Background Briefing by a Senior Administration Official on Africa
International Media Center, Savannah, Georgia
1:04 P.M. EDT
OFFICIAL: Thank you, and good afternoon to all of you. What
I'd like to do today is to give you a pre-brief on the Africa
outreach lunch, which will be held tomorrow afternoon, from
noon to 2:00 p.m.
The lunch involves
an invitation from President Bush, as chairman of the G8, to
six African nations -- as I said, a two-hour lunch. The nations
are Nigeria, President Obasanjo; South Africa, President Mbeki;
Senegal, President Wade; Ghana, President Kufuor; Uganda, President
Museveni; and Algeria, President Bouteflika.
These six leaders were
invited as representatives of the New Partnership for Africa's
Development. Four of them were part of the steering group that
created the plan for continental transformation. The other two,
President Kufuor and President Museveni, have been leaders in
the Africa Union, and leaders on economic, trade and development.
The issues that will
be discussed during this session -- well, before I get into
the issues, let me just give you an outline of the event, itself.
First, they'll start with a group photograph, the G8 leaders
with the African leaders. Then it will be a two-hour lunch,
leaders only. They will be the only ones in the room. And then
it will end with the African leaders holding a press conference,
a 30-minute press conference. So I hope all of you will be there.
They'll be broadcasting from Sea Island, so the leaders, themselves,
will still be at Sea Island.
The issues that will
be covered -- and this was at the suggestion of the African
heads of state -- is to focus on private sector-led growth and
development in Africa: Specifically, how can Africa attract
greater investment? How can we expand our trade relationship?
How can the countries in the G8 and Africa cooperate on building
a health infrastructure? And how can we coordinate better on
peace and security issues?
I would expect that
during the lunch discussion they will also discuss some of the
G8 initiatives that are coming out of this summit, specifically
the G8 initiative on enterprise, tapping the power of entrepreneurship;
the global HIV/AIDS vaccine enterprise, again, coordinating,
trying to move from our approach that focuses on treatment,
care, but also to get an actual cure for HIV/AIDS. And then
the peacekeeping initiative that is coming out of the G8.
The theme, as you know,
of this G8 is, advancing freedom by strengthening international
cooperation to make the world safer and better. And this particular
lunch will focus on that theme through the vector of private
sector-led growth to address poverty alleviation and to increase
health. I think it affirms and reflects President Bush's priorities
in terms of his U.S.-Africa policy on HIV/AIDS, which the emergency
plan for AIDS relief is a centerpiece of our approach to addressing
the pandemic on the continent. And this Global Vaccine Initiative
will be a continuation of that leadership.
His leadership on development
and poverty alleviation, on which the Millennium Challenge Account,
the $5 billion new development assistance over five years, and
then doubling our ODA is a reflection, again, of that commitment
to poverty alleviation, with eight of the 16 first selected
countries being African. And I think this is important because
it also reflects the President's follow-up on the commitments
at Kananaskis in which we said that at least 50 percent of new
development assistance would go to African countries that --
justly invest in health and education and promote economic entrepreneurship.
And then, finally,
his commitment on basic -- I'm sorry, his commitment on peace
and security reflected, I think, in our programs on East Africa
counterterrorism initiative, which is $100 million. We try to
build on capacity building. And then the new G8 initiative on
With that, I'll turn
over to my colleague who can talk more about the relationship
between Africa and the G8.
OFFICIAL: Thank you, very much. There has been a longstanding
relationship between the African nations and the members of
G8. However, beginning in Kananaskis, in 2002, there was a much
more formalized relationship, in that the African leaders who
are a part of the New Partnership for Africa's Development,
NEPAD, met with the G8 members, and flowing from that was the
Africa Action Plan, that covered NEPAD, it covered peace and
security, it covered health, trade, debt relief, water, institutional
government, peace and security, as I said earlier.
The plan outlined the
steps that would be taken by the G8 members in the bilateral
or joined together, working under a partnership arrangement,
which is attempting to change the way I in which the donor community
works with the African leaders.
The next summit, Evian,
there was the requirement coming out of Kananaskis that there
would be a report on the Africa Action Plan, the status. So
you can go into the Africa Action Plan on the site for the G8
and see the way in which the G8 members had, up to that point,
followed through on their commitments. And I won't take the
time now, but I can answer questions on it.
Now, at each of these
summits, the G8 members met with the steering committee of NEPAD.
Between the summits, there are ongoing meetings of representatives
of the G8 with representatives of the African leaders. The effort
there is to continue to work to change the relationship to one
of a partnership where the African leaders are responsible for,
accountable for definition of the problems and the solutions,
and the donors bring -- where they can add value, they bring
that to the table.
So this summit is the
next follow-on, and the plan is for the discussion as my colleague
outlined it. The next summit in the U.K. will then give another
report on the status under the Africa Action Plan.
So I think with that,
you probably have questions.
