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Bush triples aid to Africa

One of the things that Bush is not getting credit for is aid to Africa. As I posted recently, this might be the only good thing his administration is ultimately remembered for. Today, a Washington Post article noted that the Administration has quietly tripled aid to Africa. With PEPFAR and the Millennium Challenge Account, aid to Africa has increased from $1.4 bn in 2001 to $4bn. It’s ironic, but a recent New York Times article suggested that American influence in Africa has deteriorated in recent years, in part because of the rising role of the Chinese but also the perceived sense of inattention by Africans by the United States. Oil is also making parts of Africa less dependent upon American largesse. Not only are the Africans not giving the U.S. credit for this renewed aid, but the American public doesn’t either. A poll earlier in 2006 of the American public asked which world leaders have done the most to combat AIDS. Only 25% of the American public regarded President Bush as a leader on global AIDS, trailing Bill Clinton (50%), Nelson Mandela (50%), and Bono (47%).

So what explains the Bush Administration’s interest in Africa? I’ve written extensively on this before, but Michael Gerson, Bush’s former speechwriter, makes the point again here:

I think there are two reinforcing trends here. One of them is the upside of foreign policy moralism. Another one is the growing strategic significance of Africa: the conflict with radical Islam; the problem of failed states and terrorism; and the growing importance of Africa on the resource side: oil.

Gerson went on to say that this is Bush’s core legacy:

I think [increasing aid to Africa] will be one of the things the president is most proud of when he leaves office. It doesn’t fit the preconception, the caricature that the president somehow has a preference for using the blunt instruments of force in international affairs when in fact on a variety of topics, the president has been a root-cause thinker in an unexpected way.

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