U.S. policy on Africa ‘won’t change under Obama’

2009-07-16 00:00

SPEAKING at Chamber House yesterday, Jill Derderian, U.S. Consul-General in Durban, said that U.S. policy towards Africa under President Barack Obama’s administration is not substantially different from that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

“There is not major change, still a lot of continuity to look forward to,” Derderian said, addressing members of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) and the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Commerce on change, perceived or otherwise, under the Obama administration.

Derderian quoted from an early Bush position on Africa that regarded African leaders as equal partners, asking that they set clear goals with measurable results and good governance. She said Bush had also created several initiatives that made a big impact on Africa, not least in the field of HIV/Aids.

“During the Bush administration, the financial assistance to Africa went up significantly,” Derderian said. In 2001, it was $1,3 billion (R10,55 billion), which rose to $5,6Tbillion in 2008. In 2010, it will be $8,7 million.

Many of the previous administration’s positions were echoed by Obama in a speech given in Accra during his recent visit to Ghana. He emphasised democracy, the generation of wealth and peaceful resolution to conflict. “He also placed an emphasis on good governance. He said ‘Africa doesn’t need ‘strong men’, it needs strong institutions.’ ”

“The U.S. wants to partner with Africa, but it’s not a one-way street,” Derderian said. “His heritage obviously makes him a son of Africa, but he’s also a son of the world. One South African newspaper referred to his approach as ‘tough love’.”

Derderian had no definite date for when Obama might come to SA. “I don’t know. We hope next year…”

She was optimistic about the future relationship between the U.S. and South Africa and said she is looking forward to 2010 — “we both have strong teams to be excited about”.

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