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The United States and Africa: Meeting the Challenges of Globalization and Human Security

By Edmond J. Keller, University of California-Los Angeles



The onset of the current phase of a period of globalization seems to have been co-terminus with the ending of the Cold War. Over the past decade and a half, the world has witnessed profound changes in economic relations, the use of various forms of transportation, medical, electronic and satellite technology that have served to bring the various parts of the world closer together. At a very fundamental level what we mean when we use the term “globalization” is an increase in worldwide interconnectedness. [1] In many ways this is a good thing, in that it can serve to accelerate the pace at which countries of the developing world are able to progressively and successfully address their problems relating to governance and human rights, economic development, poverty reduction, various health scourges such as HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis, and human security in general. At the same time, these changes have served to expose the challenges facing countries like the ones we find in Africa, as well as their vulnerabilities. For example, at the same time that African countries have been drawn in as independent competitors in the world economic system, the rules of the game have changed. Regional trading blocks and virtual economies have emerged, and African countries as early as the last decade of the twentieth century found themselves being rapidly marginalized. The challenge then facing African leaders was to accept this fate or to gear up to protect their countries’ positions in the globalization process. [2] In other words, the most serious challenge presented by the process of globalization for the countries of Africa was to find ways to engage it and make it work for the betterment of the African predicament.

On the African continent today, there is an on-going debate over the merits of the globalization process. Some argue that the negative aspects of the process, far outweigh the positives for African peoples. The concern over the negatives of globalization has created strange bedfellows from the left and the right, and from advanced industrialized countries on the one hand to non-industrialized countries of the Third World on the other. A good example of such critical alliances could be seen in protest groups that have emerged to raise the consciousness of leaders in the World Trade Organization (WTO), about the unfair advantage rich countries have over poor ones when it come to setting rules and regulations relating to international trade. [3] The WTO, among other things, is dedicated to setting the terms by which countries participate in worldwide trade. Countries that belong to the organization have to give up a certain amount of their sovereignty in setting economic policy, so as to harmonize trade processes throughout the world. Some observers see this as a good thing [4] , but others are very afraid of what they see as a drift toward one world government, a government that is out of reach and unaccountable to citizens of countries who are most affected by decisions taken by the WTO. This view is particularly held in poor countries like the ones we find in Africa. The general argument made by globalization opponents in poor countries is that it creates more losers than winners. [5] The broad challenge that African countries face is to produce more winners than losers.

Africa and the US are both integral to the new international order. The question facing both the US and Africa in this newest era of globalization is: How will they relate? What adjustments in their relationships will be made in order to accommodate the interests of both African countries and the US in this era of globalization? Will it be business as usual, with African countries in the position of dependent supplicants, or will there emerge a relationship that is akin to a genuine partnership? Of course, Africa would prefer the latter, but can it insure that this will happen? This is certainly the hope of the newly formed African Union (AU) as well as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD. Will the US be able to balance its traditional foreign policy based on its perceived national vital interests with the real need to pay attention to broadening and deepening inter-state cooperation to include, as equals, some of the poorest and least developed countries in the world? These are questions we will address over the next two days. What I want to do here is to briefly frame the conference, by way of some background from an historical perspective on US foreign policy interests in Africa, particularly the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations. I will then say a bit about African interests and some of the major challenges the continent now faces.

Background to a Changing Relationship

Africa has never been central to the US’s foreign policy. Although some US involvement in the continent can be traced to as far back as 1789, for the most part, official US attitudes and policies toward Africa have been marked by at worst indifference and at best neglect. Africa was historically treated as a backwater in official policymaking circles, as measured by the time and resources allocated toward Africa in comparison with other regions of the world. [6] The US had established an independent Liberia on the west coast of Africa in the 1840’s as a possible resettlement option for freed slaves and others of African decent residing in the US to return to the continent, but there never was much effort to treat Liberia as a prodigal son or as an official colony of the US. What interest the US did have was in opening up the Liberian interior and its natural resources to American capital such as the Firestone Rubber Company. Some observers have noted that the general trend in US policies toward Africa have historically followed a “hands off” principle; that is, until the onset of the Cold War. [7]

During the Cold War period, US foreign policymakers came to see it in the vital national interest of the country to fight and contain Communism wherever it appeared in the world. In pursuit of this vital interest a consistent axiom of US foreign policy has been, “We have no permanent friends or enemies, but only permanent interests.” This could clearly be seen in the policies of the US toward modern Africa. When it has been determined that the US could benefit in a geostrategic or material manner by “engaging” or “disengaging’ with one or another African country, it took the necessary steps to do so. [8] It seems safe to say that prior to the onset of the Cold War, the only significant presence the US had in sub-Saharan Africa was in Ethiopia, but at the height of the Cold War, US interests shifted toward countering the Soviet Union’s attempt to secure a physical presence in the Africa region, and in the process its key alliances shifted to the countries surrounding pro-Soviet Ethiopia.

