Clinton's self-serving remarks on Africa

Even though I dislike him, and the many failures of his foreign policy, I gave Bill Clinton credit for giving a very lucid speech at the Democrats' convention in Denver. Now a few words concerning his remarks about Africa on Meet the Press yesterday.

Basically, Clinton is saying that the American image is very popular in Africa, with which I agree - and my readers know that I travel to Senegal frequently:
We're not going to have the America we want unless prosperity is broadly shared, and to do that, we have to have economic opportunity in the poorest parts of America. And in the world, the places where America is popular today in the world, really popular, 10 countries in central and eastern Africa. Look at the Pew poll. Wildly popular. Why? Because they see us through the prism of President Bush's AIDS and malaria programs and the work the Gates Foundation does, the work that I do, the work that others do. So we can--this should be presented to the American people that as a part of our participation in the interdependent world, we actually make more partners and fewer enemies.
From plenty of first hand experience, I can vouch for the fact that American businesspeople are perceived as forthright and honest in business dealing, while American products enjoy an outstanding reputation for quality and reliability. Couple this with leftover resentment of French/British colonizers, and Americans have a great opportunity to establish fruitful relationships in Africa.

This does not, however, require a Bush-style outlay of capital to fund AIDS/Malaria projects. If Clinton, Gates, or other non-taxpayer funded organization wish to act, brilliant. I salute them. In the meantime, entrepreneurs like me will continue to do our thing. I'm proud to represent my country in Africa, and do my small part to reverse the US's trade deficit. I note regularly, however, that the Chinese seem to have absorbed the advice of America's founders better than we have: commerce with all, alliance with none.

Clinton also makes a worthwhile point about media attitudes toward Africa:
"I wish we could have a cessation in the use of the word Africa for just 18 months while America learns that Africa is a continent that just in sub-Saharan Africa has 48 separate countries, and that it's not just the geography, it's the politics, the culture, the language, everything is different..."
True, each country has its own challenges and characteristics. We Americans tend to look at the whole continent as one village! Identities in Africa are complex - tribal/ethnic linkages remain important, as do national allegiances - but a pan-African consciousness does remain as well.

Slick Willy manages to whitewash his selective interventionism, however:
"Yes, there's been bad news in Darfur, yes, there's been bad news out of Zimbabwe, but you have country after country after country with very high growth rates and remarkable progress. I mean, Rwanda, genocide in '94, 10 percent of the country dies in 90 days. Four years later, their per capita income still well under $300 a year, 10 years later, $1,000 a year. Nearly quadrupled their per capita income. That's the real Africa. That is far more representative of what the African people are doing and can do tomorrow than the other..."
And perhaps the least effective way of encouraging this positive trend is by dumping more foreign aid directly into the laps of corrupt governments.

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