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African development needs more actions, less words

Xinhua - August 15, 2009
Joseph Kabila and Hillary Clinton in Goma - Congo

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up her 11-day, seven-nation African tour on Thursday without announcing sincere and pragmatic actions to promote African development except promising financial aid to very few countries she visited.

The tour which began early last week took Hillary to Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde.

The United States, the biggest developed nation in the world, should spare no efforts to provide sustainable aid, including financial and technology aid, to the African continent, home to most of the developing countries

While visiting west African nation Ghana in July this year, U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled his administration's foreign policy toward the African continent, vowing to help African countries realize development by increasing aid and investment, creating more trade opportunities for African countries.

So far, the Obama administration has not worked out concrete measures to help the continent, disappointing Africans.

Tom Wheeler of the South African Institute of International Affairs, was quoted by Reuters as saying recently "There were enormous expectations after (Barack) Obama was elected and after the inauguration."

"People thought that the flood gate of aid will be opened but now they are aware of the limitations," said Wheeler.

Ahead of the three-day African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum held Kenya's capital Nairobi early last week, African leaders, including Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, called on the United States to take concrete measures to promote the trade between the United states and Africa so as to achieve substantial progress in the trade sector.

But Hillary, at the forum, did not elaborate how the United States would promote the trade between the two. She, instead, urged the African countries to remove trade barriers among them.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act, which was started to be implemented in 2000 by the then Bill Clinton's administration, is termed as the most favorable trade act approved by the U.S. Congress in its history. In reality, the African countries have not benefit from it so far due to the harsh trade standards and the complicated approval procedures.

The worldwide financial crisis has dealt a heavy blow to the already poor African continent, triggering the sharp drop of exports, the significant reduction of fiscal income, the sharp decrease of capital inflow. More serious is that the dim economic situation has increased the poor and hungry population in the continent.

Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand and the new administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), noted in June this year during her visit to Africa that most African countries have lagged far behind in realizing the Millennium Development Goals, a result of the failure of the developed countries to keep their aid promises to Africa.

As Hillary began her African tour, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told the U.S. secretary of state "Do not lecture us," stressing that the problems faced by the African countries are created by the Western countries.

For its part, Liberia, the sixth leg of Hillary's African tour, had this to say "The United States must show its willingness in providing Liberia with substantial aid."

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