Africa’s Price for U.S. Aid

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Doug Krizner: Today President Bush is in Tanzania. He’ll sign an aid package worth nearly $700 million. It’s part of an agreement with the Millenium Challenge Corporation, or MCC. This money will be used to build roads, bring electricity to people and to provide safe drinking water.

Let’s bring in correspondent Gretchen Wilson. Gretchen, what’s the background on the president’s aid to Africa?

Gretchen Wilson: The MCC was started by Bush in 2005 to help qualifying countries. And the idea is that to qualify, counties have to meet a certain threshold of democratic policies, free-market reforms, and a basic capacity for good governance.

Krizner: So is it different, then, than what we see with traditional aid packages?

Exactly. Traditionally been two approaches to aid in Africa. One is paternalistic, in which African countries are seen as charity cases. And the other is exploitative, in which countries are coming to Africa to buy up their resources of these countries. And so the White House says it’s rejecting both approaches and instead is treating Africa’s leaders as equal partners, setting clear goals and measurable results.

So Gretchen, what types of conditions have been placed on this aid by the administration?

The administration has placed a number of conditions on this kind of aid. Again, it goes back to free-market reforms, opening up economies for small businesses and entrepreneurs, opening up borders for trade. It also looks at other things, like immunization rates, it looks at girls’ education, and it looks at other ways in which democracy and freedom are supported in these countries. However, there’s also another condition that is not really talked about, although some people on the ground here tend to criticize, and that has to do with the United States’ war on terror. There’s a lot of speculation that if a country, for example, doesn’t really support United States foreign policy, will it be ostracized from this kind of aid?

Is aid coming from other countries in the world other than the U.S., and are other countries trying to buy a little bit of influence with this aid?

A number of other countries are really seeking inroads in Africa. And there’s a lot of skepticism about all of these external players. China’s of course a major player — it’s been giving big grants, loans and developing its infrastructure projects. A lot of the comment about Bush’s visit here is seen as Bush trying to counter-balance some of the very visible influence that China’s wielding on the continent.

Krizner: Gretchen Wilson reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa. Thanks so much.

Thank you very much.

All reporting by Gretchen L. Wilson, © 2008

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