Remarks
James Michel, Counselor, U.S. Agency for International Development
Diplomacy Briefing Series: Conference on sub-Saharan Africa
Washington, DC
June 14, 2010


Unknown tag could not be displayed.

MR. CROWLEY: Today, Dr. Raj Shah, the Administrator of USAID is in Dakar, Senegal, where he made a presentation to ECOWAS about the various country programs and plans for the Feed the Future Initiative. So we have James Michel who is Counselor to Raj Shah here to talk a little bit about the role that USAID is playing to help advance development and stability and prosperity in Africa.

As you’ve heard the Secretary say, and I suspect she’ll repeat it a little bit later on, part of her effort as Secretary has been to raise the prominence and importance of development and alongside diplomacy as key pillars in advancing our strategies for different parts of the world, and most particularly Africa. And so there’s a genuine partnership between State and USAID that perhaps has not been there in the recent past. So we’re very pleased by the efforts, institutionally, to help make sure that as we move forward, development alongside of diplomacy and security are not either/or propositions, they’re integrated aspects in terms of our strategy for Africa.

So here to talk a little bit about USAID, James Michel. (Applause.)

MR. MICHEL: It is great to see the interest that you represent by being here to attend this event regarding U.S. foreign policy toward Africa. Thank you all for being here and congratulations to the Bureau of Public Affairs for organizing this opportunity for exchange of views.

President Obama’s new national security strategy makes clear, and previous speakers today have confirmed, that the diversity and the complexity of Africa present extraordinary challenges and extraordinary opportunities. Our policy is to work in partnership with African governments and institutions and civil society to support their efforts to meet those challenges and to seize those opportunities. In particular, we’re supporting their efforts to achieve sustained progress towards some shared priority objectives: Accountable democratic governance, inclusive economic growth and opportunity, improved health, prevention and mitigation of conflict, and responding to transnational challenges.

Ultimately, the success of U.S. policy toward Africa will be measured by the success of Africans in – with respect to those four shared priorities. Development is at the heart of their effort and development cooperation based on mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual accountability is at the heart of our policy.

I want to say a word about the concept of development. It’s not a matter of measuring how much aid we provide. Development in its essence is the process by which nations become stable, just, and prosperous, and people benefit from increased freedom and security and rising standards of living. And while international support can support – can accelerate positive outcomes, development comes from within. It’s a complex process with economic and social and political, environment, and security dimensions. And all of these must be heeded because they are all interrelated.

We’re witnessing, today, important changes in the practice of international cooperation to support development. There are new actors, emerging powers like Brazil and China, non-government entities and foundations. Development finance is increasingly diverse with expanding roles for the private sector, individual and corporate philanthropy, remittances from diaspora communities. And this greater diversity is contributing to the trend away from dependency in the part of a number of developing countries and the replacing of traditional notions of donors and recipients with new models of partnership that are more diverse with more participants.

The emphasis on partnership has been strengthened by broad international acceptance of the Millennium Development Goals and increased respect for principles of aid effectiveness. The goals focus attention on the objectives of development: Attention to extreme poverty and hunger, to education, opportunities, to gender equality and the empowerment of women, to child and maternal health, and to combating diseases and ensuring environmental sustainability.

The aid effectiveness principles call for local ownership of the development process, alignment of international programs with local priorities, harmonizing among the international actors, managing for results, and mutual accountability. These goals and principles are summarized by Secretary of State Clinton earlier this year as a commitment to partnership, not patronage.

Support for Africa’s political, economic, and social development is a priority for the United States, and it is receiving high-level attention. I’m representing the AID Administrator Dr. Shah today, because as P.J. said, he is in Dakar, Senegal, to engage leaders of west African countries on how we can support their food security programs under the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program. This is his second visit to Africa in the past month. Dr. Shah’s current visit to Africa follows visits by President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton. I won’t try to count how many visits Assistant Secretary Carson makes to Africa but he’s there a lot.

U.S. support for development in Africa is focused on those shared policy priorities that I mentioned: the democratic governance, inclusive growth, improved health, conflict prevention and mitigation, and transnational challenges. Now with respect to accountable democratic governance, there’s been a trend toward electric – elected government throughout Africa. Seventeen elections are to take place in 2010. We have supported strengthened capacity for electoral systems and for popular participation in a number of countries. It’s evident that the overall quality of the electoral process is improving. At the same time, there have been some flawed elections and there have been some recent setbacks that are truly disturbing and warrant international attention. Nevertheless, there’s reason to believe that the trend toward elected government and all the stability that implies is a continuing one.

