|For Immediate Release||May 3, 1993|
I am delighted to have this opportunity to join you for the Brookings Africa Forum. I want to thank Francis Deng and the Brookings Institution for organizing and hosting this event.
This is my first public speech since President-elect Clinton asked me to become his National Security Advisor. It was not an accidental choice. Africa occupies a special place in my work and my affections. My dissertation was on U.S. policy toward South Africa. I have written on a range of African issues. And I have spent some of the happiest, most challenging times of my life on the Continent. I know that in the past there has been a sense that some administrations have taken years to figure out where Africa is on the map. I hope you will find in us a sense not only of where Africa is, but where we all hope it is going in the future.
This is an exciting and challenging time -- a time of change and promise. It is fundamentally a new era in world affairs. The Cold War is over. The Soviet Union is gone. The nuclear arms race has been shifted into reverse. Democracy is on the march. Global commerce is expanding.
Certainly, we face new threats, from weapons proliferation to violent ethnic conflict. But we also have the opportunity to pursue new forms of global problem solving -- through re-invigorated multilateral institutions, and through new partnerships that the Cold War had made impossible.
The global changes that receive the most attention are in Europe and Asia: the unification of Germany; the democratic struggles of Russia and the other new states; the prosperity of the Pacific Rim; the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. But you know as I do that the winds of change are blowing again across Africa as well. Some of those winds are harsh: continuing conflict in Liberia and Angola; human rights abuses, corruption, and resistance to democratic change in Togo and Zaire; and hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation across too much of the continent. But many of the winds of change in Africa carry the breath of hope: a new wave of democratic reform; a new generation of gifted leaders; new movement toward market economies and integration with the global economy; promising new efforts at conflict resolution and peacekeeping; new initiatives to protect Africa's fragile and glorious environment; and, I would add, the seeds of a new relationship with a new administration in Washington.
Today I want to offer a few thoughts on the nature of these changes, and how our Administration plans to address them.
I believe the most important change for Africa's long-term prospects is the Continent's new progress toward democracy.
For by its nature, democracy provides an inclusive and non-violent means of conflict resolution. It therefore provides an alternative to the kind of violent disputes that have drained so much of Africa's resources and hope in recent years. Moreover, well-structured democracies are more responsive to the material needs of their people. And democracies make better neighbors: they don't tend to wage war on each other.
That is what makes Africa's movement toward democracy so hopeful. In recent years, we have seen the proud birth of democracy in Namibia, and at least thirteen African countries have held multiparty elections. I was privileged to be an observer in Namibia at that time, and was moved by what I saw. Elections are expected in another fifteen countries before the end of the year.
Above all, in South Africa today, the statesmanship of both Nelson Mandela and F. W. DeKlerk and the courage of the South African people provide real hope that we may soon see what once seemed so remote -- the end of apartheid and the arrival of a true non-racial democracy in South Africa. All of us join in mourning the losses South Africa and the African National Congress have recently suffered, such as Chris Hani and Oliver Tambo. Yet we also join in hoping that their life's work has brought within reach the achievement of a new democratic day for all the people of South Africa.
Democracy means more than elections. As we have sadly witnessed in Angola, elections are not enough, in themselves, to bring peace and justice. Genuine democracy implies more, such as respect for individual and minority rights, and tolerance for a loyal opposition. These traditions are not well established in some parts of Africa. Yet Africa's substantial movement toward democracy suggests these concepts and institutions can ultimately be universal.
The movement toward African democracy is not something that has been noticed only by the Administration's African experts. It has caught the attention of their boss as well. When Ambassador Cisse and Ambassador Kitleli presented their credentials to President Clinton on April 14, he remarked to me afterward how impressed he was by his conversations with them. He was also impressed -- as he had told them -- by the progress toward democracy that had been made by both Mali and Lesotho. And he said he was very encouraged by this trend elsewhere in the Continent.
This movement toward democracy in many ways echoes the period of change Africa witnessed a generation ago. When Africa threw off colonialism, it was because Africans were tired of living under a ruling elite who put their own interests before those of the African people. Today, the rulers are African rather than European. But the African people have been saying once again that any ruling elite that puts its interests before those of the vast majority is no longer acceptable. They are protesting bloated, corrupt, or inefficient governments, and insisting on honest leaders who focus on the broad needs of their people.To be sure, Africa's democratic institutions will not always look like our own, nor necessarily should they. And democracy is not the answer for every ill that afflicts Africa. But it is a means to address many of those problems more effectively. And for that reason we must do what we can to help Africa nurture and sustain those institutions. We need to promote people-to-people programs and other efforts that can help foster civil society -- business groups, women's organizations, service clubs, student leagues. Such institutions operate on the principle of broad participation in community-level decision making, and thus create a base for democracy. Our administration is also examining how we can restructure our foreign assistance efforts, in part to reward and encourage those nations at the forefront of the democratic march.
The second encouraging change in Africa is the increased movement toward market economies and sustainable development. The past decade has seen the demise of statist economic systems around the world for one simple, non-ideological reason: they don't work.
Now, however, many African countries are undergoing the difficult transition toward economic liberalization. There is already some evidence that growth is higher in countries that are moving ahead with such economic adjustments, such as Ghana and Burundi. These transitions take years and must be sustained, but they are the only definitive remedy for the poverty that plagues the Continent. Addressing the problem of poverty also requires a measure of justice to ensure that a nation's additional income, earned by the many, is not distributed only to the few.
