TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Terror, AGOA Likely to Dominate Bush Agenda in East Africa

Monday, 08 November 2004

Source: The East African (Nairobi)

Analysts in the US expect little change in American policy toward East Africa following President George W. Bush's re-election last week. And that is seen as either a good or a bad development, depending on the analyst's perspective.

"I don't think the election outcome is negative for Africa," says Stephen Hayes, head of the Corporate Council on Africa. "This administration deserves credit for being pragmatic and some good programmes it has launched."

Continuation of Bush administration policies is both likely and "quite ominous," in the view of Binaifer Nowrojee, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. She expects the Republican team to intensify its focus on counter-terrorism initiatives in East Africa, causing the US to pay less attention to government corruption and human rights violations.

Some experts regard the Bush record in Africa as mixed, and expect both positive and negative developments during the next four years.

David Shinn, former US ambassador to Ethiopia, notes, for example, that the recently appointed Constance Newman, "a moderate," will probably remain in the key post of Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs.

Mr Shinn rejects claims that the Bush team will now turn its back on Africa. He points to the Republican Party's ongoing efforts to attract African-American voters. For that and other reasons, "the Bush administration isn't going to abandon Africa."

Although their own political views vary, this selection of analysts offered similar forecasts regarding various facets of US policy in the sub-region.

They agreed, for example, that the Millennium Challenge Account will not be funded in the amounts that President Bush had initially projected. This initiative, designed to reward "reforming" developing countries with additional US aid, was projected to operate on a budget of $3.3 billion in 2005, but the actual sum will probably be a bit more than $1 billion. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were recently included in a group of "threshold" countries that could qualify for Millennium aid next year.

Creation of the programme was a significant accomplishment, says Nancy Birdsall, head of the non-governmental Centre for Global Development. Congress' endorsement of the Millennium initiative last year represented one of the few times in recent history that the US moved to increase its foreign aid budget, Ms Birdsall notes.

But while the Bush team regards the Millennium Challenge Account as "a prized initiative," the president was never committed to funding it at the advertised levels, says Joseph Siegle, an Africa specialist at the University of Maryland. It's a case of "reality not matching rhetoric", Ms Birdsall adds.

The cost of the war in Iraq and the enormous US budget deficits resulting from Bush's tax cuts leave little money available for development programmes, the analysts say. Growing White House pressure to cut spending "will give Congress an excuse not to do what it has trouble doing anyway Ð increasing aid to developing countries", Ms Birdsall observes.

Most of the analysts anticipate a similar shortfall of funds for the President's Emergency Programme for Aids Relief. Under this highly touted initiative, Bush promised to make $9 billion in new anti-Aids assistance available to 14 poor countries, including Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. But only about $2 billion has actually been provided since Bush announced the programme in January 2003. And an even more conservative Congress may prove unwilling to approve promised funding in the coming years.

Mr Siegle, however, does expect the funding targets to be hit. He says the global nature of the Aids emergency will lead the US to supply most of what it has proposed for Africa.

The preferential trade programme known as Agoa is one element in the Bush team's Africa policy that may actually be expanded, according to some analysts.

Mr Shinn, the former envoy to Ethiopia, describes Agoa as "the heart and soul" of Bush's approach to the sub-Saharan region. Because it embodies the Republican principle that trade is more effective than aid, Mr Shinn says the second Bush administration may move to enhance Agoa, especially if other aspects of US Africa policy, such as the Millennium programme, prove to be disappointments.

But all the experts agreed that Agoa's benefits for countries such as Kenya will be threatened, if not negated, by the lifting of global textile export quotas in January. China, in particular, is expected to flood the US market with low-price garments. And that could overwhelm the fledgling textile industries in Africa that Agoa has sought to nurture.

But the worst-case scenario may not come to pass, says Mr Hayes, head of the association that represents most US corporations with stakes in Africa. "China is sensitive to its relationships with African countries," Mr Hayes notes. To prevent the liberalised global trade regime from destroying African manufacturing, China may move to open more factories in Africa that could produce clothing and other goods for the American market, Mr Hayes suggests.

China may also find it hard to take full advantage of its new opportunities due to political opposition inside the US, says Ms Birdsall, head of the global policy NGO. "There's going to be a lot of resistance in the US to an immediate, full-scale opening to China," she predicts, suggesting that this response may result in US efforts to protect African textile operations from Chinese competition.

Mr Siegle, the Africa scholar at the University of Maryland, agrees "there will be calls in the US to maintain the leg-up for very poor countries that Agoa has provided." He says he is sceptical, however, that protections will be instituted proactively rather than after damage has been done to African industries.

None of the experts surveyed expect the US to send troops of its own to Sudan's Darfur region or to any other conflict zone in Africa. But most do anticipate American diplomacy to remain focused on efforts to resolve that crisis and to finalise an agreement ending the civil war in southern Sudan.

While continuing to denounce atrocities in Darfur, the Bush team will strive to maintain relations with the government in Khartoum, predicts ex-ambassador Shinn. American counter-terrorism interests in Sudan are too important to allow a bilateral breakdown, he says.

The Bush administration's focus on both Darfur and southern Sudan is strongly endorsed by the Christian fundamentalists who make up a key sector of the Republican base, notes Mr Siegle.

The Pentagon will meanwhile intensify its own involvement in East Africa, some analysts suggest.

American troops are already patrolling inside Kenya along the border with Somalia, while other US military units have been carrying out local infrastructure improvements in Kenyan coastal communities. In addition, the US maintains a large base in Djibouti, from which naval, air and ground forces conduct anti-terrorism operations throughout East Africa and the southern Arabian peninsula.

Ms Birdsall expects the US "obsession with the war on terrorism to continue in the narrow security sense." She notes that the Bush administration had included "soft power" components, such as development aid, in its national security strategy, "but that hasn't been matched by any deep thinking on how to get it done."

Ms Nowrojee, of Human Rights Watch, foresees continued US pressure on the Kibaki government to comply with Washington's counter-terrorism policies. She cites the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill as an example of the type of initiatives the Bush team will want Kenya to undertake in the coming years.



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