Bush Promises New Aid to Africa

Times Staff Writers

President Bush, responding to international pressure to do more for Africa, on Thursday proposed a $1.2-billion program to combat malaria and promised to double U.S. aid to the continent over the next five years.

Administration officials said Bush’s Africa initiatives, which include smaller programs to increase education and reduce sexual violence, represented a significant new commitment of U.S. resources to many of the world’s poorest nations.

But the U.S. plans appeared to fall short of the challenge issued by British Prime Minister Tony Blair in advance of next week’s summit of the Group of 8 industrialized nations in Scotland. Blair, the host of the summit, has put aid for Africa at the top of the G-8 agenda.


In remarks previewing the American response to Blair’s campaign, which has been supported by religious leaders, relief organizations and rock stars on both sides of the Atlantic, Bush said U.S. aid to Africa had tripled since he took office and would double again by 2010.

“After years of colonization and Marxism and racism, Africa is on the threshold of great advances,” Bush told an audience assembled by the conservative Hudson Institute at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art.

“All who live in Africa can be certain, as you seize this moment of opportunity, America will be your partner and your friend,” Bush said.

Stephen J. Hadley, the president’s national security advisor, said Bush’s pledge would increase U.S. assistance to Africa from $4.3 billion in 2004 to at least $8.6 billion by 2010. Hadley characterized it as the largest development aid increase over the shortest period of time “since Harry Truman and the Marshall Plan.”

Some aid experts disputed the Bush administration’s claims of past funding increases. Susan Rice, an assistant secretary of State for African affairs in the Clinton administration, said her calculations showed that U.S. aid to the continent had not quite doubled under Bush.

Much of the increase was in the form of emergency food donations, not development assistance. “That’s not the kind of aid that Blair and the G-8 want Bush to increase,” Rice said during a briefing arranged by the centrist Brookings Institution.

Several independent analysts said Bush’s pledge did not appear to satisfy Blair’s request for an overall doubling of development assistance from wealthy nations by 2010 and a tripling by 2015.

Blair’s proposal would require an additional $25 billion a year by 2010. So far, European nations have promised to provide $17 billion. Bush’s promise would cover about $4 billion of the remaining $8-billion gap. Analysts said America typically contributes about a quarter of new multilateral aid initiatives.

Bush’s biggest new commitment was a proposal to increase funding for malaria prevention and treatment programs by $1.2 billion over five years. The United States currently allocates about $200 million a year to fighting the insect-borne disease, which kills more than 1 million Africans annually.

“In the overwhelming majority of cases, the victims are less than 5 years old, their lives suddenly ended by nothing more than a mosquito bite,” Bush said. “The toll of malaria is even more tragic because the disease itself is highly treatable and preventable.”

The government-funded effort is designed to dovetail with a similar program announced recently by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bush said he would press other G-8 leaders at the summit to join the effort, with the goal of reducing malaria deaths by half in targeted countries.

The two other Africa initiatives unveiled by Bush would allocate $400 million over four years to extend a program that trains teachers, awards scholarships and builds schools, and $55 million to help four nations combat sexual violence and abuse against women.

Health and education advocates said they welcomed Bush’s promises of additional aid, although some criticized the administration for not digging deeper.

“It is a small amount of money compared to what is required,” said Louis Da Gama, malaria director for the Massive Effort Campaign, a private relief group. “The challenge right now is not to set up a new mechanism but to support the initiatives that have been set up previously.”

Gene Sperling, U.S. chairman of the Global Campaign for Education and a former Clinton advisor, characterized Bush’s education initiative as “a very small baby step” for African children.

“We are talking about an additional contribution of about $1 per person, a drop in the bucket, to keep our commitment to global education,” said Sperling, who participated with Da Gama in a conference call with reporters.

Carlos Campbell, who directs the Gates-funded malariaprevention program for PATH, a private health advocacy group, called Bush’s proposal a positive development that should not be judged merely by the dollar sign attached to it.

“It’s a lot more than zero,” Campbell said in an interview. “Sure, we can talk about why there isn’t more money. But I take this more as a huge opportunity and a challenge to make sure that the monies that are available are used in the optimum way.”

Campbell said the Bush initiative should become part of “a very strong coordinated effort with other major players so that it is not an isolated bilateral program.”