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New U.S. Africa Strategy
The National Security Advisor for the Trump Administration, John Bolton, unveiled the new strategy for the U.S. aid and investment in Africa in a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. During the speech, Bolton outlined what the new U.S. Africa strategy will look like. It has three main focuses: advancing U.S. trade and commercial ties, countering Islamic terrorism and making sure that U.S. dollars are used efficiently and effectively. In the text below, the three main objectives of the new U.S. Africa Strategy are presented.

Advancing US Trade and Commercial Ties

Bolton stated in his speech that the United States plans on providing assistance to “key countries” and strategic objectives, with U.S. economic interests at the forefront of any aid given, unlike previous administrations, whose objectives in providing aid were focused on sustainable growth for African countries. In order to achieve this goal, the U.S. plans on enacting a new initiative called “Prosper Africa.” This initiative will focus on growing the African middle class, improving the business climate in the region, and supporting U.S. investments. No details on how the initiative will be implemented were given.

Countering Islamic Terrorism

The second objective of the new U.S. Africa strategy is to counter Islamic terrorism in Africa. Bolton highlighted three nations specifically: Mali, Libya and Sudan, where Al-Qaeda and ISIS affiliates have taken hold. Rather than giving money or aid directly to fighting the radical groups that have taken hold in these and other nations in Africa, the new plan will focus on strengthening the economies of African nations. This will allow African nations to be more self-sufficient and will make them better prepared to address a range of security threats, including terrorism.

The goal of the Trump administration in the new U.S. Africa strategy is to help African nations become more self-sufficient and better able to take ownership of the security of the region. This strategy is closely aligned with the Department of Defense’s plans to reduce troop presence in Africa by 10 percent.

Efficient and Effective

In his speech, Bolton stated that the new U.S. Africa strategy will revisit the foundational principles of the Marshall Plan. Enacted in 1948 after World War II, The Marshall Plan was an American initiative to give aid to and help rebuild Western Europe. It legitimized U.S. foreign aid programs and opened markets for American goods. One way in which the Trump administration plans on making sure U.S. dollars are being used effectively and sticking to the principles of the Marshall Plan is by bypassing the United Nations. Coincidentally, the government will also reevaluate its support of U.N. peacekeeping missions.

What this Means for Africa

The economic focus of the new strategy has the potential to improve conditions in Africa. Under the new U.S. Africa strategy, United States aid must be invested in health and education, transparent governance and follow the rule of law. If these tenets are followed, the strategy may help African nations to become more self-sufficient and therefore better equipped to handle their own security issues.

Unfortunately, Bolton provided few details as to how the government plans on making sure the tenets are upheld. More information and examples of how the U.S. Africa strategy is to be enacted are needed to know if the new Africa strategy will be beneficial to all African nations.

– Peter Zimmerman
Photo: Google

Brief History of US Foreign Aid Policy
When hearing the term “foreign aid,” one probably thinks of the U.S. giving money to poor countries for food and water. While this assumption is partially correct, U.S. foreign aid is also a means of economic and political strategic fodder for the U.S. Foreign aid often includes providing money to foreign countries for militarization efforts or providing assistance from the U.S. military itself.

U.S. Foreign Aid

While some oppose the U.S. giving aid to other countries in favor of using the same money to bolster the U.S. economy and provide national security, they usually do so under the false pre-tense that around 25 percent of our national budget is geared toward foreign aid; the real number is only around 1.5 percent.

In fact, foreign aid acts as economic investment with other countries and creates trading allies, providing a return on investment. Also, foreign aid works to provide national security for the U.S. by stabilizing countries rife with conflict and poverty; such measures often end wars before they even begin. This notion was confirmed by a letter to President Trump from over 120 retired generals, urging the president to reconsider the ‘benefits’ of the proposed cuts to the foreign aid budget.

Throughout the history of U.S. foreign aid, one can simply follow our military. Here are four of the big shifts in U.S. foreign aid policy.

Marshall Plan

Foreign aid, as we consider it now, started post-WWII. In 1947, two years after the war, Secretary of State George C. Marshall insisted at a Harvard commencement ceremony that the U.S. needed an aggressive plan to rebuild Europe. The Marshall Plan, officially known as the European Recovery Program, passed the next year.

In the next four years, the U.S. provided more than $13 billion in aid to European nations. The move, while helpful, was also tinged with a political agenda — the U.S. needed allies in Europe against an emerging enemy, the Soviet Union. The U.S. remains close allies with these European nations and 13 of them are current NATO members.

