FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 18, 2019
Gerald Sussman
Russiagate is Dead! Long Live Russiagate!
Lance Olsen
Perverse Housing Policy Perverts Forest Policy
Richard Ward
All Will be Punished
Jonathan Cook
Annexation of West Bank May Provide Key to Unlocking Netanyahu’s Legal Troubles
Judith Deutsch
People Music: Malignant Phallic Narcissism v. Being Ordinary
Jan Oberg
The Iran Floods and US Sanctions: 10 Million at Risk, But Who Cares?
Manuel E. Yepe
Assange: Between Gratitude and Betrayal
Ralph Nader
Children’s Moral Power Can Challenge Corporate Power on Climate Crisis
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Your Check is in the Mail
Binoy Kampmark
The European Union and Refugees in the Mediterranean
Arnold R. Isaacs
Looking Back at 1919: Immigration, Race, and Women’s Rights, Then and Now
Andrew Moss
Immigration and the Shock Doctrine
Michael Howard
Assange and the Cowardice of Power
Jesse Jackson
Making Wall Street Pay for the Financial Crisis
Mel Gurtov
At Risk—the Idea of America
April 17, 2019
James Bovard
Washington’s Biggest Fairy Tale: “Truth Will Out”
Yoav Litvin
The Ilhan Omar Gambit: Anti-Semitism as a Reactionary Political Tool
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Hawai’i in Trouble
Vijay Prashad
To Ola Bini, a Political Prisoner Caught Up in the Assange Debacle
Hans Muilerman and Jonathan Latham
EU Threatens to Legalize Human Harm From Pesticides
Binoy Kampmark
Delegitimising Journalism: The Effort to Relabel Julian Assange
Jack Rasmus
Trump Whacks the Middle Class
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Burning Cathedral and the Dead Turtle
Kenneth Surin
Insurgencies in Malaysia and Vietnam: Boyhood Reflections
Rev. William Alberts
Opening Tombs and Resurrecting Lives
Tom Engelhardt
How the U.S. Military Feeds at the Terror Trough
Norman Solomon
The Toxic Lure of “Guns and Butter”
George Wuerthner
How to Stop Grazing on Public Lands: Buy Out the Permits
George Ochenski
Vote-Trading for Big Coal
John Stanton
The Price of Participating in Society is the Sacrifice of Privacy and Self
April 16, 2019
Richard Rubenstein
Julian and Martin: Reflections on the Arrest of Assange
Geoff Dutton
Talking Trash: Unfortunate Truths About Recycling
Kenn Orphan
A Land Uncharted: the Persecution of Julian Assange
Patrick Cockburn
Netanyahu’s Victory in Israel Tells Us About the Balance of Power in the Middle East
Robert Fisk
No More Excuses: Israeli Voters Have Chosen a Country that Will Mirror the Brutal Regimes of its Arab Neighbours
Jonah Raskin
The French (Bread) Connection in a Bourgeois California Town
Denis Rogatyuk
The Ordeal of Julian Assange
David Swanson
Exporting Dictators
Ted Rall
Self-Censorship is Credibility Suicide
Robert Koehler
War Crimes and National Security
Lee Ballinger
None Dare Call It Fascism
April 15, 2019
Bruce Neuburger
The Border, Trumpian Madness and the Clash of Demographics
Patrick Cockburn
Calling Assange a Narcissist Misses the Point
Conn Hallinan
Diego Garcia: The “Unsinkable Carrier” Springs a Leak
Dan Corjescu
State of Apocalyptic Nature: A Contract with Gaia
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail