Former Ambassador Emphasizes Africa's Centrality Princeton Lyman, former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa and director of Africa Policy Studies Council on Foreign Relations, spoke Tuesday in Bunche Hall about the current U.S. policy toward Africa. (Photo by Jay Taylor for the Daily Bruin.)

Former Ambassador Emphasizes Africa's Centrality

Princeton Lyman, a Ralph Bunche senior fellow, visited UCLA to present a report by the Council of Foreign Relations Task Force on U.S. policy towards Africa.

This article was first published in the Daily Bruin.

By Tiffany Pan, Daily Bruin contributor

Former ambassador Princeton Lyman had one main message for the 30 or so students and faculty gathered in Bunche Hall on Tuesday evening: Africa is becoming more and more central to the U.S., and not just in terms of humanitarian and charity concerns.

"The tendency to treat Africa largely as a humanitarian objective morphs into treating the continent as a charity case," Lyman said. But doing so, he said, "doesn't take care of the long-term development."

Lyman, a Ralph Bunche senior fellow, visited UCLA on Tuesday to present a report published by the Council of Foreign Relations Task Force on U.S. policy toward Africa. [The talk was sponsored by the James S. Coleman African Studies Center, the Globalization Research Center – Africa, and the Department of History.]

Lyman, who is also a project director for the task force, cited that U.S. and European investment in Africa's growth in farsighted sectors, such as agriculture and education, has declined by 90 percent since the 1990s.

Lyman spoke on the growing economic competition in Africa, the continent's policies against terrorism, stopping and preventing genocide in Darfur, democratization of African countries and the continuing fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

He said the report called for a more comprehensive policy that would allow the U.S. to "operate effectively in the increasingly competitive environment in Africa."

Instead of focusing on emergency aid, the report said the U.S. needs to build a broader framework that will incorporate both foreign help and local infrastructure.

"So far, we've gotten good responses (from Capitol) Hill, but whether or not that translates into changes, we'll have to see," he said.

Lyman previously served as U.S. ambassador to South Africa, U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and director of the U.S. Aid Mission to Ethiopia at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

He currently is the director of Africa Policy Studies Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C.

There are only four African members on the 21-person task force he co-directs, but Lyman said that is how it should be.

"We don't need Africans to say Africans are important. We want other people – not normally associated with Africa – to say Africans are important," he said.

The people who came to see him, many of whom were not African, affirmed his statement.

"This was a really new perspective," said Jamie Zimmerman, a second-year international development studies student. "I hear more groups asking for pleas for humanitarian aid, but maybe we can do something more sustainable," she said.

Zimmerman, who recently attended a conference regarding Africa's HIV/AIDS crisis, said her interests in global health care issues drew her to the event.

"It's our responsibility to be informed," Zimmerman said.

Lyman's presentation also attracted members of the UCLA Darfur Action Committee.

"I was really pleased with (Lyman's) focus on the Darfur region," said Kristen Thompson, a fifth-year international studies student and head of the endorsement committee for UC divestment from Sudan.