President Bush's Africa Trip
February 19, 2008
President Bush’s five-country Africa tour reminds us that presidential travel to Africa has become a new norm, following President Clinton’s visits (in 1998 and 2000) and President Bush’s 2003 trip. It brings to our attention just how much U.S. engagement in Africa has expanded over the past seven-plus years and asks us to ponder what has been gained, what leverage does the United States truly possess, and what more can and should be done to strengthen the U.S. approach to Africa.
When President Bush entered office in 2001, there were low expectations that Africa would merit much if any attention. This month’s tour, near the end of President Bush’s tenure in the White House, highlights four signature policy initiatives that have had significant impact in Africa, changed the pattern of U.S. foreign assistance delivered to the continent, and generally enjoyed broad bipartisan support among Americans. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) will have expended over $18.8 billion by the end of September, at the close of its first five year phase, will have put close to 2 million persons on life-sustaining therapies. Some 65 to 70 percent of resources and persons reached are in Africa. The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), a three-year $1.2 billion program centered in Africa, has brought dramatic gains in several focal countries; in 1997, U.S. malaria programs in Africa were $1 million per year. This year it will be $338 million. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an experiment in forging five year compacts with reasonably well-governed states, the majority in Africa, has substantial programs in 11 Africa countries, accounting for 65 percent of the over $5.5 billion committed worldwide. Liberia, the fourth priority focus of the president’s trip, involved U.S. military support to a regional intervention in 2003, followed by support to a UN peace operation, an electoral transition, and ongoing efforts at postwar reconstruction, including U.S.-led reform of the security sector.