In 1957, for example, then Vice President Richard Nixon traveled for twenty-two days around the African continent to assess whether the US needed to pay more attention to Africa in light of the growing divisions between East and West with the onset of the Cold War. On his return home, Nixon recommended that President Eisenhower create a separate Africa Bureau within the State Department. Within the US government, concerns about the possible vulnerability of Africa to the spread of Communism intensified under the Kennedy Administration. [9] However, this did not amount to more than monitoring situations in Africa. There was no great outpouring of material or military assistance for most countries in Africa.

On the other hand, partly in an effort to head off the penetration of Communism into what were known to be mineral rich Congo-Kinshasa (present-day Democratic Republic of Congo) and southern Africa, the US developed special relationships with Congo-Kinshasa (Zaire) and South Africa. Congo-Kinshasa came to be characterized by the brutal kleptocratic dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. However, the US, for geostrategic reasons, tolerated Mobutu and his excesses, and did what it felt it had to do to keep him in power, at least until the mid-1990s. [10]

A US Cold War anti-Communist stratagem could also be found in southern Africa, where the apartheid regime in South Africa often publicly proclaimed race relations were an internal affair, and that as far as US policy was concerned, the most important objective should be to assist South Africa in containing Communism in the region. Although President Carter attempted to put pressure on South Africa to reform its regime in the late 1970s, when President Reagan assumed office, he followed a policy of quiet diplomacy toward South Africa under the rubric of “constructive engagement.” While the US often complained about the immorality of the apartheid system of separation of the races and separate development, it was not until the late 1980s, and then under the leadership of the US Congress (which debated and then passed a the Comprehensive Anti-apartheid Act of 1985) that real pressure on the apartheid government, along with direct US support for South African civil society, began to have a noticeable effect. [11]

The point I am making here is that beginning with the Cold War, the US followed a policy of selective engagement as far as its policies toward Africa were concerned. [12] It selectively engaged those countries where it felt there were US national interests. Nowhere was this truer than in Ethiopia. Ruth Iyob and I elaborate on this in our paper in the panel that follows.

Suffice it to say for the moment that in the 1970s the Soviet Union proclaimed the Breshnev Doctrine, a policy designed to support fledgling socialist states throughout the Third World. The most immediate targets of this policy were countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Yemen, Angola and Mozambique. As a consequence, the focus of the US’s selective engagement policies shifted.

Between 1977 and 1989, the US’s containment strategy in Africa shifted once again. This was not a shift in purpose, but in clients. Also, this shift was mainly noticeable in the Horn of Africa. The Carter Administration came to pursue an encirclement strategy in the Horn, designed to woo Ethiopia’s neighbors with military and economic development aid. Kenya, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and Oman were asked to allow their territories to be used as staging grounds for a Rapid Deployment Force (RDF), which could be used to project US military power into the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Agreements were also signed which called for joint military exercises involving US military personnel and that of its new clients. [13]

By the late 1980s the Soviet Union had begun to reconsider the pursuit of the Brezhnev Doctrine, and this resulted in its strategic withdrawal from supporting African clients. Initially, the US Administration of President George H. W. Bush vacillated between a policy of disengagement and selective engagement with Africa. On the one hand, it allowed the State Department’s Africa Bureau to interject itself in attempting to find political solutions to African conflict areas such as Liberia and the Horn of Africa. Officially, however, most of the US efforts were aimed at promoting and supporting democratic forces throughout the continent. At the same time, relatively modest amounts of material support were devoted to such purposes.

Herman Cohen, Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs was instrumental in negotiating the demise of the Marxist regime in Ethiopia and the establishment, in its stead, of a successor regime headed by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). [14] In the process, Cohen also got the EPRDF to agree not to oppose a referendum on Eritrean independence. In Liberia, Cohen was less successful. In part this was due to the fact that rebel forces aiming to topple the US-backed regime of President Samuel K. Doe were supported by Libya, and seriously challenged the peacekeeping forces of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group, (ECOMOG). Despite Cohen’s initiatives, the overall thrust of the George H.W. Bush approach to Africa was one of disengagement. [15] It continued to be concerned with the impact of drought and famine on the continent, and it was the humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia that prompted Bush in December 1992 to allow US troops to participate in the UN humanitarian mission there.

From a humanitarian perspective, this policy was a good one, but as the UN-sponsored “Operation Restore Hope” proceeded, politics came increasingly to impinge upon the humanitarian mission. The climax of this interaction for the US came in October 1993, less than ten months into the Clinton Administration, when 18 US soldiers were killed in Mogadishu. [16] The immediate response of the Clinton Administration was to move back into a cautious mode of disengagement. In part this was due to the low-key style of the then Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, George Moose, a career diplomat, continued to see Africa through a Cold War prism.