President Harry S Truman supplemented the humanitarian efforts provided by the Marshall Plan with further military and economic aid to allies in Europe by way of the Point Four Program, a technical aid program aimed at sharing U.S. technology and knowledge of agriculture and industry. This measure was ultimately a gesture meant to create allies against the emerging USSR. Truman then signed the Mutual Security Act of 1951, which replaced the Marshall Plan and shifted its priorities to containing the spread of communism.

Foreign Assistance Act of 1961

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was created out of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. The assumption was that by combining foreign aid programs, the U.S. could be a better leader and moral authority for the rest of the world (read: prevent the spread of communism).

USAID is now the main operator of U.S. foreign aid programs, leading development and humanitarian efforts across the globe ranging from the Feed the Future program, a global food security program providing funding, health services, water and protection to aiding peoples suffering from conflicts in South Sudan.

The Cold War

In the 1970s, the focus of foreign aid shifted from economic and political development, to meeting “basic human needs.” This lead to an emphasis on food production, nutrition, health and education — all means to providing developing countries with the means to be self-sufficient. Still, there was a political tinge. The U.S. was largely acting on anti-communism interests and Middle East peace initiatives. As a result of these priorities, Israel and Egypt became large recipients from U.S. aid.

Toward the end of the 1980s, Congress was tasked with reducing the national deficit and foreign aid was at less than 1 percent of the national budget. Still, foreign aid followed into the same countries as our military including Panama in 1990 after the U.S. invaded Panama during Operation Just Cause under President George H. W. Bush.

Due to the end of the Cold War and Congress’s continued efforts to maintain the budget deficit, foreign aid remained less than 1 percent of the federal budget until the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Contemporary Foreign Aid

From 2003-2014, Iraq and Afghanistan received increases in economic and military assistance from the U.S. Afghanistan became the largest recipient of U.S. aid in 2017 at $4.7 billion. President George W. Bush also created the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003, which supports over 14 million people in over 50 countries living with HIV/AIDS. PEPFAR’s website claims to have helped more than 2.2 million babies to be born HIV-free to pregnant women living with HIV and AIDS.

In 2008, President Obama renewed PEPFAR and also signed the U.S. President’s Policy Directive on Global Development. The Obama administration called it the first of its time, but the measure resembles Kennedy’s act to instill the U.S. by way of foreign assistance and development at the forefront of moral and economic authority globally. The directive has a wide berth of goals aimed at providing increased global food security, global health and national security by working on poverty-related issues in impoverished nations.

Today, President Trump continues to insist we trim the U.S. foreign aid budget by over 30 percent, which will inevitably cut some humanitarian programs entirely. The Trump administration claims the cuts will go to bolstering national security, but as we’ve learned and as over 120 retired generals stated to President Trump, U.S. foreign aid is a form of national security.

– Nick Hodges
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in MauritiusOff the coast of Madagascar lies the island nation of Mauritius, teeming with pristine beaches, lush forests and ethnic diversity. Poverty in Mauritius has been reduced to just eight percent of the population since the country has flourished economically after winning independence from the United Kingdom in 1968.

Mauritius is an upper middle-income country with sugar, tourism, textiles and financial services mainly driving the economy. Many international entities, especially those interested in doing business with India, South Africa and China, are attracted to Mauritius.

While most Mauritians were employed in the agriculture or fishing industries at the time of independence, these industries now make up less than 10 percent of the labor force. The majority of Mauritians are now employed in construction and industry or restaurants and hotels. Other services also make up a large part of the labor force.

Mauritius has benefited greatly from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) passed by U.S. Congress in 2000. The AGOA allows duty-free exports to the U.S. market. Mauritius has increased exports to the U.S. by 40 percent from 2000-2014.

Like other developing nations, income inequality increased in Mauritius during the rapid industrialization. However, the government has established social welfare programs to eradicate poverty in Mauritius. This includes food stamps, social services, micro-financing to small businesses, female empowerment in the labor market and the ZEP program that seeks to raise primary school exam scores in underperforming schools. The government of Mauritius also provides Social Security for those over 60, free primary and secondary education and free healthcare.

Creoles of African descent are especially vulnerable to poverty in Mauritius. Mauritian creoles are descendants of slaves brought from Africa to Mauritius in the 18th and 19th centuries. Creoles have the weakest sense of identity out of all the Mauritian ethnic groups, as plantation owners intentionally mixed slaves from various ethnic groups together to eliminate any family ties, shared languages or any other forms of social organization.

