Bush visit to Africa to centre on Tanzania

United States President George Bush will spend most of his time during a five-nation tour of Africa later this month in Tanzania, to spotlight development gains in the East African nation.

“This is a success story,” said US embassy public affairs officer Jeffery Salaiz of Tanzania, during a press conference held in the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam on Tuesday.

In what will be his second presidential visit to Africa, Bush is to travel to Tanzania, Rwanda, Benin, Ghana and Liberia from February 15 to 21 for talks with their heads of state and to visit projects funded by the US government. Most of the trip — February 16 to 19 — is to be spent in and around Dar es Salaam and Arusha, a town in northern Tanzania.

“It will be an opportunity to see Tanzania’s natural beauty … and strong leadership,” said Salaiz.

During the tour, Bush intends to highlight his administration’s efforts to improve health in Africa, in part through the President’s Emergency Plan for HIV/Aids Relief (Pepfar) and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), added Salaiz.

Pepfar, unveiled during Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address, is a $15-billion, five-year programme to fight the Aids pandemic by providing anti-retroviral treatment to HIV-positive people and improving access to health services for Aids patients.

Pepfar also aims to reduce HIV infection rates through the “ABC” approach: abstain, be faithful and use condoms. However, critics of the initiative claim it places undue emphasis on abstinence and being faithful.

PMI focuses on strategies to combat mosquito-borne malaria such as spraying homes with insecticide, distributing bed nets and providing life-saving anti-malarial drugs. The $1,2-billion plan aims to cut the number of malaria-related deaths in 15 African nations by half between 2005 and 2010.

Tanzania alone will receive $334-million in this year’s US budget under Pepfar and PMI, said Salaiz.

This comes in the wake of the five-year, $698-million grant given to the country last September by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to upgrade electricity and roads infrastructure. Arrangements for this grant, the largest awarded by the corporation, will probably be finalised this month, noted Salaiz.

The MCC was formed by Bush in 2004, and gives aid to poor countries to help increase economic growth and ease poverty. Recipients are required to demonstrate good governance.

Business on the back burner

Bush is not expected to focus on bilateral trade or other business matters during his time in Tanzania, said Salaiz. Instead, these issues will be raised at the eighth Leon H Sullivan Summit, to be held in Tanzania in June.

A Baptist minister and activist, Sullivan promoted racial equality in the workplace in the US and abroad before his death in 2001, notably through the “Sullivan Principles”: guidelines for firms that operated in apartheid South Africa.

The summit will build on his legacy by bringing together African and African-American businesspeople, activists, academics and government officials to seek answers to the continent’s economic woes and strengthen ties between Africa and the US.

Statistics suggest there is room for improvement in trade between the US and Tanzania, which shipped just $23-million-worth of goods to the US in 2006, according to a fact sheet on the website of the US Department of Commerce. About half of these goods were agricultural products.

For its part, the US exported goods totalling $111-million to Tanzania during the same year, principally transport equipment, agricultural products and machinery.

US imports from African nations increased by 17% to $59,2-billion in 2006, according to US statistics.

Of that amount, $44,2-billion was shipped under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), a US initiative introduced in 2004 to alleviate poverty through trade. Agoa has seen duties and quotas reduced on 6 000 products from 39 African states.

Tanzania — which produces coffee, tea, cotton and gold (the country is Africa’s third-largest gold producer) — is benefiting from a commodity boom and increased investment, after most of its debt at the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and African Development Bank was cancelled (the debt was written off in 2006).

President Jakaya Kikwete expects economic growth to reach 7,8% in 2008, from an estimated 7,3% last year and 6,2% in 2006.

However, Tanzania remains one of Africa’s poorest states, with about 36% of its 38-million people living below the poverty line, according to United Nations figures — and with about 42% of its 2007/08 budget funded by donors. — IPS

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