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Bush Africa Trip to Promote Economic Growth, Democracy - 2003-07-07

U.S. President George W. Bush leaves late Monday for Africa, where he is promising to reward good governance and economic reforms with more U.S. aid. It is part of a campaign to improve America's image, following its controversial invasion of Iraq.

The president's so-called Millennium Challenge will boost American aid to Africa by about 50 percent during the next few years. But that money will only go to governments that meet U.S. criteria for investments in health care and education, free market reform, and fighting corruption.

The president's national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, said Mr. Bush is encouraging good governance in Africa, in hopes of improving living conditions by strengthening economic performance. "This president takes seriously Africa, African leaders, and the potential of this continent to be a fully contributing continent to world growth and prosperity," Ms. Rice said.

President Bush said he wants to hold governments responsible for investing in social programs and economic reforms, not allow donor funds to be used to enrich Africa's ruling parties.

"We are not going to give money to corrupt rulers. We are not going to give money to non-transparent societies. The American taxpayer and this American president believes that, in return for aid - and we have got a generous amount of aid available - we expect people to take care of their people by educating them and creating good health care. We expect there to be market-oriented economies growing, and we expect the rulers to be thoughtful and mindful of who they represent, and that is the people of their country, not themselves or their ruling elite," Mr. Bush said.

Increasing aid, opening U.S. markets to more trade, and spending more on the fight against AIDS is also part of the Bush administration's push to improve America's image abroad. The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was unpopular in many African countries, including Nigeria and South Africa, both of which Mr. Bush will visit.

The trip is meant to show leaders who are skeptical of his intentions that Mr. Bush is reaching out to countries in need, as he tries to balance military action in Afghanistan and Iraq with humanitarian assistance in Africa and the Caribbean.

"Just as our enemies are coming to know the strong will of America, people across this Earth are seeing the good and generous heart of America," he said.

Ms. Rice said the fight against international terrorism has understandably focused world attention on U.S. military power, but she said American power has always had two parts.

"It does try to make the world more secure, and we are trying to do that in a number of ways. But it also has always been committed to values and to trying to make the world better. And these initiatives, plus trade and the words that we use about values, are the core of reminding the world that America is a country that is also devoted to the betterment of people," Ms. Rice said.

In addition to Nigeria and South Africa, Mr. Bush also visits Senegal, Botswana and Uganda to carry the message that America cares about Africa's future.