With Africa having seven of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies as well as the youngest and most-rapidly growing population -- which is slated to double by mid-century -- in the world, those in the know are looking to capitalize on a continent that is increasingly being seen as a place of "limitless opportunity."
On Sunday afternoon, President Barack Obama delivered his much-anticipated Africa address at the University of Cape Town. There, he underscored his key African initiatives, which include strengthening democracies, lifting millions out of poverty, leveraging technology, and announcing his unprecedented Power Africa program, which seeks to bring electricity at aggressive rates to the continent. But how does President Obama's foreign policy in Africa compare with his predecessor, former President George W. Bush, who served two terms from 2001 to 2009? Here, the Daily Beast explores their records.
While history will always remember former President Bush for waging the Iraqi war on never-found weapons of mass destruction, Bush's health record in Africa, on the other hand, is hailed by many as one of his chief accomplishments.
In 2003, Bush created the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), launching a strategic treatment plan against HIV/AIDS. At the time, Bush earmarked $15 billion over 5 years, and according to the Washington Post, because of PEPFAR, nearly 2 million people were receiving anti-retroviral treatment in sub-Saharan Africa by 2008, when Bush left office. And according to charitable organization Doctors Without Borders, 11 countries are actively treating HIV/AIDS patients with anti-retroviral medications due to Bush's program.
Time Magazine would later characterize Bush's monumental accomplishment as the "triumph of American foreign policy." While the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson opined that combatting AIDS in Africa was Bush's "greatest legacy."
Since President Obama took office in 2008, he has continued Bush's hugely successful PEPFAR program. In fact, according to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, PEPFAR funding has been increased each year the President has been in office due to bipartisan support, "We’ve actually increased PEPFAR funding each year,” with Senior Director for Development and Democracy at the National Security Council Gayle Smith adding during the White House Press Corps Conference on Saturday that "[we] have enjoyed tremendous bipartisan support for our approach and what we’ve done with PEPFAR."
And according to the White house, "In June 2013, we reached the one millionth baby born HIV-free because of PEPFAR support. In Fiscal Year 2012 alone, PEPFAR’s investments meant that over 230,000 babies were born HIV-free. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of AIDS-related deaths decreased by 32 percent from 2005 to 2011, and the number of new HIV infections fell by 33 percent from 2001 to 2011."
In 2005, then-President Bush labeled the nation of Zimbabwe an "outpost of tyranny," after the 18-year President Robert Mugabe seemingly rigged elections to continue his reign. Bush immediately imposed aggressive sanctions against the embattled leader, reportedly freezing his assets and banning travel to America. Then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice stated about Zimbabwe, "To be sure, in our world there remain outposts of tyranny and America stands with oppressed people on every continent ... in Cuba, and Burma, and North Korea, and Iran, and Belarus, and Zimbabwe."
In 2010, President Obama extended his own sanctions against Mugabe, with the White House releasing the following statement:
"The United States has imposed travel sanctions and a freeze on the financial assets of Mugabe, his family and closest political aides; a freeze on all nonhumanitarian government-to-government aid; and a freeze on any transfer of defense-related items and services to protest a disputed presidential election and human rights abuses by Mugabe’s government."
Maintaining the same stern tone in 2013, President Obama continues to criticize the now-26-year president in light of Zimbabwe's impending elections on July 31st,"Harassment of citizens and groups needs to stop and reform needs to move forward, so people can cast their votes in elections that are fair and free and credible," Obama said during a visit to South Africa, remarked President Obama during a press conference with South African President Jacob Zuma on Saturday.
On Promoting Democracy
After the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Bush administration essentially used the promotion of democracy as a means to fighting al-Qaeda. According to Bush's line of thinking, terrorism finds its strongest bases of power in authoritarian regimes. Therefore, during his time in office, President Bush attempted to impose democracy particularly in the Middle East and North African (MENA) regions with the proclamation of what came to be called the "Bush Doctrine," which saw any countries that rejected democracy and/or harbored terrorists as an enemy of the United States. The doctrine also dictated that the United States had the right to impose sanctions against those countries as well as invade them, as he did with Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rice drove home this point during a speech at Cairo's American University in 2005, saying:
"Throughout the Middle East, the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty. It is time to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy. There are those who say that democracy is being imposed. It is tyranny that must be imposed. People choose democracy freely. And successful reform is always homegrown. Just look around the world today. For the first time in history, more people are citizens of democracies than of any other form of government. This is the result of choice, not of coercion.
"There are those who say that democracy leads to chaos, or conflict, or terror. In fact, the opposite is true: Freedom and democracy are the only ideas powerful enough to overcome hatred, and division, and violence. For people of diverse races and religions, the inclusive nature of democracy can lift the fear of difference that some believe is a license to kill. But people of goodwill must choose to embrace the challenge of listening, and debating, and cooperating with one another. For neighboring countries with turbulent histories, democracy can help to build trust and settle old disputes with dignity.