President Clinton is committed to exploring means to assist Africa's economic reforms and economic growth. For example, too many African nations face high debt burdens, which can hamper their economic transitions and recoveries. The total debt burden of Sub-Saharan Africa now exceeds its annual GNP and is more than three times the value of African exports. The Administration is exploring with Congress the possibility of joining with the other creditor nations of the Paris Club in providing debt reduction for the poorest, most debt-laden countries cooperating with the IMF in economic adjustment programs. This new initiative is particularly designed to reward with debt reduction those poorest countries implementing difficult reform programs.
The strongest way we can assist Africa's economic development, however, is by helping to integrate Africa into the growing global economy. Government aid is dwarfed by the economic power of private trade and investment. African nations themselves must do much of what is necessary to integrate into the world economy. In many cases, they need to move away from state-owned enterprises, fixed exchange rates, price-distorting subsidies, and corruption that makes business difficult. African nations should also stimulate growth by removing the barriers to trade between themselves. Efforts at regional cooperation such as fostered by SADC -- the Southern Africa Development Community -- can be helpful in this regard.
But we have a role to play as well. We can help American businesses learn more about the opportunities for African trade and investment. For example, last year, sub-Saharan Africa imported about $60 billion in goods, but only about $5 billion came from the US. It is both our interest and Africa's for that to change. Among other steps, the Administration will seek to promote more active African participation in international economic institutions, such as the GATT.
Africa's future requires not only economic growth but also economic justice. With 80 percent or more of the population employed in subsistence agriculture in most African countries, the urban elite too often demands more than their share of a country's resources. This is particularly true of the governing elite. There must be less invested in conspicuous consumption and more in health and education, where the welfare of the great majority lies.
One cannot speak seriously about Africa's economic future without speaking also about Africa's environment. In Africa, economics and environment are inseparable. And, today, Africa's environment is under great strain. About two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa's wildlife habitat has been destroyed by development. Uganda's forests have been decimated and its once plentiful grasslands have nearly been eliminated. Africa's desert is gaining ground at some three to six miles each year. In Ethiopia, the Rift Valley's acacia forest is fast becoming semi-desert.
No one who has visited Africa can help but feel the great tragedy that these statistics embody. And no one who understands Africa's economy can help but see the imperative of addressing Africa's environmental needs as part of an economic strategy.
There are encouraging signs. Many African leaders have taken impressive steps to preserve natural habitats, protect species, and promote methods of sustainable development. Our government is trying to do its part as well. The U.S. Agency for International Development plans to spend at least $70 million on environmental and natural resource projects in Africa this year.
We also must focus more energy on the underlying forces that strain Africa's natural and human resources, such as population growth and disease. After more than a decade of ideological impasse over many family planning efforts, our government has an opportunity to open a new chapter in our population efforts in Africa and elsewhere. And I pray that our stepped-up investments in research on AIDS here in the US may lead to advances in treatment, and eventually cure, to bring some measure of relief to an African AIDS epidemic that has become one of its most devastating problems of all time.
The third major challenge for Africa and our policy toward Africa involves the prevention and resolution of conflict. Much of the hardship and deprivation in Africa today results from the numerous civil wars that have raged across the Continent. In Angola, Mozambique, Sudan, and until recently Ethiopia, conflict has been a fact of life for years. Fighting in Liberia, Somalia and Rwanda has caused horrendous suffering as many people have had to flee their homes, their farms, and their means of support.
The United States cannot solve every conflict. But we can play a constructive role to help prevent and resolve disputes. Our work with multinational organizations is especially important. The best example of that is our current effort in Somalia. Half a year ago, Somalia was being decimated by civil anarchy and horrible famine. Today, the guns are quiet, food is flowing, crops are growing, and there is talk of civil reconstruction in the air. Now we are in the process of transferring peacekeeping responsibilities to the UN force, UNOSOM II. UNOSOM II will enforce cease-fires, disarm factional militias, and help create an atmosphere in which Somalia can restore civil government.
Peacemakers and peacekeepers are on the front lines in other nations as well, such as Liberia and Angola. Peacekeeping efforts need to be accelerated in Mozambique in order that the fragile peace there is strengthened. But in addition to helping solve disputes, we must also work to help prevent disputes. We need to place greater emphasis on such tools as mediation and preventive diplomacy. Africa's own organizations, such as the Organization of African Unity, have shown promise in recent years, and we need to help build their capacity to engage early and effectively. This implies an activist approach in nations that are disasters in the making.
The coming years will be a challenging time for Africa. None of us underestimates the magnitude of political, economic, environmental, and health problems that confront a great many of Africa's states.
Yet anyone who knows Africa also sees the greatness and power that dwell across the Continent. It is the greatness of natural beauty and the power of untapped resources. It is the greatness of diverse and rich cultures and the power of talented peoples yearning for a better future. And the progress toward democracy and reform in Africa today tells me that future is now much more than a dream.
During the presidential campaign, then Governor Clinton noted that progress when he said this: "A revolution is underway in Africa. From South Africa to Ethiopia -- from Kenya to Zaire -- Africans are struggling to achieve political and economic freedoms that we Americans often take for granted. We have a strong interest in helping them to translate those freedoms into a better life for themselves and their children."
I share that conviction. And I share the determination of now- President Clinton to put those words into action. As we do, I look forward to working with many of you in this room and the great nations you represent. Thank you.
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House
White House for Kids | White House History
White House Tours | Help | Text Only
Brookings Africa Forum Luncheon - May 1993