Ralph J. Bunche Center Howard University

Africa’s Future is "Bright," USAID Official Says

Africa’s future is bright, provided there is constructive and sustainable change in strategic areas of political and economic development.

This view was expressed by Dr. Constance Berry Newman, Assistant Administrator (Africa) in the United States Agency for International Development. Dr. Newman delivered the 2002 Patricia Roberts Harris Lecture, before a capacity audience, in the School of Business Auditorium on April 11.

In her address, titled "Africa’s Future: Dark, Dim or Bright," the U.S. government chief economic assistance official for Africa discussed several "myths" commonly associated with Africa and then outlined three "imperatives" to dispel the myths and bring about constructive change on the continent.

Myths, Dr. Newman said, include notions of unending poverty and corruption, lack of leadership and cultural heritage; tribal, ethnic, and religious differences that are irreconcilable; the total absence of democracy on the continent; and the total lack of economic growth anywhere in Africa over the past decade.

Point by point, Dr. Newman

refuted these notions, pointing, for example, to differences among various countries; citing the existence of natural resources that make Africa "rich, not poor," and highlighting cultural traditions "all too often overlooked." She also observed that "the best and fastest strategy to reduce the prevalence of civil war in Africa and prevent future civil wars is to institute democratic reforms that effectively manage the challenges facing diverse societies."

The USAID official cited several indices of economic growth in Africa over the past decade, identifying Botswana in particular as "a success story" and indicating significant developments in American trade in recent years with such countries as Uganda, Ghana, and Botswana.

USAID, she said, was encouraging these trends with support to agriculture, basic education, and democratization. The Africa Bureau’s economic assistance budget at one billion dollars is the largest ever, Newman asserted, and it is designed to enable Americans to work with African leaders "who have a common vision that it is their duty to eradicate poverty

and to place their countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development."

Newman’s three "imperatives" included African leaders themselves

taking responsibility for the continent’s future; substantial additional funds from developed countries to aid development; and recognition by donors of African countries as "full partners" in all areas, foreign affairs trade, and generally "as respected equals." If Africa is to have a bright future, she concluded, "we must discredit the myths and fulfill the imperatives."

Dr. Constance Berry Newman, Assistant
Administrator (Africa) of the U.S. Agency for
International Development, delivers the
Annual Patricia Roberts Harris Lecture in
Public Affairs on April 11, 2002.

The Patricia Roberts Harris Lecturer, Dr. Constance Berry Newman, is seen with Dr. Michael Winston, president of
the Harcourt Foundation, and Dr. Joseph Reidy, Associate Provost.

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