TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

USAID Administrator Affirms US Economic Commitment to Africa

Tuesday, 06 June 2006

Source: United States Department of State (Washington, DC

Speaking at a conference in Washington June 6, Randall L. Tobias, director for U.S. foreign assistance and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), affirmed the United States' commitment to the African private sector. However, he also emphasized African governments' responsibility to their own people.

"Working together, we can make a difference in developing a better future for children, and their mothers and fathers all across the African continent," Tobias said in remarks to the opening day of the fifth African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum. The forum runs through June 7.

AGOA provides duty-free access to more than 6,400 items - including textile products - into the U.S. market for African nations willing to reform their economies along free-market lines. The landmark trade legislation -- the first of its kind with Africa -- first was passed by Congress in 2000 and since has been amended and reauthorized.

U.S. foreign assistance to Africa has risen significantly in the past few years. In 2000, the United States provided $1.1 billion in aid to sub-Saharan Africa. In 2006, the United States will provide $3.3 billion.

"Even these significant increases pale in comparison to what can be achieved sustainably through private enterprise and individual ingenuity," Tobias said.

Some aspects of U.S. foreign assistance have fostered "permanent and profound positive changes in developing countries, particularly when partners were strong leaders with visions," he added.

In many cases, however, international assistance has caused citizens to expect external donors to be responsible for social and economic development rather than their own governments, he said.

"Outsiders cannot, with sustainability, cure citizens' health and [provide] safety, educate a critical mass, or create the conditions needed for economic growth, all of which are necessary for development," he said. "Those are responsibilities that only host governments can fulfill.

"It is important for African governments to set the stage for their private-sector 'players' to succeed. The most powerful locomotive in the world cannot move an inch unless its tracks rest on a firm foundation. Governments must provide the strong, predictable foundation for private-sector development," he added.

African nations under AGOA meet the requirements for trade preferences with the United States, Tobias said, but he added that it was "just the start of a long-term partnership that looks toward a number of goals."

The United States will "continue to partner with African leaders who are addressing business environment reform," Tobias said. Currently the United States is providing aid to African nations under AGOA in a variety of forms, he said, including developing sanitary systems that provide means to export agricultural products to the United States, investing in new roads, energy, ports and information and communications technology.