Melissa Harris-Lacewell is Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University
Thanks for asking about the Tanzania trip. It was truly a rewarding experience!!!
The purpose of my visit was to attend the Leon H. Sullivan conference, a biannual international summit that focuses on the economic development of Africa. The conference brings together thousands of activists, academics, politicians, and business execs for the purpose of strengthening relations between Africa and North America. After a week of listening and sharing with the participants, I walked away with several big ideas for President Obama, McCain, or Nader with regard to providing long-term support of the continent.
First, the next president must continue the Bush Administration’s generosity toward Africa. Although Bill Clinton receives the lion’s the share of credit domestically, it has been George W. Bush who has donated record funds toward HIV/AIDS relief and food distribution. This isn’t to suggest that Bush’s record has been perfect –in fact, I’ve been heavily critical of the Christian fundamentalist strings that he’s attached to his HIV/AIDS projects. Still, as one leader said to me, “We cannot solve the more complex problem if we are hungry and dying.”
Whoever becomes the next president must take this reality seriously, at the same time that they resist the neo-colonial impulses that have informed President Bush's approach.
Second, there must be a modern Marshall Plan for Africa. In order to facilitate the development of the continent, we must offer the same type of support that helped to rebuild post-World War II Europe.
Specifically, we must develop a commitment to infrastructure (roads, railways, storage and treatment facilities, etc.) and full relief of debt owed to the IMF and World Bank. Such moves would allow Africa’s poorest nations to begin the long road toward economic recovery and self-sustainability.
Finally, Africa must be incorporated into the global economy. As it stands, despite its vast resources, Africa’s share of the world trade market is less than 2%. To be sure, political corruption, civil strife, poor resource allocation, and other internal troubles are key factors. Nevertheless, there must also be an international commitment to the economic inclusion of Africa by creating more agreeable trade agreements and reducing tariffs for the must needy countries.
The next conference will be in Rwanda in 2010. I hope you can make it, as we all would have benefited from your brilliant insights. In the meantime, let's continue to talk about how we can force America to help the continent.