U.S. Aid to Africa Triples During Bush Administration

By Melissa Martinez and Jim Fisher-Thompson
USINFO Staff Writers

Washington - By tripling U.S. assistance funds for Africa, President Bush has made good on promises made at two Group of Eight (G8) summits that the United States will support development on the continent, a senior U.S. aid official says.

Walter North, acting assistant administrator for Africa at the U.S. Agency for International Development, spoke February 21 to USINFO about the $3.6 billion in humanitarian and development aid to Africa that he currently oversees.

“If you look at the level of resources moving to Africa, it is astounding,” said North, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia. For example, after Iraq and Afghanistan, Sudan - just one of dozens of African aid recipients - now ranks third among nations receiving the most aid from the United States.

In addition to providing humanitarian aid in places like Mozambique, which recently experienced a devastating flood, USAID also administers health, education and governance programs in more than 40 other African nations.

In the field of health, North's agency has provided hundreds of thousands of HIV/AIDS retroviral treatments for Africans as part of President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

"President Bush has reinforced the promises America made during G8 Summits at Monterey [Mexico in 2002] and Gleneagles [Scotland in 2005], and this is really heartening,” North said.  The G8 includes the world's most industrialized nations.

The president also has an involvement with Africa that goes beyond politics, North said.  Bush surprised many when he visited the continent in July 2003, just three months after coalition forces intervened in Iraq.

One example of the U.S. commitment to Africa North cited is the Ambassadors' Girls' Scholarship Program. Under the education initiative, this program provides financial support for the education of vulnerable girls at the primary and secondary levels in Africa.

In 2006, some 175,000 girls in 40 African countries received the scholarships, known as bursaries. Although largely unheralded by the press, the scholarship program is vital on a continent where most public schools charge fees and where girls are the first to drop out of school when family incomes diminish.

USAID is not the only organization committed to dramatic increases in assistance to Africa, North said. At the 2005 G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, the international community committed to doubling assistance to Africa by 2010, an increased commitment equivalent to an additional $25 billion. (See fact sheet.)


North also discussed a reform process USAID is undertaking to serve its African development partners better.

"It's about trying to get people focused on the country that we are working in and look at where it is, where its leadership is, what the requirements are for it to move forward, to try to marshal the resources and focus them to advance that country" toward a higher level of performance, he explained.

In that regard, Mozambique has proven to be "a great success story," he added.

After experiencing "a horrible civil war," North said, Mozambique has "been at peace for 10 to 15 years and has reconnected with the rest of the world," thanks to development partnerships with the United States and other international donors.

"The United States partnered with the southern African nation to restructure and reconstruct," North explained, and now "they have had robust economic growth rates and became eligible for U.S. development programs like the Millennium Challenge Corporation."

North made the point that America's commitment to helping Africans often has been linked to foreign policy necessities like fighting the Cold War or supporting the global war on terrorism.

"But there is also another strain to our assistance that is equally as strong and maybe getting stronger," because of the influence of faith-based institutions, North said.  "And that's doing this [foreign aid] because it's right and because of the type of people we are - the human face of the United States and our concern for the poor people of the world."

This means USAID development partnerships in Africa will continue, North said, because "our basic mission is about achieving change and making positive differences in people’s lives.”

For more information on U.S. policies, see U.S. Aid to Africa.