Of course, elections are just the beginning. Elected governments in Africa, as everywhere, need to be able to formulate and implement policies that respond to the needs of the people. U.S. programs contribute to those capacities, especially in the areas of economic governance and public health systems where our resources are concentrated. Evolving reforms within USAID are creating new incentives for countries interested in increased local ownership for their own development. We’re prepared to be more open to implementation through local institutions rather than U.S. entities where those local institutions demonstrate competence, accountability, and transparency in their operations. Our support for enhanced local capacity and good governance thus can help to lower the risk of political backsliding and increase prospects for locally owned and sustainable development results.

Let me turn to economic growth. Here our support is focused on the need to increase food security. And I should emphasize here that rather than try to invest in everything and do everything, we’re trying to concentrate on where we can make the most difference. And in the economic growth field we can make the most difference by concentrating on food security. The Feed the Future Initiative is going to address agricultural production, marketing, nutrition, participation of women and other vulnerable groups. Twelve of the initial twenty participating countries in this $3.5-billion global initiative are in Africa.

Our support for economic growth will include efforts to strengthen the capacity of African countries and organizations to participate in regional and global trade, including access to the benefits offered by the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Africa’s vulnerability to the risks of climate change is closely related to the emphasis on agriculture as a foundation for broadly based economic growth. We’re integrating mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate change in our entire range of development cooperation programs in Africa.

It’s worth noting when we talk about Africa and economic progress, people say, “Is there economic progress in Africa?” Well, while it’s been uneven, we’ve seen impressive economic growth in Africa in recent years. Average growth was about 6 percent from 2006 to 2008. Then the global financial crisis came along and brought that down to 2.5 percent in 2009. And the African Economic Outlook just released last month, which is a collaborative effort by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Africa Development Bank, and the OECD, projects growth rebounding to -- in 2010 and 2011 to around 5 percent. And this resilience was attributed to improved economic policies, formulation, and execution of sound policies. The World Bank has acknowledged these policy improvements in Africa by selecting Rwanda as this year’s outstanding reformer in the world in the Bank’s Doing Business report, and by naming Liberia as one of the top 10 reformers this year.

On the other hand, improved governance and economic performance will be challenged by continuation of Africa’s high population growth. Between 2000 – 2007 and 2050, the current projection is that populations in Asia and in Latin America will grow by about one third. In Africa, by contrast, population is expected to grow by 118 percent with close to 2 billion people by the year 2050, most of them below the age of 24.

And that brings me to our third priority, improved health. The extraordinary response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic has achieved extraordinary results. President Obama’s Global Health Initiative is expanding the vision with targets to reduce the incidents of tuberculosis and malaria, eliminate leprosy, and prevent millions of child deaths, and avert millions of unwanted pregnancies. Africa will be a major focus of this multi-year multi-billion dollar effort. Like the food security initiative, the emphasis will be on sustainable progress through partnership with local ownership, local capacity, local accountability, and participation of the disadvantaged. Experience has shown that improved child survival and improved health in general tend to be accompanied by a slowing population growth.

Finally, I want to mention our support for conflict prevention and mitigation, which is through humanitarian assistance in conflictive environments like Sudan, Somalia, the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. And in addition, our program supports restoration and rebuilding of damaged communities in places like Liberia and northern Uganda and also, as was mentioned in the case of southern Sudan, helping to establish the basis for governance in that evolving situation. There’s a clear correlation between conflict and instability on the one hand, and poverty, bad governance, human insecurity, and misery on the other. Support for peace and stability is necessary for progress on all the other development priorities. To have democratic governance, inclusive growth, and improved health, you have to have peace and stability.

U.S. development cooperation is closely integrated with the other instruments of U.S. foreign policy to support these objectives and to help Africa respond to the transnational challenges that we all face. USAID’s 23 country missions and three regional missions across Africa supported by our Washington headquarters managed more than $6 billion last year to support our interrelated policy objectives.

And it’s important, as I close, to reemphasize that our approach is not to replace African performance with U.S. performance. We are working to assist Africans to improve the performance of their institutions and their systems so that the results will be locally owned and enduring. Under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Clinton, we are working hard to improve our own effectiveness, to be responsible stewards of the resources entrusted to us, to contribute to sustainable development results, and to demonstrate to the American people that the mutual benefits of development cooperation with Africa are well worth their investment.

Thank you, very much. (Applause.)

Questions?

MR. CROWLEY: Let’s start over here.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Morgan McClain McKinney. I’m here with the International Organizations Bureau at the State Department. I had a question about education as a tool for development. You didn’t really talk about it a lot during your speech, but I just wanted to know whether or not USAID was engaged on tools for using education as a form of development.

One of my key concerns is what has been termed, “education under attack.” Schools that are being occupied by militant groups and schools that are losing teachers that are losing students, and most importantly, universities that are being attacked that are losing their researchers, their professors, the ideas, the drivers of development. And so what I want to know is if USAID is engaged in Africa with teacher training or literacy programs that can provide not just education, but quality education for African citizens.

