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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Dr. Cindy Courville
Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director, African Affairs

July 6, 2005

Dr. Cindy Courville
Good morning. I look forward to taking your questions today. In addition, I look forward to traveling to Darfur, Sudan later this afternoon with Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick and I will attend the AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) Forum from July 18-20 in Senegal. Let's get started.

Abbas, from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia writes:
I am an Ethiopian living and working in Ethiopia. It makes me happy to read on this site that Ethiopia is one of African country that is is within the focus of the American administration. But my worry wether recent political development in Ethiopia affects this relationship. Abbas

Dr. Cindy Courville
Ethiopia continues to be a key country for the U.S. We are concerned however about recent political developments. We encourage the people of Ethiopia to remain calm, to avoid violence, as well to let the electoral process work. We hope that the people of Ethiopia will embark on the road of Democracy through free and fair elections.

Sonya, from Virginia writes:
Dear Dr. Courville: How can the US can achieve its African policy of good governance if it continues to let down African leaders who try to bring economic freedom to their country? Does the US feels threatened by African economic freedom? Why or Why not? Thank you, Sonya

Dr. Cindy Courville
The U.S. has been exceedingly supportive of good governance in Africa. The President recently met with five African Presidents: Niger, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, and Ghana. We believe that good governance and economic freedom go hand in hand. All five of the countries the President recently met with are AGOA countries. Two of the five are also MCA (Millennium Challenge Account) eligible.

The President at the G-8 will emphasize both good governance and trade and development.

Jurgen, from Holland writes:
I hope that you give my congratulations to President Bush, It is his birthday today.

Dr. Cindy Courville
Thank you for your congratulations, Jurgen. I will pass your message along to the President.

Michael, from Long Beach writes:
I know that the United States is often criticized for not giving enough to Africa with the problems of AIDS, famine, and building infastructure.

However, I seem to remember in many speeches that the President states that quite a bit of aid and funding has gone to AFrica in the last four years. Can you please tell me what has been ongoing to help?

Dr. Cindy Courville
Indeed, the President has taken bold steps in addressing the problems of addressing AIDS, famine and building infrastructure. During the first term, the President provided $15 billion to fight the pandemic of AIDS. This has allowed us to provide anti-retroviral, mother to child transmission drugs--to help save children yet to be born, and has provided much needed day to day care of orphans of HIV-AIDS.

In the area of famine, the U.S. is the largest donor of both funding, food and medicine to support those in Darfur. The President recently launched an initiative against hunger and famine that will address the needs of those in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Southern Africa who are experiencing the devastation of drought.

The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) provides countries the opportunity to design programs to address the problems of building infrastructure. Madagascar was recently awarded a compact in April and Cape Verde just recently was awarded a compact yesterday. These compacts will allow countries to address the challenges of infrastructure that will enhance trade and development in these countries.

Robert, from Spokane writes:
Dr. Cindy Courville, have you traveled to Africa extensively and what are your most memorable moments on the African continent?

Dr. Cindy Courville
Yes, I have traveled extensively in Africa. There are many memorable moments, let me just speak of a few.

My first Africa experience was Zimbabwe in 1984, only four years after they achieved their independence after 15 years of armed struggle for independence. This is truly a beautiful country. I first saw Victoria Falls on "CBS Sunday Morning" and knew I had to go to Zimbabwe. Unfortunately today, I can say the beauty of Zimbabwe is marred by the ironic turn from a leader who once led the struggle for independence to one who now devastated the country politically and economically.

But also I have seen the beauty of the mountains of Rwanda and the wonder of the gorillas in the midst.

And next, the oceans and cliffs of Angola, where I experienced the best lobsters in the world.

And one cannot forget the beauty of Cape Town, with Table Mountain, and the fine wines of South Africa.

I look forward again to traveling this afternoon to a very new destination, Sudan, which is bittersweet. I will witness the birth of the new government of national unity, that has ended a war of over 20 years. But on the next day, I will go to Darfur and see first hand the horrors of genocide.

Amber, from Maple Grove writes:
Could you please tell me what AGOA and the Millenium Challenge Account are? I have read about them on the news and on this web site, but still can't seem to fully understand what role each plays in the United States and AFrica.

