Bush’s Africa ‘Glass’ Half-full

Dr. Jendayi Frazer

If you ask me, Pres. George W. Bush’s middle initial stands for “Worst-President-in-history.”

But even a broken clock which has stopped running will show the correct time twice every day.

And so, maybe, perhaps, possibly, it might be conceivable, and I might consider it within the remote realm of credulity that there is one area on the 24,896 square miles on the face of the Earth where this president’s policies did not produce a dung-heap. Lucky for him and for us it’s a big place. So looking at a world map, a “C-grade” in Africa, helps average out the numerous “Fs” and “D-minuses” he’s earned everywhere else, including the United States.

Dr. Jendayi Frazer, the outgoing Deputy U.S. Secretary of State for Africa says that when it comes to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in Africa he’s done a good job. If you ask me again, I’ll concede: Pres. Bush’s Africa “glass” is half-full, rather than half-empty.

“The story is very positive and perhaps as positive as the ‘60s,” Ambassador Frazer told members of The Trotter Group of African American columnists and commentators at the State Department Nov. 12. “I think that the ‘60s were a very promising and positive time on the continent in general in terms of the dynamics of the continent and certainly this is a period that is even more so.”

For his part, Mr. Bush echoed the comments of his chief African diplomat later that day, in a speech before Africare, telling the oldest and largest African American-led Africa-aid organizations that “one of the most uplifting” experiences of his two terms has been witnessing the gains Africa has made in education and fighting hunger and disease.

“We do not believe in paternalism,” Mr. Bush said. “We believe in partnership, because we believe in the potential of the people on the continent of Africa,” he told 1,500 Africare supporters at their annual dinner. “One of the most uplifting (experiences) has been to witness a new and more hopeful era dawning on the continent.” Earlier, the organization conferred its Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award for his humanitarian efforts on The Continent. Glass half-full, not half-empty.

Administration “talking points,” or a sincere policy, through and through? “I’m hopeful but I’m also nervous,” Dr. Frazer told The Trotter Group. “And I’m nervous because I don’t want Africa to be treated as a humanitarian crisis simply…I want it to be considered a strategic priority of the United States, from the point of view of economic (issues), from the point of view of security challenges, regional security, the global terror threat, and indeed the humanitarian situations there.

“And so I hope it will continue to be treated holistically and integrated into our global foreign policy,” she said. “When I talk about those trend-lines, if you look at the economic story, there’s been positive growth rates for the majority of African countries. Most of them are growing at about 5 or 6 percent GDP (gross domestic product), which is really very positive. Some of them are as high as 10 percent. Mozambique for instance, has been 10 percent for almost a decade now. And then you have extraordinary growth in certain countries like Angola, which is 27 percent.

“Another trend-line that you can look at is on what we would call ‘freedom,’ political freedom. Democratization,” Dr. Frazer continued. “There again, over the last decade there has been significant positive change in the number of countries that have democratically elected governments. In fact, if you look at Freedom House and their trend-lines, a decade ago, they would have put three-quarters of African countries in the category of ‘not free,’ or ‘partially free,’ whereas today that has flipped, and three-quarters of the countries are classified as ‘free.'”

That’s definitely half-full, not half-empty, and leaving on a positive note.

Her career also has been flipped. Though she came to prominence at the State Department administering Africa policy during the Clinton administration, and could conceivably have a post in the new Obama administration, come Jan. 20 Dr. Jendayi Frazer is planning to leave public life for a position at Carnegie-Mellon University. And with so many people lining up for so few positions in the new government, I’m sure no one is begging her to stick around, not with her positive view of what that “W” means.

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