With President George Bush planning a trip to Africa next month, Africans will be monitoring his State of the Union speech tonight (Monday), hoping for more initiatives to help poor countries.
Herman Hannekon is a researcher on contemporary African affairs in Cape Town, South Africa. He says, “If we look at the situation in a complete and holistic manner, the best news that President Bush can bring to Africa is that the restriction on trade will be lifted.” He says previous American trade initiatives designed to benefit Africa have been under-utilized by businesses and governments. “A lot of blame lies with the continent itself in that they did not fully avail themselves of the opportunity that was given to them under the African Growth and Opportunities Act,” he says. “There are various excuses or reasons, whichever one seeks to call them, that can be brought to the fore, but I would say that for the past year Africa has been very adversely hit by weather conditions.”
Hannekon says President Bush’s trip to Africa adds more importance to his speech. “What I would say is that whatever President Bush commits the United States to regarding Africa, there is the AIDS problem, there is the malaria problem, agriculture and so forth, he must be careful not to leave the impression that it is him committing himself to those commitments.”