US turns spotlight on Africa.

Author:Vessily, Milan

Although it is still not clear whether or not US President Bill Clinton will be able to sufficiently extricate himself from both domestic and foreign crisis to undertake his historic tour of Africa later this month, the continent is enjoying a rare moment centre-stage. Milan Vessily attended the recent US Mayors' Summit on Africa in Washington to file this report.

Against the unfortunate backdrop of the White House sex scandal, the recent US Conference of Mayors' Summit on Africa in Washington brought together US Cabinet members, African ambassadors, members of Congress and advocates for African interests in the United States. It passed a number of resolutions expected to significantly influence future US/African economic relationships.

"The Atlantic doesn't divide us. It connects us. It's a trade route," the Rev. Jesse Jackson, President Clinton's special envoy to Africa, said in promoting the Clinton administration's 1998 African agenda. Expanding on this theme, Denver, Colorado's mayor, Mr Wellington Web went on to say that the 600m people of Africa's 54 sub-Saharan countries were not just candidates for foreign aid but also comprised an untapped market for US services and goods.

The mayors' conference and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's recent African tour give increased impetus to US/African economic cooperation, inspite of the fact that President Clinton himself only mentioned the African continent once during his 27 January State of the Union message. Briefly referring to the bi-partisan African Growth and Opportunity Act, also known as the African Trade Bill, President Clinton's 75-minute speech made only cursory reference to Ameri-ca's African interests. This and the possible cancellation of his March 1998 African tour due to the crisis dogging his presidency could mean that Africa's problems are likely to get scant attention from the White House in the near future.

Furthermore, whilst President Clinton's national security adviser Mr Sandy Berger stated at the conference that: "the road to closer ties to Africa have never been clearer or more inviting," a number of factors make this attitude a difficult one to fulfil.

The State Department's appended Partnership for Economic Growth and Opportunity in Africa protocol clearly states that the United States is committed to providing support to sub-Saharan African countries. It also says that President Clinton must take into account "whether or not a country engages in a...

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