Why Mr. Bush Went to Africa

Bush had plenty of reasons for visiting Africa, and not just to take a vacation from the spate of recent negative press about his lying in his State of the Union address. Going to Africa was his chance to make good on his promise to give $15 billion to help Africa combat AIDS. But there are a few catches to Bush's empty promises:

  • Repubs aren't willing to pay for the promises that Bush is making.
  • Most African nations won't meet the strict guidelines being set for them to qualify for aid.
  • Agricultural trade would help Africa much more than direct aid, if we only allowed it.
  • The appointment of former Eli Lilly President Randall Tobias as the AIDS tsar signals the Bush's true goal - selling drugs.

The BBC Reports:
Mr Bush has just recently appointed his Global Aids administrator, a former pharmaceutical executive, Randall Tobias.

Jamie Drummond, executive director of Data, a pressure group set up to campaign for debt relief and African aid, said that the two new programmes together could represent a massive change in America's commitment to Africa, increasing US aid spending to that region from $1bn now to $5bn in 2006.

But he warned that the trip "was set up in quite a dramatic way to see if the president will see through on his promises".

Mr Drummond said it would be ironic that, while Mr Bush was in Africa, "the House foreign operations subcommittee was actually deciding to slash those promises, to break them if you like".

Aid experts say that it may be difficult for many African countries to meet the strict conditions that the US has set for receiving funds from the new Millennium Challenge Account, which requires nations to adhere to strict standards of openness and democracy.

It may be that as few as four or five African nations would qualify for the first wave of assistance under this programme.

Robert Shapiro of the Brookings Institution points out that while many African countries have a per capita income of $1 per day, in Europe the agricultural subsidy per cow is $2 per day.

Overall, subsidies by rich countries for agricultural amount to $300bn, compared to $50bn in foreign aid.

Mr Shapiro said that African income from exports of agricultural products could triple from $10bn to $30bn if subsidies were reduced.

But with trade talks between the US and the EU over agriculture deadlocked in the run-up to the crucial Cancun summit in September, there is little hope that Africa can develop its natural advantage in the near future.