Clinton in Africa Again!
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on the continent again this week visiting countries in West and Southern Africa.The tour is the second visit of its nature by Hillary Clinton this year as she tries to restore America’s reputation on the continent. It is fair to say that America’s political influence on the continent is on the wane; one could even go further and say that western political influence on the African continent is at an all time low. China’s pledge to invest $20 billion in loans and infrastructure investment on the African continent is lessening the influence of the traditional bloc of western donor nations. The financial crisis has meant that Europe and America are crippled by debt and lacklustre economic growth. The political reality is that America does not have the money to match or compete with China on the African continent.
Clinton’s speech in Senegal this week in a very real sense sums up the emptiness and fatalism of America’s foreign policy on the African continent. In her remarks Clinton stated:
President Obama also acknowledged that historically, Western powers had too often seen Africa as a source of resources to be exploited or as a charity cause in need of patronage. And he issued this challenge to Africans and Americans alike: Africa needs partnership, not patronage. And we have tried to build on that challenge. And throughout my trip across Africa this week, I will be talking about what it means, about a model of sustainable partnership that adds value rather than extracts it. That’s America’s commitment to Africa.
The Obama Administration’s comprehensive strategy on Sub-Saharan Africa is based on four pillars: first, to promote opportunity and development; second, to spur economic growth, trade, and investment; third, to advance peace and security; and fourth, to strengthen democratic institutions. Our partnership with Senegal embodies all four of those pillars.
In her second major tour of the African continent this year alone Clinton has failed to come up with a new strategy to engage with African countries. America’s foreign policy on the continent is nothing more than obscure and outdated democratic moralism, vague references to neo-colonialism and the advocating of a policy of international aid that lacks sufficient funds. In her speech Clinton went to pains to express the level of funding that has been made available to Senegal through grants and aid, referring to the $540 Millennium Challenge Compact between the US and Senegal. Most African countries and development practitioners familiar with US grant and aid policies are aware of the massive bureaucratic entanglements that come with accepting US AID. As a result of bureaucracy US AID tends to give and take at the same time, with its actual policy success open for debate.
The hard truth for US lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the White House is that US policy towards the developing world and Africa in particular will have to change if it is to compete with China. For more than 50 years the US has been implementing an AID and grant policy that most African countries have accepted and resented for its bureaucracy and ineffectiveness for a long time. The American policy makers will have to change their tune if they are to compete for influence on the African continent.