MR. MICHEL: Well, you say quality education. And one of the things that is an emphasis right now is that there has been tremendous progress through the Education For All Initiative of the United Nations to expand enrollment. And as enrollment has expanded in many countries, quality has suffered because the institutions were not geared up to take on the increased student enrollment. So a great emphasis in our education programs in Africa – and I’ve seen some of these – is on increasing the quality of the education delivered.

Education is really integrated into the other priorities that I mentioned of health, economic growth, and governance, but we do spend somewhere in the neighborhood of about 6 or 7 percent of our resources in Africa on education with an emphasis on primary education.

QUESTION: Thank you for taking my question. This is Bahati Jacques with Africa Faith and Justice Network. You said that you are involved in conflict prevention and mitigation and you also said that Rwanda has been nominated the country for this year in terms of outstanding reform in business.

The U.S. has been a big financing supporter of Rwanda despite the fact that Rwanda has been investing some of that money to attack its neighbors -- its neighboring country, the Congo. Is there any way you can consider such finance of a country that is involved in invasion of another country? And this by saying that Rwanda is also unstable at this point where the leadership is very heavy-handed and they have now in their custody Professor Peter Erlinder, a great lawyer and defender of human rights. Are you involved in his release? Thank you.

MR. MICHEL: I can’t speak to the accuracy of your characterization of what Rwanda’s policies and practices are. I can say that Rwanda, like any other government, has its strengths and its weaknesses. It has its attributes that are positive and attributes that are negative. And the question, it seems to me, is whether we should engage and try to find common ground and find ways in which our engagement can help to advance the positive and minimize the negative recognizing that we do not control what everybody else does in this world and we don’t want to. We’re trying to work on a basis of partnership, local ownership, and at the same time project American values in our relations with the rest of the world.

So, I can say that I have met with senior officials of the Government of Rwanda who seem to be very impressive as decent and capable people who have the interests to their people very much in mind and in their hearts, and I think that as a general proposition we are better off engaging and trying to improve situations rather than trying to use our influence in negative ways that isolate us from others in the international community.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll be here and then we’ll come over here.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. My name is Theophile Abega; I’m with the Civil Society. During the previous presentations I kind of wondered because I haven’t heard anything said -- being said about central Africa. You have programs, you have agendas, and policies that are being (inaudible) towards Africa from south to north, west. But there’s nothing being said about central Africa, Cameroon besides Gabon that was mentioned. But there’s nothing being said about Cameroon, Congo, et cetera. Is there anything? I know you’re with USAID, but USAID as I understand closed their doors in Cameroon some years ago. Is there anything, any agenda for Central Africa? Thank you.

MR. MICHEL: Well, the way that we have – and I cannot speak to particular countries. I can say that we do have the map of Africa, the way our missions are organized in a way that includes these countries of central Africa within the broader contexts of west Africa. And within west Africa within these countries, we have a presence in very many of them. But I cannot speak to individual countries – Cameroon. I just – I don’t know the specifics of Cameroon.

I do know that we have – when you look at the map here of Africa and you look along the line here from Ghana to Nigeria and into the Congo, that we have significant programs in these countries, but I can’t break it down by a particular country.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. I’m from Cameroon.

MR. MICHEL: Ah, okay. (Laughter.) You can answer.

QUESTION: It’s just a follow-up question to what Mr. Abega was saying. Since you don’t know the breakdown, USAID had been for decades in Cameroon –

MR. MICHEL: Yeah.

QUESTION: And then suddenly about – I think about eight or ten years ago it was closed down.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll tell you what, we’re finishing up. We’ll take that question, too, and then we’ll wrap it up.

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much. Frederick Addison, AMIP News, and just a quick question about structures: How does the work of the USAID complement or differ from the work being done by the Millennium Challenge Corporation?

MR. MICHEL: Oh, I’m glad you ask. We are increasingly coordinating our efforts with the Millennium Challenge Corporation. USAID Administrator, Dr. Shah, sits on the board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. We just signed off on, for example, a new program for Liberia of the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the program will be implemented by USAID. We are increasingly looking at the fact that the Millennium Challenge Corporation programs are of limited duration, a threshold program is usually two or three years, a compact, five. Well, what happens after that? How does the effort and the investment made continue to be a sustainable one? And oftentimes the issues being dealt with are not two- or three- or five-year issues. They are longer issues of development. And so we are working more closely. We’re talking more. And we are aligning our programs more so that the work of USAID and the work of the Millennium Challenge Corporation are truly complementary. And that is a conscious policy.

MR. CROWLEY: The Cameroon question.

MR. MICHEL: Oh, I’m sorry. What is the Cameroon question? Wasn’t it a statement that said –

MR. CROWLEY: The future of the mission.

MR. MICHEL: That it closed 10 years ago. I cannot say, but what – I am unaware of plans to reopen. Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you very much. (Applause.)

# # # #

[This is a mobile copy of Development Cooperation in Africa]