Q The NGOs and a lot
of the groups that have been advocating debt relief have been
telling us that there's some sort of plan in the works here
on HIPC. Can you tell us anything about that, and more generally
address the question of whether the Iraqi debt relief is going
to have to be tied to debt relief of the developing world?
OFFICIAL: I can't speak to the question of Iraqi debt relief
being tied to the developing world. I can speak to the issue,
to some degree, on HIPC. There's been a continuing commitment
within the G8 to address HIPC and to, what we call, top up where
necessary the substantial debt relief that's provided under
HIPC. It's important to remember that HIPC has measures in it
in which countries have to commit to reform, commit to the debt
relief going to particular sectors -- health and education,
et cetera. And so they have to go through a process. In the
time that they're going through that, meeting the obligations
of HIPC, sometimes they're exogenous shocks that, then, lead
to their debt sustainability level being higher than is required
under HIPC, which then leads to the topping up.
And so I think that
you can expect out of this G8 a continuing commitment to topping
up HIPC. Any other discussions on debt relief, you'll have to
wait until, I think, the end of the summit when the leaders
themselves can report on what further they're doing.
Q Just a follow-up
to that. We were also told that there would be an extension
of the number of countries eligible under HIPC and an extension
to the time frame, as well. Is that true?
OFFICIAL: That I don't know. I can say that the number of countries
that are in HIPC now from sub-Saharan Africa are about 38 countries.
But I don't know about an extension of the time frame. The sunset
clause on HIPC, I believe, it ends in 2004. I would expect that
we would, since HIPC continues to be the framework for debt
relief, that that would be extended. But let's wait until the
leaders speak to this issue on debt relief.
Clearly, most of the
debt that these countries hold are to multilateral banks. And
so it's going to be important over time to address that. But
we -- when a country reaches its completion point, the United
States provides 100 percent debt relief, bilateral debt relief
Q I was just wondering
if you could elaborate a little bit on the private sector-led
initiatives that might be discussed?
OFFICIAL: Yes, there's an initiative called the Enterprise Initiative
that will be part of the discussion. The Enterprise Initiative
focuses on remittances to the developing countries; it focuses
on micro-finance; it focuses on using bonds to increase, for
instance, the housing market, secondary housing market bonds.
And so it's looking at unleashing that.
And I would just give
one example of why this initiative is important. In Nigeria
-- as I said, President Obasanjo will be here -- official remittances
from Nigeria from abroad come to about $12 billion per year,
of which about half of those remittances for Nigerians come
from the United States. But that's $12 billion that will be
infused into that country. I think the totals are about $100
billion annually comes from remittances into developing countries.
And so I think it's a critical initiative. And the leaders can
speak to it more when they -- in their negotiations today, they're
finalizing the details on these initiatives.
OFFICIAL: It was very interesting in the discussions that my
colleague and I had with the African ambassadors planning for
the meeting -- it's very interesting to note that although they're
most appreciative of aid, and know that it's been necessary,
their point is they're never going to become a part of the global
economy unless there's foreign direct investment, unless there
are more jobs created, unless there's more credit. And so they
are welcoming recognition on the part of the G8, that discussions
about Africa and Africa's future ought to be around economic
growth such as this particular initiative, in addition to continuing
to talk about debt relief and talk about ODA, development assistance.
Q I'm wondering if
I could ask about a specific problem country that you haven't
mentioned, but that perhaps may come up at least from President
Bush's point of view, given the fact that President Obasanjo
and President Mbeki will be there, and that's Zimbabwe. While
you guys are here discussing private-sector led growth and development,
President Mugabe's government has announced plans to nationalize
all arable land in the country. And I'm wondering if you think
the President will see this as an opportunity to press President
Mbeki and President Obasanjo a little harder about Zimbabwe.
OFFICIAL: It very well may come up in their discussions. Clearly,
the situation in Zimbabwe continues to decline. There needs
to be a return to democracy there. The leadership of NEPAD clearly
has a responsibility to help push for and advocate for the people
of Zimbabwe. This announcement on continuing to seize land is
obviously going to further harm the economy, which will have
an impact on South Africa. And so it very well may come up in
the conversation, both on growth and development, but also in
terms of the commitments of the NEPAD leadership to peer review,
and how they then would address Zimbabwe.
Q It's your opinion
right now that NEPAD and -- NEPAD has not done enough, at all?
OFFICIAL: Zimbabwe is not one of the peer review countries at
this point. But I do think that the leadership in Africa needs
to do more to address the situation in Zimbabwe.
OFFICIAL: I'll just make two points. The first is that Zimbabwe
has come up at the last two summits, it has been referenced
in the summit reports in the Africa Action Plan. And with regard
to the NEPAD, one of the problems that people had with NEPAD
and the peer review process was the fact that there was an expectation
that the Africans would be much stronger at the outset in speaking
out against Zimbabwe. I think that it's honest now to say that
they have their standards in place and a way in which, were
to Zimbabwe to happen today, at the outset, they would be much
further along in knowing how to handle it.