Within less than six months it became clear that Cold War assumptions and rationales would not work for the Administration in Africa. In April of 1994 the genocide in Rwanda erupted. This event highlighted the fact that the lack of a proactive Africa policy would make the US susceptible to not being prepared to effectively respond to international crises that it would ultimately be drawn into. Clinton decided that, at least on his watch as President, the US would not be taken by surprise or not be guilty of neglecting potentially explosive situations such as occurred in Rwanda. Toward this end, he created three new institutions in his government:

· The Office of the Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues [17]

· The Atrocities Prevention Interagency Working Group [18]

· The African Crisis Response Initiative---designed to build African capacity for peacekeeping with US assistance. [19]

Clinton’s Partnership with Africa

From this point on, it was clear that the Clinton Administration was committed to a new partnership with Africa. This approach was not without some controversy within the Administration, but the dominant voices were those who favored this new approach. To show this new commitment, the Administration in June of 1994 held the first ever White House Conference on Africa. This was the beginning of efforts to look at Africa in a broad manner rather than on a selective case-by-case basis. At this conference, President Clinton proclaimed that it was the policy of his administration “to unleash the human potential of the people of the African continent in ways that (will) lead to a safer and more prosperous world. A better life for them and a better life for us.” [20]

In 1995 the Administration demonstrated what this new policy might mean, applying serious pressure on the autocratic regimes in Sudan and Nigeria to submit to reform. Also in that year, the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown led a large US private and public sector delegation to the African-African American Summit in Senegal. Brown went on to announce that the US was going to actively construct economic relationships with Africa through an invigorated emphasis on trade and investment. In the following year, the Administration launched the first substantive engagement with Congress on the proposed African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

It was, however, not until Clinton’s second term that this “new partnership” [21] began to take clear form. Madeline Albright replaced Warren Christopher as Secretary of State, and Susan Rice succeeded George Moose as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Rice was a political appointee rather than a career foreign service officer, and she seemed more able to “think out of the box.” This suited quite well what Clinton wanted to do in Africa.

Following the untimely death of Commerce Secretary Brown, Clinton demonstrated that he would actively attempt to put in place the economic and trade strategy Brown had envisioned. The President went on to launch a sweeping economic policy initiative to accelerate Africa’s integration into the global economy, the President’s Partnership for Economic Growth and Opportunity in Africa. The approach came to involve all agencies of the government that were concerned with commerce and economic policy. Following an initial visit to Africa by First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1997, almost every Cabinet officer also traveled to the region.

Under the leadership of Assistant Secretary Rice, the Administration pursued a two-pronged strategy to increase the importance of Africa as a trading and strategic partner.

· First, it sought to accelerate Africa’s integration into the global economy by promoting economic development, democracy, respect for human rights, and conflict prevention and resolution.

· Second, it sought to address security threats emanating from Africa including terrorism, international crime, trafficking in drugs and illicit arms.

In 1998, President Clinton made his first visit to Africa, launching a number of new initiatives associated with his Partnership for Economic Growth and Opportunity. However, in that same year, the security threats faced by Africa and the US in Africa were brought fully to the fore when the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were bombed by terrorists in August, killing 253 people. In addition, a border dispute erupted between Eritrea and Ethiopia; the civil war in Angola resumed, and a civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo escalated, eventually involving seven African countries supporting either the government of the DRC or its opponents. What began as a ray of hope for Clinton’s New Partnership turned into a dark shadow as many parts of Africa fell into chaos. Yet, as his administration wound down, Clinton continued to push his African agenda.

  • In 1999 he supported and participated in the National Summit on Africa
  • In 2000 the Clinton Administration designed and executed the first-ever “Month of Africa” at the UN hosted by US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke
  • Also in 2000 the Administration shepherded the approval of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act through Congress; and
  • As he left office, Clinton signed the Global AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act.

George W. Bush and Africa

The rhetoric of the current Bush Administration as far as Africa is concerned is not much different from that of the Clinton Administration, but it is clear that this Administration has a much narrower view of US national security interests than the previous one. An Administration policy document states:

In Africa, promise and opportunity sit side by side with disease, war and desperate poverty. This threatens both a core value of the US---preserving human dignity---and our strategic priority---combating global terror. American interests and American principles, therefore, lead in the same direction: we will work with others for an African continent that lives in liberty, peace and growing prosperity. [22]

In other words, realist principles are paramount, but some moral considerations might serve those interests, and therefore should be pursued. For example, prior to his recent visit to Africa, Bush announced a $15 billion package to tackle the African AIDS Pandemic, and in 2004 inaugurated the $1 billion Millenium Challenge Account (MCA). The latter is intended to increase US foreign aid to Africa by 50% over the next three years. The countries selected to benefit from the account will be those that meet certain economic and political criteria. [23]

The Bush administration’s Africa policy is said to be comprised of three interlocking strategies for the region:

  • First, countries with major impact in their neighborhood, such as South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia, are seen as anchors for regional engagement and require focused attention. It is obvious that South Africa and Nigeria are seen as major players because of their size and economic significance. Ethiopia and Kenya are valued mainly for their strategic importance in the War on Terrorism.
  • Second, the Bush Administration seeks coordination with allies, friends and international institutions. This is seen as essential for constructive conflict mediation and successful peace operations.
  • Third, Africa’s capable reforming states and sub-regional organizations are seen as being in need of strengthening as the primary means to address transnational threats on a sustained basis. The Administration believes that if Africans are capable of fulfilling such a role, it is less likely that the US will be drawn directly into solving African problems.