Studies show that poverty occurs more often in households with a large number of dependent children, female-headed households, single-parent households and single person households.

In 2015 the government began developing the Marshall Plan to eradicate poverty in Mauritius. The plan will focus on:

  • Social protection
  • Housing
  • Social inclusion and community development
  • Access to education
  • Employment for sustainable livelihood, especially for vulnerable groups
  • Youth economic empowerment
  • Access to electricity, sanitation, water, transportation, and ICT (information, communications and technology) services
  • Environmental protection

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

 World War II
World War II was an expansive war fought between the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) and the Allied power (Great Britain, Russia and the U.S.) that lasted from 1939 until 1945. With such a complex narrative, here are only 10 facts about World War II.

  1. World War II was not only fought in Europe.
    In the North African Military Campaigns between 1940 and 1943, the Axis powers attempted to cut off Middle Eastern oil supply to the Allies. These campaigns took place in Western Egypt, Eastern Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Ultimately, the Axis powers did not achieve their goal and the Allied powers neutralized the German threat. World War II was also fought in the Pacific. On December 4th, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor damaging the American Pacific fleet. Japan went on to conquer the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore and Burma. However, after 1943, American forces slowly removed the Japanese from power in the pacific front. Full Japanese surrender came after the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
  2. In total WWII claimed the lives of approximately 60 million people.
  3. The Holocaust claimed the lives of six million Jews.
  4. World War II was a continuation of World War I.
    At the end of WWI, the Treaty of Versailles was signed. The treaty placed most of the blame on Germany, requiring them to pay large amounts of reparations and forcing the country to disarm. This greatly angered and humiliated the German people. Hitler used the German discontent to run as German Chancellor in the 1930s in which he promised to restore Germany.
  5. The immediate cause of WWII was the German invasion of Poland.
    Although facts about World War II show a multitude of causes for the war, the invasion of Poland was a crucial event. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded and within weeks successfully conquered Warsaw. Germany annexed West Prussia, Poznan, Upper Silesia, and the former Free City of Danzig. As a response to the invasion, Britain and France declared war on Germany.
  6. The U.S was involved in WWII before the Pearl Harbor attack.
    At the start of WWII, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the U.S. would practice neutrality. However, on March 11, 1941, the Lend-Lease Act passed which allowed the U.S. to provide military aid to allied nations during WWII.
  7. Stalingrad was a major turning point in the war.
    On July 9, 1942, Hitler ordered the capture of the Soviet Union city of Stalingrad. As a response, Stalin deployed the armed forces to defend Stalingrad and prohibited the civilians from leaving the city. Multiple counter-offensive attacks lead to Soviet victory.
  8. The Japanese used Kamikazes aircrafts.
    Kamikazes aircrafts were manned by Japanese soldiers who were instructed to crash into Allied ships. In total, kamikazes destroyed more than 300 U.S. ships which resulted in 15,000 casualties.
  9. Germany surrendered in May of 1945, while Japan did not surrender until September.
  10. The Marshall Plan gave aid to Europe to rebuild after World War II.
    The Marshall Plan gave $12 billion to Western European countries in economic turmoil caused by WWII.

World War II is still a popular topic today because it was one of the most violent and complex wars in history. These 10 facts about World War II only give a very brief overview.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr

The Policy of Foreign Aid: Modern Challenges
In less than a decade, Europe suffered severe destruction and was quickly torn apart due to World War II. Soon after that, a huge foreign aid package known as the Marshall Plan helped European nations overcome modern challenges and seek a path of democracy and sustained peace.

Today, the U.S. continues to invest in foreign aid to advance its national security and global leadership. This has played an indispensable role in strengthening the country’s strategic, economic and moral obligations.

Foreign aid strengthens national security by cutting the roots of terrorism. It also helps in stabilizing weaker regimes, promoting regional security and long-term stability. Foreign aid helped nations such as South Korea and Colombia recover from instability. Nations who receive aid could serve as potential markets and attract investors.

However, the foreign aid budget planned for next year is only $34 billion. This number is expected to decrease further in coming years.

Furthermore, there have been more conflicts in the 21st century that gripped the attention of the U.S. War in Afghanistan and Iraq, coupled with a rising global trend of terrorism, are some of the factors that challenge foreign aid programs. Hence, there comes a greater target zone for aid programs and more communities to address.

Such challenges make the process of development and the execution of programs a lot harder. Agencies are put under pressure as they have to provide support for a lot of people in a short time. Furthermore, political dilemmas and conflicts complicate the tasks of agencies to access data and effectively manage aid programs.