But it has served as,
I think, the point at which some people have been pessimistic
about the peer review process. And the Africans are going to
have to prove that it's serious, since they did not act on Zimbabwe.
Q What's your own assessment
of NEPAD thus far? I sense from what you were saying, that you
share the view that it's slower than had been hoped. And secondly,
could you address why Ghana and Uganda were chosen to be included
in this year? Is it because they're doing well?
OFFICIAL: I'll take the last, and then ask my colleague to speak
on NEPAD, since she's our Africa personal representative who
is responsible for implementing and helping the African countries
work to implement NEPAD.
On Ghana and Uganda,
as I mentioned, they are representative of the leadership of
the Africa Union. In particular, Ghana is the Vice President
of the Africa Union. They've been a leader on peacekeeping efforts.
They are the chair of the Economic Community of West African
States. So we felt that they would have a tremendous amount
to contribute to any discussion, particularly on peace and security,
but more generally.
Similarly, Uganda has been a lead partner of ours on trade in the
context of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, in the context
of the World Trade Organization. And so we felt that President
Museveni, as a leader, on this issue, would be useful to have
as part of the discussion. But both Ghana and Uganda are both
NEPAD countries, they're simply not the original steering group
OFFICIAL: I think I speak for myself and for the members of
the G8 working on Africa when I say that we're optimistic about
the potential success of NEPAD, and that we have been required
to be much more realistic about what it can do in what period
of time in this regard. At the outset, the Africans asked for
examples of the developed nations evaluating one another's democracy,
so that they could use that model. Now, no one had a model for
them. The OECD does do some review, but there is no example
of countries going in and looking at their neighbors in terms
of whether or not they are carrying out the democratic process.
I'm saying that to
say this: We are optimistic, and we are also required to be
realistic about what the African leaders have said they were
going to do, and whether or not it can be carried out in a short
period of time. They now have countries that have agreed to
go through the peer review process, and that is a good thing.
The only other point
I would make is that the donor world has been working in Africa
for a long period of time. Billions have been invested in various
ways in Africa. And still, Africa is the one continent that
will not -- probably not meet the Millennium Development goals
in 2015. I say that to say this: It means that the developed
world has not had the answers to solving the problems on the
And we and the G8 believe
that the answers will come from the leaders on the continent
and the people on the continent, and that NEPAD is probably
the first and the strongest indication of a coordinated effort
on the part of the Africans to be held accountable for the problems
and solutions. And therefore, we are optimistic, but we all
have an obligation to be realistic at the same time.
Q Just following up
on Barry's question. Could you cite some concrete examples of
progress that has been made in NEPAD since the Kananaskis Summit,
just some concrete examples?
OFFICIAL: I can give an example on the peace and security side
of the importance of NEPAD as a plan for the transformation
of the continent. When we were working on Liberia, the crisis
in Liberia, the NEPAD leadership absolutely stepped up to the
challenge there, with President Obasanjo being the lead force,
putting troops on the ground in Liberia, under the mandate of
the Economic Community of West African States and the Africa
Union, of which NEPAD is their plan for action of the Africa
As you recall, when
Charles Taylor was escorted out of the country, the leaders
that were in Liberia were President Mbeki, President -- President
Obasanjo wasn't there, it was his plane, but it was President
Mbeki, President Chisano, the head of the AU; President Kufuor
was also there.
And so I think that
they've taken concrete action -- because remember, NEPAD is
not just an economic plan, but it's also a plan that affects
peace and security and social development. And so I think that
would be one example that I would cite.
OFFICIAL: I think, also, that NEPAD has forced the developed
world, the donor world, to take seriously the importance of
agriculture on the continent. For years, the World Bank and
many of the donors funded agriculture and then pulled resources
back, a variety of reasons. But the NEPAD secretariat and the
council there have said, we all have to be honest about the
percentage of the population on the continent living in rural
areas and dependent upon agriculture for their livelihood. And
so the pressure has come from NEPAD to the World Bank and to
the donors to reinvest in agriculture.
And I'll just say one
other thing. The NEPAD secretariat and the G8 are working very
hard to keep NEPAD from becoming a project driven. Their power
and their success will be more in how they direct the policy,
how they evaluate the effectiveness of it, than becoming another
group of people organized to get grants. And so far, they have
resisted that. It is a great temptation. But they won't be successful
if they drive themselves to become just another grantee.
Q Can I just follow
up on that? Do you expect there to be any discussion on the
issue of agricultural subsidies?
OFFICIAL: Oh, subsidies. If you had stopped with agriculture.
OFFICIAL: I would expect that there will be discussion on the
question of agricultural subsidies. And I think that President
Bush has been very clear on this point, which is that we need
to address the subsidies within the context of the World Trade
Organization discussions, and that he had supported the elimination
of agriculture subsidies, but it needs to be done, Europe and
the United States together.
END 1:29 P.M. EDT