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11/26/03 - BUILDING AFRICAN ECONOMIES - 2003-11-26

In Africa as elsewhere, Americans look to the day when prosperity is built through trade and markets. Progress toward that goal is being made with the help of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Passed by the U.S. Congress in 2000, the act is the cornerstone of U.S. trade and investment policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. It seeks to expand U.S.-African trade and investment, and integrate the region into the global economy. The act offers eligible countries duty-free and quota-free U.S. market access for substantially all products. It provides additional security for investors and traders in African countries. And it promotes technical assistance to countries seeking to make economic reforms. Through the policies promoted by the African Growth and Opportunity Act, African exports to the U.S. have increased dramatically, even during a time of slow global economic growth. Moreover, trade has increased among African countries themselves.

Many African economies have been hurt by war, corruption, dictatorship, and political instability. Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni says Africa has failed to develop because, as he put it, “our leaders opted for socialism.” President Museveni says the “shortsighted policies of seizing. . .private business wrecked economies by chasing off investors while taking away incentives for local business to flourish."

Working with leaders like President Museveni, the U.S. is helping African countries to build free market economies. But economic progress also requires political reforms. The rule of law must be strengthened. Free markets cannot flourish where corruption, violence, and oppression hold sway. President George W. Bush says freedom is the right of people everywhere:

"The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it the calling of our country. . . . We believe that liberty is the design of nature; we believe that liberty is the direction of history. We believe that human fulfillment and excellence come in the responsible exercise of liberty."

Fulfilling this vision will be the work of many years. But, says President Bush, Africans "will always have a partner in the United States."