In short, the Bush administration sees its Africa policy as being strategic in approach, with clear priorities of

  • supporting sub-regional organizations;
  • engaging the newly created African Union;
  • combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is an international security issue; and
  • promoting good governance, economic reform, and health and education.

What is most important about the current Africa policy is how it is driven by realist considerations of national interests. For example, Bush has threatened to withhold military assistance to some 35 countries that refused to sign an agreement with the US, which would exempt Americans from prosecution before the International Criminal Court. Thus far, three African governments have agreed to this. Significantly, however, Nigeria and South Africa have not. Why is this significant? Nigeria has oil. In fact, at least 22 African countries have oil, and this makes them of particular interest to the US. Currently African oil accounts for 15% of the US’s oil imports. This is expected to jump in the next decade to 25%. [24] Another important thing to consider is that only three African countries are members of OPEC, and therefore those countries that are not a member of the cartel may be more agreeable to striking deals with the US. This is particularly important given the on-going crisis in the Middle East. In the process of deepening an economic relationship with Africa, the US now hopes to enhance its ability to fight international terrorism.

A further clear indication of Bush’s placing narrowly defined national security interests ahead of any other considerations in the US’s Africa policy is the way the Administration has dealt with the Liberia crisis. Bush applied public political pressure on President Charles Taylor to step aside, but despite the historical connections between the US and Liberia, he committed no US peacekeepers on the ground. Instead, he provided monetary and other support for Nigeria to take a lead peacekeeping role.

Africa, Globalization and the US: Where is Africa in all of this and Where Does it Want to be?

In the broadest sense, the primary challenge that African countries face is to produce

more winners than losers. The challenge is complex, and formidable; and, to meet it African governments and African people are going to have to take note of this and act accordingly.

More specifically, from a policy perspective, I believe there are five major areas of challenge: 1) the HIV/AIDS Pandemic; 2) the Debt Crisis along with trade issues; 3) human security and development; 4) domestic and regional conflicts; and 5) democracy and human rights. At a very fundamental level poverty and poorly developed system of education on the continent somehow affect all of these policy areas, and this is implied in whatever I have to say here. Let us look at each of these policy areas separately.

The HIV/AIDS Pandemic. Nowhere has the HIV/AIDS crisis had as devastating an effect as in Africa. It was estimated in 2003 that the disease affected 25-26 million people on the continent. The infection rates of the disease for adults in Africa range from as high as 39% in Botswana to as low as .1 % in Mauritius. The average for sub-Saharan Africa is 9% for all adults. [25] Nearly 70% of all adults infected with HIV can be found in Africa, and 80 % of the affected children worldwide can be found there. Since 1980, 5-10 million adults have been infected, and the disease has spread four times as fast in Africa as in other parts of the world. In 2001 alone 2.2 million Africans succumbed to the disease.

The HIV/AIDS Pandemic and its almost uncontrollable nature is affected by the fact that African countries tend to be resource poor, and therefore unable to devote the kind of massive resources that would be needed to prevent, treat and bring the disease under control. A recent study estimates that in 1997, public health spending for AIDS alone exceeded 2% of the gross domestic product in 7 of 16 African countries sampled. This is a staggering figure when we consider that the total health spending on the continent is between 3 and 5% of GDP. [26] Whatever it is spent, is not enough. To go along with this, there are trade barriers that make it difficult for African countries to purchase cheaper, generic drugs for the HIV/AIDS treatment of their populations.

The public health challenge facing Africa, then, is to bring this dreaded disease under control. There are signs that steps are being taken in this direction. For instance, Senegal and Uganda have been singled out for their exemplary AIDS education, prevention, and treatment projects. Tanzania is poised to move in the same direction. Moreover, there has been a worldwide alert sounded, and the governments of major industrial powers are now beginning to see the AIDS pandemic as a threat to their own national security, and they are committing resources that can be used to combat the problem in Africa. A major lead is being taken by the UN, and by NGO groups such as the Global AIDS Alliance. Although President Bush, in his 2003 State of the Union address, committed $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, this pledge seems far from being any immediate benefit to the countries in Africa with the most need. [27] This is not only the major health challenge facing African leaders; it is also a major social and human security challenge.

The Debt Crisis and Trade Issues. It has long been realized that Africa is a continent mired in debt, and the fact that African countries must devote so much of their annual gross domestic product to debt servicing and repayment, reduces the amount available for tackling such social problems as communicable diseases, poverty and underdevelopment. Rich countries, wanting to create conditions conducive for the expansion of the worldwide market, have recently come to realize that in order for them to penetrate the untapped economies of the Third World, they are going to have to help poor countries reduce their debt burden. In 1996 the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund launched a project to help poor countries to address their debt crises. This project is called the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Initially, 41 countries, 33 in Africa, were targeted for debt relief. The first counties to receive assistance under the plan such as Uganda and Mozambique realized almost immediate benefit, freeing up resources that could now be used to tackle some of their most pressing problems such as in the areas of public health and social and economic development. So far, 18 of the 33 African countries have qualified for this assistance. However, critics say that what is being done comes too late, is not enough, and more bold steps need to be taken.