How did this effect Africa?
In response to 9/11, President Bush forged a close relationship with then-Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to block the growing terrorist activities of the Taliban and al-Qaida in West Africa; Obansanjo proved to be an important ally for the region in the fight against terror.
In 2009, President Obama publicly rejected Bush's unilateral approach of imposing democracy on other nation's during his speech in Egypt, saying, "The ultimate success of democracy in the world won’t come because the United States dictates it; it will come because individual citizens demand a say in how they are governed."
Still President Obama does agree with his predecessor in that terrorism takes root in areas where democratic government is lacking. This past Saturday, President Obama said, "It is my strong belief that terrorism is more likely to emerge and take root where countries are not delivering for their people and where there are sources of conflict and unaligned frustrations that have not been adequately dealt with."
“The danger we have right now, for example, in a place like Somalia, is that it’s been two generations, maybe three, since there was a functioning government inside of Somalia. We start to see some progress in part because of intervention by African nations in Somalia to clear the space and create the space for governance. But you look at what is happening in Mali, for example, right now, part of the problem is that they have a weak central government and democratic institutions that weren’t reaching out as far into the country as necessary.
"We have to build such institutions of responsiveness, governance and democracy. Those things become defense mechanisms against terrorism. They are the most important defense against terrorism."
Still, the President definitively stops short of using military action against authoritarian countries who reject democracy, explaining that"[the United States] will not likely intervene in specific matters but expects that the whole of African countries will “collaborate with us to fight” terrorism, according to NGR Guardian News.
Giving Aid vs. Forging Partnerships
In 2008, President Bush signed a $698 million deal with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete to reduce poverty and improve roads power, and water supplies. Called the "Millennium Challenge Compact," the deal was a conditional one: in order to be a recipient of the grant, one's country had to employ democratic principles and responsible economic policies.
Historically, the United States has maintained a Father-like relationship with Africa, punishing recalcitrant leaders with sanctions and giving financial backing when they walked a straight line.
From the beginning, President Obama has insisted that he is looking to partner with the growing continent. When the President visited Ghana in 2009, he said, "So I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world -- (applause) -- as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect. And that is what I want to speak with you about today.
“As for America and the West, our commitment must be measured by more than just the dollars we spend. I've pledged substantial increases in our foreign assistance, which is in Africa's interests and America's interests. But the true sign of success is not whether we are a source of perpetual aid that helps people scrape by -- it's whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change.”
The White House states in its "Support for Strengthening Democratic Rule of Law, and Human Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa that "the United States strongly supports the great strides many African countries have made to ensure good governance, rule of law, and respect for human rights. We commend the progress they have made to broaden political participation and improve governance, and will remain a steady partner as they continue to work to strengthen electoral processes, ensure transparency and accountability in government, and provide security while respecting and protecting universal rights and fundamental freedoms."
Going much further, the President has invested in Kenya and Tanzania. According to the White House:
"In Kenya, the $53 million Yes Youth Can program empowers nearly one million Kenyan youth to use their voices for advocacy in national and local policy-making, while also creating economic opportunities. In advance of Kenya’s March 2013 general elections, Yes Youth Can’s “My ID My Life” campaign helped 500,000 youth obtain National identification cards, a prerequisite to voter registration, and carried out a successful nationwide campaign with Kenyan civic organizations to elicit peace pledges from all presidential aspirants.
"In Tanzania, the United States has dedicated $14 million to strengthening government accountability institutions and linking them with Tanzanian civil society watchdog groups and civic activists in a constructive partnership to further government transparency. The program focuses on improving access to information for Tanzanian citizens in four key development sectors: health, education, natural resource management, and food security."
On Sunday, the President also announced his newest initiative, "Power Africa," which seeks to double power access and "achieve universal electricity access by 2030," using wind, solar, and hydro energy.
And still, the President has made sure to emphasize throughout that Power Africa is only possible due to an active, effective partnership.
From the press release:
"The United States and its partners will work with an initial set of Power Africa partner countries, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania. These countries have set ambitious goals in electric power generation and are making the utility and energy sector reforms to pave the way for investment and growth. Power Africa will also partner with Uganda and Mozambique on responsible oil and gas resources management.
"Power Africa will bring to bear a wide range of U.S. government tools to support investment in Africa’s energy sector. From policy and regulatory best practices, to pre-feasibility support and capacity building, to long-term financing, insurance, guarantees, credit enhancements and technical assistance Power Africa will provide coordinated support to help African partners expand their generation capacity and access."
While Bush has gone down in the history books as a president that supported and invested in Africa more than any other U.S. president before him, much of President Obama's legacy in Africa is yet to be seen. Still, as "The Promise" author Jonathan Atler has said about two-term presidents, it is common for presidents to focus on foreign policy in their second term. With the President’s current Africa tour and new initiatives, time will tell if Obama’s record in Africa becomes one of the cornerstones of his legacy as well.