionary agenda. The man who campaigned as a “compassionate conservative” has in fact governed with a callous disregard for human life. There was nothing compassionate about his invasion and subsequent abandonment of Afghanistan. And nothing compassionate about launching a second war in Iraq designed to make multinational corporations rich and test out neoliberal ideas of pre-emptive war and “exporting” democracy.

And so on the eve of his Africa trip, it’s worth exploring exactly what policies he intends to implement when he makes rosy promises to the African continent.

Since his January 2008 State of the Union address to Congress, much of the focus of his visit has been on the promises Bush made regarding HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in Africa. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) promises $30 billion over five years for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. But fully one third of that money is required to go to “abstinence-only” education–programmes popular with Bush’s base back home but proven ineffectual time and again. The bill also makes outreach work with sex workers, a key constituency in the fight against AIDS, nearly impossible.

PEPFAR is dressed up to sound like a compassionate plan to help the millions of Africans affected by AIDS, but in fact it sacrifices the suffering of millions to right wing talking points. Helping those in need is never as important as throwing a bone to Bush’s base: extreme rightwingers and big business.

When it comes to alleviating the crushing poverty faced by so many Africans, President Bush is guided by the same twisted priorities. According to a White House statement, Bush is seeking to spur development by discussing how the United States can support “free trade, open investment regimes and economic opportunity” in Africa. Poverty reduction is a noble aim, but these prescriptions will not achieve it. Instead they will make rich corporations richer while stagnating–if not destroying–local economies.

The Bush administration preaches the gospel of free trade as a cure-all. But free trade, especially as practised by the US, falls short on a number of key levels. While refusing to allow developing countries to protect their own fledgling economies, the US has not recognised the hypocrisy in its own agricultural subsidies. Each year, billions of dollars in “aid” goes to large-scale farmers across the country, and the harmful effects are felt around the world. The US subsidies, and subsequent overproduction of key crops, artificially drive down global prices and have been found illegal by the WTO. One recent study found that if US cotton subsidies were removed, the price of cotton could rise by as much as 14%. The extra income in the pocket of a West African farmers–20 million of whom rely on cotton for income–could feed millions of children each year.

On the other side of the equation is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a Clinton-era measure that has undergone several mutations under Bush. AGOA largely removed tariffs and quotas on a number of goods imported to the US from 39 African countries. In exchange for this, African governments were forced to accept American foreign investment and harmful financial liberalisation.

Since the measure went into effect, imports from Africa to the US have more than quadrupled. But real benefits have been illusive. While jobs have increased, decent work is still hard to find. Labourers working well over 12 hours a day still fall short of taking home a living wage. The executive director of the International Labour Rights Forum, Bama Athreya, said: “Our goal shouldn’t simply be to provide any job through our trade policy, but to provide really decent jobs that come with dignity, respect, and the possibility that these workers can prosper in the future and expect a better life for their children.”

Workers haven’t seen benefits in the short term, and long-term development is also unlikely to materialise. The textile industries in many of Africa’s least developed countries are entirely dependent on foreign capital. Asian companies have set up factories on the continent, and domestic growth in the industry has been nil. And as Chinese exports flood global markets, African textiles have decreased for two years running, making a future upturn increasingly unlikely.

But he’s not all bad. In his most recent State of the Union address, President Bush did at least ask Congress to approve a measure that would allow 25% of the US food aid budget to go towards buying food grown locally in developing countries, rather than only benefiting US exporters as it has until now. Such a measure would increase emergency response times, benefit local farmers and prevent economic disasters when markets are flooded with cheap American produce. Bush has announced this plan four years running now. This year, as before, Congress is expected to stop it in its tracks.

EVE BACHRACH lives in London, where she works for War on Want. She can be reached at: EBachrach@waronwant.org

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Justin Anderson
Don’t Count the Left Out Just Yet
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail