From Africa Recovery, Vol.11#3 (February 1998), Briefs page

US visit heralds 'new dialogue' with Africa

Stating that the US is opening a "new chapter" in its relations with the continent, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited seven African countries in December to demonstrate US support for the positive economic and political changes "sweeping across" the continent. "Africa matters" to Washington and to Americans, she said in a major policy address at the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -- the first leg of a trip which also took her to Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Ms. Albright's trip -- her first to the continent as Secretary of State -- was intended to lay the groundwork for a visit by President Bill Clinton scheduled for March. President Clinton will make a state visit to South Africa, and is also expected to travel to Ghana, Uganda, Senegal and Botswana.

Praising Africa's "best new leaders" for working to build democratic societies and for making progress in reforming their economies, Secretary Albright acknowledged that the US and the international community must "do better" to work with Africans as "true partners" and put behind the "paternalism of the past."

The centrepiece of the Clinton administration's new Africa policy is its Africa Growth and Opportunity Act -- trade legislation currently before Congress which will help countries that undertake economic reforms find capital to develop their industries and markets to sell their products, according to Ms. Albright. A $150 mn investment fund for sub-Saharan Africa has also been established by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

During her trip, the Secretary of State also announced a $30 mn Great Lakes Justice Initiative to develop "impartial, credible and effective" judicial systems in the Central African region and a $10 mn contribution to a World Bank trust fund to be set up for reconstruction projects that the Democratic Republic of the Congo considers priorities.

Indicative of the "new dialogue" the Secretary said she came to open with Africa, Ms. Albright expressed regret for the US's past support for corrupt dictators such as the late Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, as well as for American government inaction during major African crises such as the Rwandese genocide. "I came to listen and I have listened," said Ms. Albright at the end of the tour.

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