JOHANNESBURG — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is in Africa this week to make on-site visits to projects funded by the William J. Clinton Foundation.
On Sunday, hundreds of singing children and volunteers greeted the former president as he arrived at the ramshackle Ikusasalethu Community Center in Johannesburg’s impoverished Soweto township, which houses a program that pairs students with mentors for a year as part of efforts to help the children acquires skills to better compete in South Africa’s tight job market.
Clinton's multi-billion-dollar foundation funds programs, most of which focus on health, education, sustainable urban growth and the environment, across the continent.
In South Africa, which has the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases in the world, the foundation has negotiated cheaper AIDS drugs, a deal that has resulted in the largest anti-retroviral drug program on the continent.
"South Africa has probably saved more lives by drastically increasing treatment for AIDS in the last year and a half than any country ever has in a similar amount of time," Clinton said. "So everybody knows that for years they had a government that did not believe in doing what needed to be done; now they are in overdrive. These are the kinds of things that we need to do. It gives people hope. It gives people a sense of progress."
The African continent, the former president said, captivated him on his first visit in 1998, and this visit coincides with the 94th birthday of former South African president Nelson Mandela, July 18, which the United Nations declared an international day of observance in 2009.
Clinton praised Mandela and those who have urged people worldwide to mark the day by performing acts of community service.
“It's a big part of South Africa’s future, getting people involved in this kind of work, doing public good as private citizens," he said. "And I think it will be important all over Africa.”
In the coming week, Clinton will also visit his programs sponsored by his foundation in Mozambique, Rwanda and Uganda.