How America Can Help Africa
By YOWERI MUSEVENI
May 24, 2002 - Wall Street Journal
Media coverage of the protests against globalization has
diverted attention from what may well be a more striking
and historic development: the growing consensus between
African countries and their Western partners on the importance
of trade in overcoming global poverty.
From President Bush to the rock star Bono (now touring
Africa with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill) to the leaders
of the 54 African countries represented in the Organization
of African Unity, there is now a broad agreement that no
national or international strategy for addressing poverty
can be successful unless it promotes expanded trade and
For too long, Africans and their partners in the West have
looked to international aid as the answer to the poverty
and economic challenges confronting developing countries
such as Uganda. While well-intentioned, this over-emphasis
on aid has actually handicapped Africa by promoting a dependency
mentality and the impression that African countries could
not compete in the global economy.
By itself, aid cannot transform societies. Only trade can
foster the sustained economic growth necessary for such
a transformation. If somebody buys what Uganda produces,
then he is rendering my country the best assistance possible,
especially if the trade is in manufactured or processed
goods, which tend to employ more people, at higher levels
of skill, and which have subsidiary benefits throughout
Africa does need development assistance, just as it needs
relief from its crushing international debt burden. But
aid and debt relief can only go so far. If you cancel the
debt of a poor man, what guarantee do you have that he will
not contract new debts? The more pressing challenge is to
increase the income of this man so that he can balance his
Africa needs opportunity, especially the opportunity to
trade its goods in rich-country markets. The African Growth
and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was an enormous step in the right
direction. This landmark U.S. legislation gives duty-free
and quota-free access to the U.S. market to essentially
all goods produced in Africa, including clothing (which
had previously been subject to both tariffs and quotas).
In Uganda and many other African countries, this legislation
is bringing in new foreign investment and holds the promise
of creating thousands of new jobs.
By opening its market to African goods, the U.S. is also
doing itself a favor. More investment and more employment
in Africa will increase the purchasing power of the African
people, thus providing a more attractive market for U.S.
goods. Since the enactment of AGOA, U.S. exports to Africa
have increased significantly, creating new American jobs.
For our part, we Africans must do more to put our own houses
in order. Here again, there is a growing consensus between
the donor countries and the developing world. President
Bush has pledged substantial amounts of new development
assistance for countries that are opening their markets,
improving governance, and encouraging economic and political
freedoms. As he rightly points out, aid to countries that
are not committed to such objectives is often wasted.
African leaders agree. In the New Economic Partnership
for African Development, a plan endorsed by the Organization
of African Unity, African leaders have committed to many
of the same principles described by President Bush and have
embraced full responsibility for eradicating poverty and
placing their countries on a path of sustainable growth
and development, with special attention to trade. This plan,
and the West's role in helping Africans to achieve it, is
expected to be a major focus of discussions at the G-8 summit
I know first-hand of the transformative power of trade
and of the measures countries must take to attract trade
and investment. Uganda has implemented wide-ranging economic
reforms in recent years, leading to macroeconomic stability
and economic growth averaging 6.5% over the past 16 years.
These measures, along with incentives to diversify the economy
and expand exports, have attracted foreign investment and
created new jobs.
Another sign of the new African commitment to development
through trade is the active and growing involvement of African
governments in the World Trade Organization. African delegations
played an important and influential role in the launch of
the new round of international trade negotiations at the
WTO meeting in Doha last November.
All of this suggests that there is a new dynamic evolving
between Africa and the wealthier countries of the world.
We Africans are no longer looking for handouts. Rather,
we are asking for the opportunity to compete, to sell our
goods in Western markets, to be considered for private investment
funds, and to participate more fully in the global trading
system. In short, we want to trade our way out of poverty
and ask that the U.S. and other developed countries support
us in this effort.
Mr. Museveni is president of Uganda.
Updated May 24, 2002 - Wall Street Journal
URL for this article: http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB1022200315872144600.djm,00.html