It was at a recent appearance before Washington’s National Press Club that First Lady Laura Bush summed up her five-day, four-nation African tour. Over the course of the 45-minute speech, she talked about Senegal, Mali, Mozambique and Zambia where she visited schools, villages, hospitals, micro-credit programs and community centers supported by the American people.
Why the United States is spending time and money on the African continent was the fundamental question she wanted to address…
"Our partners in Africa," she said, "are faced with extraordinary challenges -- but as President Bush has said, Africa is much more than the sum of its problems. It's a beautiful continent with fascinating cultures, with proud and determined people, who have an entrepreneurial spirit and a deep faith. And if you have the opportunity to meet these people, your question will no longer be 'Why Africa?' It will be, 'Why not' ?"
This was her third trip to Africa and whether it is the Africa Education Initiative – a program providing scholarships to African girls, or the Millennium Challenge Corporation grants to Mozambique and Mali, or the PEPFAR initiative to combat HIV/AIDS, the First Lady said she saw signs of progress.
But while visiting the Arbino family in the remote village of Mozal, she got a taste of the everyday realities firsthand.
"On the day i visited," she explained,"the Arbinos had a scare when their baby girl was taken to the hospital with malaria symptoms. Fortunately, her test came back negative. Too many children in Mozambique are not so lucky."
In a given year, American taxpayers spend nearly seven billion dollars on African development. According to Mrs. Bush, what America is doing on the continent works. She said Africans are more optimistic now than ever before --- that the challenges they face everyday can be overcome.