With all the modern challenges of the 21st century, the U.S. aims to make the process of foreign development programs more transparent, accountable and effective. Over the last decade, Washington has succeeded in creating new standards and metrics as part of foreign aid reform. Such transparency and accountability reforms can be expanded into developmental programs such as delivering aid packages and managing educational programs.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) understands the modern challenges regarding foreign aid. It aims to address such challenges by aligning resources with goals to transform development. It also tailors programs according to need and opportunities.

USAID has also adopted the hopeful policy of selectively increasing resource allocation to improve their capacity to handle modern challenges.

Noman Ashraf

Photo: Flickr

Benefits of Foreign Aid Policy
In less than a decade, Europe suffered severe destruction and was quickly torn apart due to World War II. Soon after that, a huge foreign aid policy package known as the Marshall Plan helped European nations recover, seek a path of democracy and sustained peace.

Today, The U.S. continues to invest in foreign aid to advance its security and global leadership. This has played an indispensable role in strengthening U.S. strategy as well as economic and moral obligations.

Foreign aid policy can strengthen national security by cutting the roots of terrorism. It also helps in stabilizing weaker regimes, promoting regional security and long-term stability. Foreign aid helped nations such as South Korea and Colombia recover from instability.

Nations who receive aid could serve as potential markets and attract investors. Presidents like George W. Bush and Barack Obama emphasized such points. Also, President Reagan was a strong advocate of aid. He also argued strongly against those who claimed that national income was being wasted.

However, the success of the past decades is facing an uncertain, and perhaps unpromising future. The foreign aid budget planned for next year is only $34 billion. This number is expected to decrease further in the coming years.

Furthermore, there have been more conflicts in the twenty-first century that gripped the attention of the U.S. War in Afghanistan and Iraq coupled with a rising global trend of terrorism are some of the factors that challenge foreign aid programs. Hence, there comes a greater target zone for aid programs and more communities to address.

Such challenges make the process of development and the execution of programs a lot harder. Agencies are put under pressure as they have to provide support for a lot of people in a short time. Political dilemmas and conflicts complicate the tasks of agencies to access data and effectively manage aid programs.

With all the modern challenges of the twenty-first century, the U.S. aims to make the process of foreign development programs more transparent, accountable and effective.

Over the last decade, the U.S. has succeeded in creating new standards and metrics as part of foreign aid reform. Such transparency and accountability reforms can be expanded into developmental programs such as delivering aid packages and managing educational programs.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) understands the modern challenges standing in face of foreign aid policy. It aims to address such challenges by aligning resources with goals to achieve transforming development.

USAID also tailors programs according to needs and opportunities. The agency has also adopted the policy of increased selectivity in allocating resources. Despite the disappointing voice, aid programs are improving in their capability of dealing with all the modern challenges.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr

Reducing Poverty Creates US Jobs
How does reducing global poverty create U.S. jobs? When people in developing nations transition from barely surviving, to middle and upper-class, they go from consumers of basic needs, like food or toothpaste, to consumers of more luxurious items like clothing, travel and technology. Reducing poverty opens giant, untapped markets for the United States. Luxury items like these are primarily operated by American companies, and an increase in demand for product stimulates more American jobs.

One in five American jobs is related to international trade in some way. In the last forty years, the impact that trade has on the U.S. economy has tripled.

The fastest-growing markets in the world are in developing countries, and 45 percent of the United States exports go to these areas. Foreign Policy Magazine states that the world’s poor is the largest untapped market on earth. “By building new markets overseas for American products, the International Affairs budget creates jobs and boosts the economy here at home,” says Governor Tom Ridge, former secretary of homeland security.

In fact, the majority of the U.S.’s top trading partners (the countries who buy our products, pouring money into our economy and providing jobs to thousands of Americans) used to benefit from U.S. foreign aid that helped them reduce poverty.

This is shown by the Marshall Plan. Implemented after World War II, the United States invested the equivalent of 110 billion dollars in both ally and enemy countries across Europe, helping them rebuild and reduce poverty.

Today, 240 billion dollars of American goods are exported to EU countries each year. The United States has made back double what their initial investment was in just one year of trade. What if this same principle is applied to developing countries?

The largest corporations in America understand the economic potential of untapped markets throughout the developing world, the subsequent boost in American jobs that accessing these markets could provide and the dire need for the United States’ foreign policy to invest in developing countries through aid.

