Friday, February 15, 2008

Aid or Bribe

I read that Liberia's pop queen is practicing her newest single — a song called "Thank you" to be released for President Bush's visit here next week.
Her head tilted back, Juli Endee pulls the microphone close and belts out, "Thank you, George Bush."
"Thank you for democracy,"
she croons over the electric guitar, shaking her hips wrapped in yellow cloth.
"Thank you for the rule of law," she sings.
"Thank you for debt relief."

"If you were to take a survey, you would find that there is not one Liberian that doesn't love George Bush," effuses pop star Endee.

The Bush administration has made Africa the centerpiece of its aid strategy. Twelve of the 15 countries receiving funding from the five-year, $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief are in Africa. Nine African countries are among the 16 drawing grants from Bush's Millennium Challenge Corporation, which provides support to nations that have reached benchmarks from stemming corruption to investing in immunizations. Since Bush took office, U.S. development aid to Africa has tripled, funding for HIV programs have vaulted from under $1 billion to over $6 billion per year and garment exports from Africa to America, fueled by special trade deals, increased sevenfold, according to U.S. statistics.

Bush's focus on the continent, analysts said, stems from the realization that it's no longer just a case of Africa needing America, but of America needing Africa.

Today, a fifth of U.S. oil imports come from a single African nation — Nigeria. By the end of the decade, one in five new barrels of oil entering the global market are projected to come from Africa, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Benin, where Bush's trip will begin Saturday, received a $307 million grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation two years ago for its commitment to democracy.
Ghana, one of the most stable democracies in West Africa, was the recipient of $547 million 2006 — "the largest grant ever to Ghana," according to Kwabena Anaman, director of research at Ghana's Institute of Economic Affairs.
Rwanda, which is recovering from a 1994 genocide, has just qualified to receive funding under the Millennium Challenge program.

Although the scale of funding under the Millennium Challenge is unprecedented, the program has been slow to take off, with only a fraction of the intended funds reaching the target countries six years after its launch.

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