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Analysts React to Bush, Blair Aid Pledges for Africa

U.S. President George Bush is pledging $674 million additional in aid to Africa - to combat famine and other humanitarian emergencies. The announcement came after President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair met at the White House Tuesday. Mr. Blair is proposing a plan to reduce poverty in Africa, and is asking the U.S. and other wealthy nations to support his ambitious initiative, that would double aid to Africa by 2010.

"I am pleased to announce that the United States will provide approximately $674 million of additional resources to respond to humanitarian emergencies in Africa," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush announced the emergency aid package at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House Tuesday. He said $414 million of that money would go to the Horn of Africa immediately - to avert famine there.

Mr. Blair said he has made significant progress on his debt relief plan for Africa, but some issues still need to resolved before he presents it to a July summit of the Group of Eight, or G-8, the world's seven industrialized nations plus Russia Mr. Blair had wanted Mr. Bush's full support of his $50 billion Africa aid initiative.

It calls for forgiving 100 percent of the debt owed by African nations, an end to many trade subsidies and the doubling of aid to Africa by the year 2010. That is a commitment President Bush said he could not make because of how the U.S. budgetary process works.

Stephen Morrison, the director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. says even if the U.S. and other countries were willing to provide that kind of funding, it might not work well.

"There's a concern about the pace and timing in which you make an increase because you have a continent which has a number of capable states that could absorb a significant increase, but it also has a number of weakly governed countries that are going to require a very careful management and oversight of the relief so that it doesn't feed corruption," he said.

African leaders have proposed NEPAD, the New Plan for African Development - that promises self-generated reforms, in exchange for investment or aid. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair both stressed that African governments must show they are committed to reforming.

"We also need to make sure that there is a commitment on the part of the African leadership to proper governance, to action against corruption, to making sure that the aid and the resources that we are prepared to commit, actually go to the people that it and do the job that it's supposed to do," Mr. Blair said.

Bill Fletcher, the president of TransAfrica Forum, an Africa advocacy group in Washington, D.C., says Africa needs to make decisions for itself.

"Africa needs to develop its own approach to economic and political directions," he said. "It can't have those determined by Geneva, Washington, London, Berlin or anywhere else. It needs to say this is what we the people of Africa, the diverse people of this continent, the cradle of humanity, this is what we must do."

Mr. Fletcher says that means African nations will have to rethink their borders, find ways to share natural resources and find a way to end inter-ethnic rivalries.

Emira Woods, the co-director of the Washington, D.C. think tank Foreign Policy in Focus says the countries of Africa first will need help in developing before they can thrive.

"To have communities in those countries, those 54 countries in the continent, thrive, you need access to education, access to health care, and yet the U.S. has not had a foreign policy that has committed itself in a fundamental way to Africa's development," she said.

President Bush said helping Africa is "a central commitment" of his administration's foreign policy and pointed out that its spending on Africa has tripled in the last four years.