A centerpiece of both the Clinton and current Bush administrations as relates to Africa’s position in the global economy has been the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). There are 38 African countries eligible to participate in this program, but only 22 exported anything under AGOA in 2002. Of these, only six (Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Swaziland and South Africa) recorded significant increased exports to the US. Oil is the overwhelming sub-Saharan export. Beyond that, apparel is the second most important sector, but that accounts for only 4.5% of total exports to the US. [28] African countries would like to see their trade with the US increase dramatically, but as mentioned above they are inhibited from generally doing so because of the protectionist policies of the US and restrictive quotas placed on African imports.

The challenge being faced now by African countries, is not only to increase the amount of debt relief they get, and more favorable terms of trade in the international marketplace, but also to manage their resources wisely so as to advance their developmental objectives.

Human Security and Development. The International Monetary Fund projects that the economies of sub-Saharan Africa will grow by 5.9 per cent in 2004; this is up from a rate of 3.6 percent in 2003. Even though these figures seem robust and promising, these rates of growth are well below what would be needed for African countries to achieve real development and have an impact on poverty alleviation. However, the forecasters stress that almost all African countries remain highly vulnerable to changes in primary commodity prices. As a result, growth will be largely concentrated in oil-producing countries, which are expected to benefit from high prices for the next couple of years. But export prices for most primary products, such as coffee and other agricultural products, are expected to remain depressed.

At the very fundamental level the challenge facing the countries of Africa can be subsumed under the rubric of human security. Traditionally the concept of “security” has been couched in neo-realist terms, relating to protecting the territorial integrity and political sovereignty of nations. This continues to be a legitimate concern for scholars and policy-makers alike, but at the current state of human development it is clear that an alternative or even complimentary conception of “security” needs to assume critical importance. In the strictest sense, the security of states is dependent upon whether or not their citizens feel secure and unthreatened. There is ample evidence in the world today that political instability can easily become transnationalized, threatening national, regional and even international security. A conceptualization of security that is centered primarily on the individual or community can be understood as human security. This notion grows from the assumption that there are needs, problems, and issues that are common to all of humankind no matter what part of the world they live in (i.e. poverty, the spread of communicable diseases, environmental degradation, the loss of faith in institutions, population pressures, and economic crisis). It is imperative that we view these concerns in terms of global trends and forces that affect the individual. These trends include such processes as: the depletion of non-renewable resources; drug trafficking; human trafficking; the rapid spread of communications technology; the rampant growth of capitalist markets with no controls to avoid the excesses of the capitalists; poverty, inequality and human misery; and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Human security, then, primarily relates to the safety and well being of people everywhere, including Africa. It has been found that a sense of insecurity among certain groups invariably leads to group conflict and political instability. The threats involved may relate to the physical well being of individuals and groups, but they might also---and often do—involve a perception that values are being threatened. These issues do not exhaust the range of issues that relate to the human security dilemma in Africa today. However, this list gives a good indication of the scope and intensity of this dilemma on the continent. As in the past, African states are attempting to mobilize in an effort to reverse the tide of human insecurity. Various mechanisms designed to do this are either now in place or on the drawing board (e.g. the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention and Resolution; the African Union; and, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)). It remains to be seen, however, whether Africa alone can solve its human security problems. Some observers insist that given the global dimensions of the human security problem, global actors must become committed to its resolution.In other words, rich countries like the United States should step up their efforts to tackle poverty in Africa. Poverty is negative development or development in reverse. [29] Reversing this trend would lead to the increased ability of African countries to help themselves while at the same time participating more fully in the global economy. This would help African security as well as security in the world at large.

The World Bank, other multilateral and bilateral aid agencies are now paying more attention than in the recent past to the need to attack poverty while still pursuing the objectives of spreading the market and encouraging free trade. They are providing new monies for nutrition and family health projects, for governmental efficiency promotion and capacity building, and for tackling various forms of corruption. These measures tend to have wide support in the donor community, and that is good for African development. It must be acknowledged, however, that recipient countries continue to be unhappy with the conditions that accompany developmental assistance, even when the aims of these conditionalities are well intentioned. They simply smack of outside control and orchestration, rather than autocentric development decision-making on the part of Africans themselves.

In addition to being generally afraid of the possible negative effects of globalization, African leaders have viewed AGOA with mixed emotions. It does open up the US market for African products, but not enough of them. It does create the possibility of increasing amounts of direct foreign investments in their economies by US firms, but unless the countries that stand to benefit can reform their education systems, increase their levels of technological capacity, and improve the investment climate for foreign firms, there will be no economic takeoff. The challenge then, is for African governments and business communities to create a culture of entrepreneurship and commitment to local and regional development in their general populations.

