by Badia Jacobs
(IPS) JOHANNESBURG --
President George W. Bush leaves Africa this weekend, analysts, citizens, even Hungarian tourists to Johannesburg, are asking the question: so, what next?
Optimists, including the South African, Nigerian, Botswana, Senegalese and Ugandan governments, are convinced that his trip has opened up real possibilities for Africa's development. He came armed with a $10 billion Millennium Challenge Account to alleviate poverty and a pledge of $15 billion to combat HIV/AIDS.
The chief executive of world's only superpower thought it strategic and necessary to visit Africa and commit his country's considerable largesse to help the continent in its time of need, the optimists argue. At stake are continuing civil wars, poverty, inadequate health facilities and programmes to tackle HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, cholera and malaria.
With U.S. backing, the chances of bankrolling the African Union (AU), which is a year old and was formed out of the former Organization of African Unity, are now greater.
The AU's reconstruction plan, which is called the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), will cost an estimated $60 billion to implement and its chief architects, South African President Thabo Mbeki and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade cannot afford to go it alone.
For one thing, Senegal does not have the money to subsidize pan-African schemes on this scale, and for the plan to have real impact, the 53 states that have signed the AU's constitutional declaration in Togo last year, need to be brought on board. Continental "buy-in" is considered critical for Nepad's success. Bush's visit has given legitimacy to the democratic process that African states have embarked upon and he has placed much store in the roles played by Mbeki and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
For the critics, Africa's development has been dealt a savage blow by Bush's visit. They argue that Bush's African safari was all about oil and gas. Africa has oil reserves of just under 7.8 billion barrels. This is 6.4 percent of global output. The U.S. imports about 18 percent of its oil from Nigeria, Angola and Gabon. Over the next 10 years, this is expected to increase to 25 percent.
According to the Cambridge Energy Research Association, Bush's trip highlights economic concerns that relate directly to the US's energy security. The think-tank, in a recently published paper, asserts: "Increasing economic and political stability in Africa supports a linchpin of US energy policy: diversifying oil and gas import sources."
This view is supported by the South African-based Anti-War Coalition and the South African Communist Party, which organized nationwide protests against the Bush visit. As in Iraq, which under Saddam Hussein changed its dollar-based oil sales to euros, Bush has oil in his sights. For Bush, these critics argue, dislodging Iraq from the oil cartel, Opec, was in his interests. Most oil-producing African states are also not part of Opec and therefore easier to deal with.
While the African and international juries on Bush's whistle-stop tour of the continent are still out, his emphasis on trade with the U.S. has not fallen on deaf ears.
Equally, his bag of dollars must not be underestimated. The U.S. president knows that the South Africa-Nigeria axis is critical for his vision for Africa. While Bush may well be a man with whom Mbeki and Obasanjo "can do business with," resistance to U.S. global hegemony remains contested terrain.
If poverty, hunger and disease continue to proliferate, Africa will be a "breeding ground" for terror. For Africa to be brought to heel and submit to the U.S.'s global agenda, trade and business must dominate. This seems to have been the outcome of Bush's visit to Africa.
July 13, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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