In July 2012, over 50 major companies collaborated and sent a letter to Congress in support of the International Affairs Budget. It is in the economic interest of Google, IBM, CitiBank, Coca-Cola, Campbell Soup Company, Cargill, John Deere, Land O’ Lakes, PepsiCo, Walmart, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson and others to alleviate global poverty.

These companies wrote, “As business leaders, we know that U.S. economic growth is linked with global trade and the world’s economy like never before. As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has noted, overseas markets represent 95 percent of the world’s consumers and 80 percent of global purchasing power. Trade already supports one in three U.S. manufacturing jobs, and these trends will become even more pronounced in the future. For all these reasons, we urge you to support a strong and effective International Affairs Budget. While just 1 percent of the federal budget, these programs are vital for achieving a more prosperous future for American businesses and the U.S. economy.”

One example of the economic potential that exists in developing nations is Indonesia’s 2011 Boeing deal. As Indonesia’s national poverty level diminished and their economy grew steadily, they became classified as a middle-income country, with help from aid investments by the U.S. and other nations. Boeing announced its largest deal in company history: 230 jets for 22 billion dollars with Indonesia’s Lion Air. Indonesia’s poverty decline has stimulated millions of new consumers of United States products, which also creates countless American jobs.

Tech companies see the consumer potential that exists in Africa; some estimate that there are over 1 billion untapped potential users of technology in Africa today. For this reason, companies are attempting to connect Africans to the internet. In Google’s Project Loon, high altitude balloons supply remote regions with beams of WiFi. Facebook has plans to fly 11,000 solar-powered drones to give Africa access to WiFi. Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative is a 20-year plan. “ The Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative is built on the dual beliefs that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world,” says their website.

Other companies are rushing to invest in Africa. Marriott estimates that Africa will be the next Asia in terms of economic development, and spent $200 million that will provide 23,000 more rooms across Africa. “Africa has significant untapped potential for travel and tourism, both as a destination and source of new global travelers. The continent’s GDP is anticipated to grow at over 5 percent annually over the next several years which we expect will raise more people into the emerging middle class,” said Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott.

The support that important American companies give to international aid, the rush of companies to become involved in developing regions, the United States’ history with aid investment and the importance of trade in the American economy all support the dire need for international aid investment in the world’s poor.

– Aaron Andree

Sources: The Borgen Project, Microsoft, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: CNN

Aid Uses Well-being or Market Growth
It is an important question that continues to factor in how each relief agency uses its funding: whether aid should be used mainly to stimulate economic growth or to provide for the basic needs of struggling and vulnerable people.

The history of international aid seems to have been forged by colonizers like Germany, France and Britain providing support to foster economic development in the colonies.

This system has survived to this day, but is it the right system? In other words, does it provide the most good to the most people? If aid helps build economies, in many senses it goes from the top down, as money is distributed from the private sector to employees. However, much can happen to the money as it trickles down.

It would seem that the best thing would be to cut out the middleman and give the money directly to the institutions that know the impoverished intimately and have the ability to provide for the needs of the people. Following the Haitian earthquake in 2010, only 10% of the $6 billion in aid was given to the Haitian government.

National and local institutions are essential in providing basic amenities to the poor, such as healthcare and clean water.

Instead, funding is being channeled into dead investments, such as job training for jobs without living wages. Relief agencies need to partner with local institutions with the goal of eventually handing off the responsibility of distributing the funds if they hope to make a lasting and beneficial change in the lives of the poor.

The food, medicine and supplies that are given to the world’s poor from NGOs only do so much, whereas creating sustainable healthcare and clean water establishments have much greater potential for curbing poverty. It is a reflection of the proverbial phrase ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’

However, there is much to be said for stimulating local businesses. The success of the Marshall Plan should offer us an example of what can happen when aid is invested into market growth the right way. The Marshall Plan provided loans for local businesses, which were paid back to the governments, who in turn used it to strengthen commercial infrastructure. Furthermore, ensuring local businesses could succeed was a prerequisite in qualifying for the plan. With this strategy the Marshall Plan helped rebuild the economies of Western Europe.

Although the problems faced by the world’s poor stay the same- lack of food, housing, healthcare, clean water, etc.- the potential resources that can help are different. This is why results-based programs are so important. Given proper information, relief agencies are better able to fulfill the needs of the poor. The best solutions seem to happen when donors partner with national and local institutions to attack the underlying barriers that exist in moving out of poverty.

Jordan Schunk

Sources: Australian Broadcasting Company, Businessweek, Foreign Affairs
Photo: Giphy.com