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USAID Working On Africa's Economic Development

USAID Working Urgently To Further Africa's Economic Development

USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa Pierson talks to Washington File

By Charles W. Corey
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Africa Bureau is working "in an urgent way” to help sub-Saharan Africa achieve its economic growth and development goals, in line with President Bush’s strong commitment to the continent, USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa Lloyd O. Pierson said September 29.

In an interview at USAID headquarters in Washington, Pierson told the Washington File: “We are approaching what we do in terms of development in an urgent way. People need jobs … education ... food … good health … a good quality of life. And our view is we want results -- we want to show that we can respond in a very prompt, timely way.”

Pierson – a longtime Africa specialist and formerly chief of staff/chief of operations at the Peace Corps, who also has served as director of the Africa Division at the International Republican Institute (IRI) -- recalled that over his long career, in hundreds of African villages, he has heard people talking about what they wanted in their lives.

Their needs and wants, he said, are not any different from those voiced in town hall meetings throughout the United States. “What were they talking about?” he asked rhetorically. "Better health care … education … a better quality of life. The ability to grow their crops and get them to market. And a government that works.”

“People are people, wherever” they are, and have many of the same demands, he said, while noting that his bureau is working to help the people of Africa realize those demands.

BUSH ADMINISTRATION FOCUS ON AFRICA

To illustrate President Bush’s compassionate and humanitarian commitment to Africa, Pierson said, “I can talk to career people who have been here [in USAID] for a long time, and they will tell me the budget that this bureau manages for support to Africa has virtually doubled in the past 10 years.”

In fiscal year (FY) 2005, under Pierson’s direction, USAID’s Africa Bureau managed more than $1.4 billion in development assistance, child survival and health and Global AIDS Initiative funding in Africa. Twelve of the 15 focus countries under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) are in Africa, and USAID is one of the key implementing agencies in this initiative’s response.

USAID programs in Africa contribute directly to the priorities outlined in the joint State Department/USAID Strategic Plan for FY 2004-2009, particularly those that advance sustainable development and global interests.

The centerpieces of USAID’s assistance to the subcontinent are the four presidential initiatives launched in FY 2002: the Initiative to End Hunger in Africa (IEHA), the TRADE initiative (which is now being subsumed under a new Global Competitiveness Initiative), the Congo Basin Forest Partnership Initiative, and the Africa Education Initiative, as well as PEPFAR, launched in FY 2004. Other key elements of the program include the continuation of the African Anti-Corruption Initiative, the Conflict Initiative, and the Leland Initiative to increase access to information technology.

STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF AFRICA

The Bush administration made renewed commitments to Africa at the recent meeting of the Group of Eight major industrialized democracies (the G8 -- France, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, and Russia) in Gleneagles, Scotland, and at the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Dakar, Senegal. “We are talking about addressing the issues in Africa … malaria, famine, HIV/AIDS, economic development. That commitment is there,” Pierson said.

Although it is “not an easy road,” Pierson said, the Bush administration will “fight” for the continued dedication of resources to Africa, a continent he called “strategically important” to the United States.

He said that when the new assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Jendayi Frazer, addressed the USAID Africa Bureau recently at an “all hands” meeting, it reaffirmed how “closely” the various departments of the U.S. government are working, under the leadership of President Bush and with bipartisan support from Congress, to achieve results for the continent.

As part of that effort, Pierson called attention to the Africa Education Initiative (AEI), which is doubling from $200 million to $400 million over a four-year period to improve educational opportunities for millions of children across sub-Saharan Africa, and to President Bush’s African Global Competitiveness Initiative, the new trade initiative that has targeted $200 million over a five-year period to improve the climate for private business in Africa and encourage the diversification of exports.

POSITIVE TRENDS

Additionally, he said, meeting participants talked about the importance of peace, democracy and economic growth in Africa and all of the progress that already has been made.

“While there are issues that we are all addressing, there are also so many positive things that have occurred in Africa,” he said. U.S. officials also focused on the importance of working with African regional organizations such as the African Union and NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development).

Reviewing the positive trends that have affected Africa, Pierson identified two factors that have had a major impact: the end of the Cold War and the end of apartheid in South Africa. For so many years, those two trends influenced everything that happened in Africa, he said.

FOCUSING ON AFRICA'S YOUNG

Looking to the future, Pierson said his bureau plans to focus more and more on Africa’s youth. “Traditionally, young people have grown up in a community. They have moms and dads and grandparents there and they have a culture and tradition that they have grown up with. … One of the biggest demographic changes in Africa is occurring with regard to youth.

“When you look at the projections over the next five years of 40 million AIDS orphans, … an incredible number of Africans will be growing up without family connections.” Added to that, he said, are "the numbers of kids growing up in guerrilla movements and the 'night children' in northern Uganda. … These are kids that are growing up without any traditional culture.”

Ways must be found, he said, through agri-business and other such ventures to increase the opportunity for these children, as they grow, to stay in the rural areas.

He also pointed to expectations that the Gulf of Guinea will generate more than $200 billion in oil revenue in the next 10 years -- and warned that that “staggering number” opens the door to interesting dynamics involving wealth and conflict.

“If that amount of money is being generated in different countries, then how we work with those countries,” he said, is of prime importance “to encourage them to use their own revenue to address their own development needs.”

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