This week, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced new economic initiatives for Africa in Dakar, Senegal, at a meeting of the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum. She also visited a refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan, and met the country’s leadership, and promoted Middle East peace in Israel and Lebanon.
John Stremlau is the head of the Department of International Studies at the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg and a former deputy director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff during the administrations of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Professor Stremlau says the Secretary of State’s trip, coming on the heels of a G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, is a reminder to Africans of the importance the US attaches to trade with and security on the continent. He says Senegal, the first stop on Ms. Rice’s trip, is not only an important trading partner, but also an example of “good governance.” That’s been an important goal of American foreign policy in Africa since the end of the Cold War. Dakar is also an important player in Africa’s own project for improving economic growth and good governance, NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
Professor Stremlau says the American Secretary of State’s visit to Lebanon was also an effort to encourage democracy there. He says the US government has been encouraging the Arab world to adopt a similar NEPAD-like project that would include democratization and the advancement of women.
And, he says the Secretary’s call for the protection of refugee women in Darfur shows the administration’s belief that women’s rights are fundamental to development in Africa. As an African-American woman, Professor Stremlau says Condoleezza Rice is a well placed to draw the attention of the developing world to female empowerment.