Dr. Cindy Courville
The fourth U.S.-sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum will be held in Dakar, Senegal, July 18-20, 2005. As President Bush announced on June 13, senior administration officials will participate in the Forum, including U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew Natsios and other U.S. officials.

The theme for the 2005 Forum is “Expanding and Diversifying Trade to Promote Growth and Competitiveness.” This high-level meeting will set the stage for active discussion on how to foster greater interest and investment in AGOA, as well as provide practical information about how to meet U.S. export requirements and successfully enter U.S. markets.

U.S. imports of nonpetroleum African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) goods continued their impressive growth in 2003, climbing 32 percent to $537 million. AGOA totals are heavily influenced by the world market price of oil and South Africa remains AGOA's largest beneficiary. Apparel remains the most dynamic sector under AGOA. AGOA apparel producers increased their share of the U.S. important apparel market, going from 1.9 percent in 2002 to 2.4 percent in 2003.

The Millennium Challenge Account is an innovative program designed to focus on investment, not aid. Countries are responsible for designing a business program that is to be evaluated by a quasi-independent board, chaired by the United States Secretary of State. Country teams are dispatched to the eligible countries to work with them to make their proposal a reality. Today, we have two African countries who have successfully achieved their compacts--Madagascar and Cape Verde. We hope by years end to have another 4-8 African countries complete their compacts.

Peter, from New York, New York writes:
I don't believe simply throwing money at a problem ever solved anything.

How will aid to Africa be used to help the continent develop economically?

Dr. Cindy Courville
Aid in itself is not the answer for economic development. For the last 20-30 years, the G-8 countries primarily provided aid to Africa. In order for Africa to prosper and meet the Millennium Challenges, we must focus on trade and investment. This cannot be a first-world endeavor alone, it requires a strong partnership with African leaders and people. This requires building roads, bridges, electrification of the continent, fresh water, and irrigation of the land. Education is a critical component of bringing about change. African families want the same thing that American families want--an opportunity for their children and a bright future.

Programs like AGOA and MCA are the foundation for this change. President Bush urges African leaders to take full responsibility and accountability for how their resources are used. We believe that good governance, strong free and fair elections, innovative trade and investment approaches are the key for U.S.-assistance and investment. We salute the progressive steps taken by President Mogae of Botswana, whose vibrant economy and flourishing democracy since 1962 is one of the hallmarks of statesmanship--not just for Africa, but for the world. President Bush met with President Mogae last month to discuss the future of Africa that must be based on democracy and trade. President Bush praised him for his outstanding leadership against the pandemic of AIDS, which is also threatening the economic viability of the continent.

Many African leaders, just to name a few, are embracing open markets, such as: Senegal, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa, as well as many more. The President salutes their leadership for being brave and bold in changing the economic face of Africa.

Nicole, from Seattle writes:
What can the public do to help the people of Africa?

Dr. Cindy Courville
There is much that the American people can do. President Bush stated last week in his speech about the G-8 and Progress in Africa, "We seek progress in Africa and throughout the developing world because conscience demands it. Americans believe that human rights and the worth of human lives are not determined by race or nationality, or diminished by distance. We believe that every life matters and every person counts. And so we are moved when thousands of young lives are ended every day by the treatable disease of malaria. We're moved when children watch their parents slowly die of AIDS, leaving young boys and girls traumatized, frightened and alone. Peoples of Africa are opposing these challenges with courage and determination and we will stand beside them."

A U.S. private citizen can better understand Africa by reading novels like Maru and Double Yoke, visiting the continent, and urging media to provide greater coverage of the good news stories across the continent. It is not a continent of flame and war, but rather a continent filled of hope and hard-working people. There are many wonderful African films produced by African producers who give you the color and flavor of life in Africa.

On the political front, the American public can support the President's call to service in aiding this continent.

Dr. Cindy Courville
Africa for the President is both a passion and a commitment to work in partnership with African leaders and their people to obtain and sustain the right to democracy and prosperity. The Bush Administration's Africa Policy focuses on good governance, trade and investment, health care and security for the continent. The President's engagement in this second term focuses on transformation that will contribute to Africa's achieving the Millennium goals.

Thank you for your questions and I look forward to traveling to the beautiful continent of Africa again today.

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