Another aspect of the security dilemma that is of equal concern for Africa and the US is the threat of international terror. [30] The vulnerability of African countries to international terrorism was made abundantly clear in 1998 with the bombing of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. This was followed by similar incidents in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the United States. The September 11, 2001 plane hijacking and bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in the Washington, DC area made it clear that there was an international network of terrorists that was violently opposed to the US’s culture, values and its dominant role in world affairs. Poor countries that are friendly to the US, whose security systems are relatively weak, are most vulnerable to international terror. The US has a vital interest in strengthening the military and intelligence capacities of poor countries like the one we find in Africa. On their part, African countries, with the aid of the US could measurably improve their ability to solve problems of peace and security on their own.

Domestic and Regional Conflict. The past decade has witnessed ever-increasing incidents of intense conflicts on the African continent. In Sierra Leone we saw that country embroiled in a civil war involving rebel groups opposed to a democratically elected government. We also saw coups and a civil war erupt in the historically peaceful Ivory Coast. Rebel groups were able to organize their own militias and to pay for them through the illicit trade in diamonds, and other natural resources drawn from enclave economies. [31] In the case of Sierra Leone the world community attempted to impose sanctions on this practice, but with very little positive effect. Also, a UN peacekeeping force was dispatched to bring the situation under control, but a semblance of order was not restored until Britain decided to commit “boots on the ground” with orders to “root out the bad guys.” [32] Similarly, France committed its military to Ivory Cost to attempt to stabilize the situation there. However, in both countries, the peace is tenuous.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the bankrupt government of the now deceased of Laurent Kabila, enlisted the aid of the neighboring states of Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, in an effort to resist the attempts of numerous opposition groups, aided and abetted by forces from Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, to over throw his government. Rather than decisive victory, what resulted was stalemate. The UN eventually brokered a cease-fire and peace talks among the warring parties and it dispatched a peacekeeping force, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) into the eastern region of the country. However, the number of UN peacekeepers is extremely small (10,800), given the enormity of the country. A Transitional Constitution went into effect in April 2003. [33]

In Sudan, a civil war pitting the Arab-Moslem North against the largely Non-Arab, largely Christian south, is finally on the verge of ending. The UN has not directly intervened, but there was been an effort on the part of the sub-regional organization, the Intergovernmental Agency for Development, IGAD, to broker a peace that eventually began to bear fruit towards the end of 2002. The problem there is exacerbated by the fact that the Khartoum government is being propped up by the profits from the exploitation of oil fields by multi-national corporations. On its part, the opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Army was able to hold its own, and forced a mutually hurtful stalemate to develop. Complicating the civil war between the North and the South was the eruption of another war front in the western region of Darfur, where the war is between African Moslems and Arab Moslems. [34] The Government of Sudan, with the aid of militia that it arms and sponsors is engage in a scorched earth policy, ethnic cleansing and even genocide. The world community has attempted to apply various forms of pressure, even threatening to withdraw support for the peace agreement between the SPLA and the central government, but this has had no effect. Consequently, Sudan may sink deeper and deeper into political instability.

In the Horn of Africa, the problem since the summer of 1998 has been a devastating border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. What was unusual and ominous about this conflict is that it was a high tech war, as Africa has never seen. The question is, does this have any implications for the future? Eritrea in a very short space of time grew its small army to 250,000 and Ethiopia expanded its armed forces to 350,000. Both sides bought and bartered for sophisticated weapons from wherever they could get them---tanks, aircrafts, and anti-aircraft equipment. [35] It is estimated that at the height of this conflict, which lasted for only about a year, Ethiopia was spending about a million dollars a day to maintain the war effort, amounting to between $2.9 and $3.1 billion. [36] It is impossible to calculate how much in dollar terms the war cost Eritrea. However, there is little doubt that the cost was considerable; this, despite the fact that the per capita income of both countries is among the lowest in the world. The Organization of African Unity brokered a peace in 2000, and the UN established the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), a peacekeeping mission that has been occupying a buffer zone between the two countries. It also set up the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC). In April 2002, the commission issued its report. Even though both sides had agreed to accept the findings of the EEBC as binding, Ethiopia refused to do so, and a stalemate has developed in the final demarcation of the border zone. [37]

A recent World Bank report shows clearly that domestic and regional conflicts in Africa have blunted and reversed growth prospects for all of Africa’s war torn countries. [38] The challenge is for African leaders to move away from war and toward peace, and thereby create an environment conductive to development. The UN and the OAU, along with bilateral aid agencies, spend a good deal of time trying to figure out how to keep the peace in Africa, but very little time has yet to be devoted to making and building peace. That is the challenge, to create social and economic conditions, and institutions that steer countries away from both internal and regional wars.

