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US and African Perspectives on Aid and Trade Policies

By Fantu Cheru



Of all the regions of the world, Sub-Saharan Africa faces the most daunting development challenge in the new millennium. The continent has the largest "povery gap" and arguably, the highest levels of income inequality. While a lot has been written about the effects of the 'government deficit' in Africa on the continent's growth prospects, two additional issuese deserve greater American attention if Africa is going to break the vicious cycle of poverty and marginalization. These include: (a) access to the markets of the industrialized countries; and (b) increased development assistance. A review of past and present American policy with regard to these two issues is far from being satisfactory.

There is greater recognition that in addition to redefining its bilateral relations with Africa, the US must also play a constructive role in the multilateral trade and aid regimes in a manner that would produce tangible results to the poorest countries in Africa. A case in point is when the Bush administration took a bold step to mandate that a significant portion of IDA-lending to poor countries be in the form of grant instead of loans. In 2003, almost 21% of IDA lending was given out to mostly poor African countries in the form of grant. The same kind of American leadership is needed in the field of multilateral trade negotiations as well as in granting a 100% cancellation of debt owed to the multilateral development banks.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the US has expanded its security agenda. unfortunately, the focus on security is narrowly focused on military security to the exclusion of concern to promote human security. The proposed research will focus on the following questions.
* In what ways does the new security agenda threaten the consolidation of African democracies by relapsing to cold war type foreign policy? Which African countries are likely to benefit from or harmed by the new security agenda?
* Is the new security agenda likely to lead to a further reassessment of US trade and aid policy towards Africa? what is the likelihood that AGOA and MCA will be used as a foreign policy tool?
* In the event Republicans are defeated in the November election, are we likely to see a radiacal change in American policy toward Africa? Is the security agenda going to remain the central pillar of a democratic administration?

While the global war on terror has substantially raised Africa's strategic importance, the US should not count on African cooperation unless the administration expands its definition of security to include human security, economic development and a deliberate effort to reduce the scale of human deprivation in sub-Saharan Africa. This will demand grater American involvement in multilateralism to rewrite the rules governing multilateral trade--agricultural trade in particular.

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