“The United States and other donor nations should provide substantially greater economic assistance on terms that are more flexible and responsive to the priorities set by Africans themselves,” urged Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and former head of the African National Congress, on May 16 at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
With the next Group of Eight (G-8) Summit set for July 6-8, Mandela reminded the audience that this gathering of the rich countries’ leaders will provide a historic opportunity for the G-8 to demonstrate its political will to help Africa meet the Millennium Development Goals. And Africa’s people “expect nothing less.” On the Summit’s agenda are a number of issues of concern to Africa, including forging agreement among G-8 leaders to take action on doubling aid to the region, opening rich countries’ markets to African exports, and granting more debt relief.
Mandela cited health care and education as the two areas where foreign aid could be spent with the greatest potential impact. He underscored the pressing need to provide greater access to treatment for Africa’s “greatest scourges”—HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis—emphasizing that “freedom, after all, means nothing to someone left to die at the mercy of these preventable and treatable diseases.” He also highlighted the need for promoting education at the primary and the secondary levels, along with revitalizing African universities, given the severe shortage of highly trained people who are required for furthering the region’s development.
“I am pleased that President Bush has committed to a new and more performance-based approach to granting foreign assistance, called the Millennium Challenge Account,” Mandela remarked, noting that education and health care are also stated priorities for U.S. foreign aid. In addition to President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Mandela acknowledged the many contributions of U.S. private foundations and nongovernmental organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He also urged greater efforts to reduce the price of antiretroviral and other drugs.
While welcoming further assistance from foreign partners, Mandela underscored that Africans also must rise to the challenge and fully play their part. Here, he outlined his hope that the Mandela Legacy Organizations—three charitable organizations established by Mandela in his own name—will contribute significantly. These organizations include the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (which works for the well-being of children), the Nelson Mandela Foundation (which promotes improvements in the quality of and access to primary and secondary education), and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation (which awards university scholarships to build leadership capacity at the tertiary education level).
African leaders, Mandela added, need to abide by internationally accepted standards of transparency and good governance and should hold each other responsible for meeting these standards through measures such as the African Union’s Peer Review Mechanism. The good news, he added, is that a new democratic consensus is taking hold across the continent.
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