Democracy and Human Rights. For the foreseeable future, the prospects for further democratization of African countries present a very mixed picture. Over the past decade and a half we have seen the mushrooming of multi-party systems and elections that have been at least nominally democratic. However, just as many countries as have had successful “second democratic elections”, that is elections that demonstrate progress toward democratic consolidation, there have also been places where we have see democratic reversals or where incumbent elites have perverted the democratic process. For example, in the Ivory Cost and Zimbabwe in 2000, flawed elections led directly to protracted civil strife. In Kenya, although the National Rainbow Coalition was able to loosen the grip of the Kenya African National Union on the reins of government in 2002, it has been unable to agree on a new constitution that would give more authority to parliament than the presidency.

Elections in Senegal in March 2000, Mauritius in September and Ghana in December each resulted in peaceful transfers of power, and this is a good sign. But it is hard to say for sure that Africa will not return to autocracy. At the same time, ironically it is because of the forces of globalization that one can optimistically say that it is likely that Africa’s future will be continually in the direction of more democracy. The growth in the links between domestic civil society groups in Africa and similar groups throughout the world, as well as advances in information technology and the growing emphasis on the need for a free press in Africa, are creating environments in which democracy and human rights can take root. These words, democracy and human rights, are on the lips of everyone in Africa, whether they have good or bad things to say.

In order for this challenge to be successfully met, there will have to emerge a cohort of enlightened African leaders committed to creating sustainable, consolidated democracies, committed to good governance and the upholding of basic human rights. This process can be helped along if the international community continues to contribute to the development of democratic institutions on the continent, such as independent judiciaries and a free but responsible press, and continues to provide support for civil society elements that are committed to peoples’ empowerment.

Summary and Conclusion

In conclusion, it is clear that despite a brief interlude in the Clinton

Administration, Africa has never been central to US policy. Clinton sought to facilitate the access of American capital into African markets in the form of trade and private investments; however, he realized that this could only be successful if a simultaneous effort was made to alleviate poverty on the continent, to promote good governance and democracy and to make Africa more peaceful and secure. Whereas US national security interests were imbedded in Clinton’s policies, he was much more flexible and could balance US needs and objectives with those of its African partners. On the other hand, the Bush administration seems to have reverted to the historic US position of selective engagement with some parts of Africa and not necessarily the continent as a whole. A good example of this can be seen in the US’s courting of countries in the Horn of Africa, Botswana, and West Africa in order to establish a US military presence that could be used to more effectively respond to crises relating to international terrorism in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.

The Administration rhetorically supports new institutions such as the African

Union and the NEPAD, but it remains to be seen whether these words will be backed up with real resource and political commitments. If there is going to be any real leadership in the US’s Africa policy under Bush, it will largely have to come from Congress, and from international non-governmental organizations.

April 7, 2004

[1] See, Bernard Barber. Jihad vs. McWorld. New York: Times Books, 1995.

[2] See, Jibrin Ibrahim, “Notes on Globalization and the Marginalization of Africa,” in CODESRIA Bulletin: Special Issue, Nos. 3 & 4, (2002), pp3-7.

[3] In testimony before the US House of Representative International Relations Committee African Affairs Subcommittee, June 25, 2003, President Toumani Toure stated: “While rich countries and international financial institutions press for minimizing ‘market distorting’ government subsidies in African countries, often at enormous human cost, the most massive interference with international agricultural markets comes from European and US subsidies to rich farmers. This issue has gained new attention in recent years, as the World Bank has critiqued rich country governments and Europe and the US have pointed their fingers at each other’s offenses. But there has been little progress in changing this double standard.” Toure went on to say that enormous damage is being done to African agriculture around the continent by the $300 billion of US and European subsidies. See, http//

[4] To be sure, globalization has far reaching benefits for some. 1) Today goods and services, capital, technology and labor all move more freely across borders; 2) in those countries that actively participate in the global economy, the tendency is for the standards of living in the general population to go up; 3) globalization has in general led to benefits in the areas of governance and culture (e.g. democracy, human rights, gender equity, popular empowerment; and 4) through advances in information technology in the context of increasing human freedoms, the state’s monopolistic hold over information from outside its borders has been severely weakened if not broken, particularly in states with historically authoritarian regimes. See, Jan Nederveeen Pieterse. Globalization and Culture: Global Melange. Oxford: Rowen and Littlefield, 2004; and, Netherlands Development Research Council. Coping with Globalization: The Need for Research Concerning the Local Response to Globalization in Developing Countries. The Hague: RAWOO, 2000.

[5] Examples could be found in the fact that: 1) the gap between rich countries and poor ones continues to rise. For instance, the difference in average income levels between the world’s poorest and richest countries in 1960 was 30:1; by 1990 it was 60:1, and by 1997 this gap had grown to 74:1 [WHAT IS IT NOW?]; 2) within loser countries the gap between the rich and the poor has also been on the rise. Certain pockets that are plugged into the world market, end up being marginal winners, while at the same time individuals and groups trapped in the cycle of subsistence production and poverty are relegated to the role of perpetual losers; 3) the rapid depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation are taking a greater toll in poor countries than other parts of the world; 4) countries---particularly poor ones---are losing control over governance and culture. See, Walden Bello. The Future in the Balance: Essays on Globalization and Resistance. San Francisco: Food First, 2001; Ibrahim, loc. cit., p 6; and, Joseph Stiglitz. Globalization and its Discontents. New York: W.W. Norton, 2002.

[6] Peter Schraeder. “Reviewing the study of US policy towards Africa: From intellectual ‘backwater’ to theory construction,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 4(November 1993), p 776.

[7] See, Elliot P. Skinner, “Historical Framework Paper Written for the National Summit on Africa,” Washington, DC: National Summit on Africa, 1998, p 1.

[8] Donald Rothchild, “The Impact of US Disengagement on African Intrastate Conflict Resolution,” in John W. Harbeson and Donald Rothchild, eds. Africa in World Politics: The African State System in Flux. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2000, pp 160-87.

[9] See, Henry F. Jackson. From Congo to Soweto: U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Africa sin 1960. New York: William Morrow, 1982.

[10] See, Georges Nzongola-Ntgalaja. The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila—A People’s History. London: Zed Press, 2003, pp 160-63.

[11] See, Timothy D. Sisk. Democratization in South Africa: The Elusive Social Contract. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995, p 101.

[12] See, Ruth Iyob and Edmond J. Keller, “US Policy in the Horn of Africa: Continuity and Change,” (Unpublished manuscript 2003).

[13] See. Edmond J. Keller, “United States Foreign Policy on the Horn of Africa: Policymaking with Blinders On,” in Richard Sklar, Gerald Bender and James S. Coleman, eds., African Crisis Areas in United States Foreign Policy, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985, pp 178-93.

[14] Herman Cohen. Superpower Intervention in Africa. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

[15] See Donald Rothchild and Nikolas Emmanuel, “The Process of Decisionmaking on Africa,” (Unpublished manuscript 2003).

[16] Edmond J. Keller, “Rethinking African Regional Security,” in David Lake and Patrick Morgan, eds. Regional Orders: Building Security in a New World. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997, p 310.

[17] See, David J. Scheffer, Ambassador at large for War Crimes Issues, US Department of State, Address at Dartmouth College, “Human Rights and International Justice,” Hanover, New Hampshire, October 23, 1998.

[18] See, David J. Scheffer, “War Crimes and the Clinton Administration. (International Justice, War Crimes and Terrorism: The US Record) Social Research, (Womter 2002).

[19] See, “Briefing on African Crisis Response Initiative,” News Briefing: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense, (July 29, 1997).

[20] See, “Remarks by the President to the White House Conference on Africa,” The White House: Office of the Press Secretary (June 27, 1994.

[21] “Remarks by President Clinton to Conference on US-Africa Partnership for the 21st Century,” Department of State, Washington, DC, March 16, 1999.

[22] “Africa Policy,” The White House, http://www.whitehouse.gove/infocus/africa/

[23] In March 2002, at an international aid conference in Monterey, Mexico, President Bush proposed the Millenium Challenge Account. According to Bush, the criteria for MCA grants would reward those countries that root out corruption, respect human rights, adhere to the rule of law, invest in better health care, better schools, and have more open markets and sustainable budget policies. See. “Africa: Millenium Challenge Account,” Americans and the World: Public Opinion on International Affairs, http://www/

[24] See, “Bottom of the Barrel: Africa’s Oil Boom and Prospects for Poverty Reduction: A Catholic Relief Services Report.”

[25] See, “HIV & AIDS Statistics in Africa”,


[27] Rather than keeping the focus on Africa and the Caribbean, Bush almost immediately announced that this initiative would be “global” in scope. See, Salih Booker and Ann-Louise Colgan, “US Policy Toward Africa 2004,”

[28] See, “Toward Fair Trade with Africa: Moving beyond AGOA in the US trade agenda,” Washington Notes on Africa. Vol. 29, Issue 3 (Winter 2003/2004).

[29] See Paul Collier,

[30] Princeton L. Lyman and J. Stephen Morrison, “The Terrorist Threat in Africa,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 83, No. 1 (January/February 2004), pp 75-86.

[31] See David Leonard….

[32] See, The Economist

[33] United Nations Press Release, “Security Council Extends Democratic Republic of Congo Mission until 30 July 2004, Raises Troop Level to 10,800,” Security Council, 4797th Meeting (July 28, 2003).

[34] See, “Sudan: Massive Atrocities in Darfur: Almost One Million Civilians Forcibly Displaced in Government’s Scorched-Earth Campaign,” Human Rights Watch.

[35] See, Takeste Negash and Kjetil Tronvoll. Brothers at War…p2.

[36] See, Befekadu Degefe, Berhanu Nega, and Getahun Tafesse. Second Annual Report on the Ethiopian Economy, Vol.II, 2001-2. Addis Ababa: Ethiopian Economics Association/Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute, 2002, pp 42-48.

[37] See, Edmond J. Keller, “Understanding Conflicts in the Horn of Africa,” (unpublished manuscript 2004).

[38] See, Paul Collier…..

Globalization Research Center - Africa