Success for Africa in 2011

December 23, 2011 By Jane Kaminski

As December 31st approaches, countless “Best of 2011” lists are out ranking all the major events and stories from around the world.  One list in particular shows the hope we should have for the coming year by drawing out the top ten success stories in Africa—a region that rarely gets noticed for the great progress happening there.  From economic growth to improved access to information through technology, to improved stability in the most serious conflicts, Africans, their governments, and diplomats and development experts are working to foster sustainable growth in Africa resulting in a healthier, safer, and more prosperous region.

A quick review of the top 10 list demonstrates the powerful impact U.S. International Affairs programs are having on the continent.   Take for example, the number one success story from the list, “Africa is experiencing an economic boom.”  Several aspects of U.S. development work, from public health and education to infrastructure development, have contributed to the emergence of economic partners in Africa.

The U.S. has worked to strengthen countries throughout Africa on several fronts.  Public health programs have been proven to build up economies by developing a healthier, more stable workforce.    Through public health programs like PEPFAR, the President’s Malaria Initiative, and efforts to improve maternal and child mortality rates, the African workforce is healthier and better able to contribute to their economies.  PEPFAR has been a game-changer in the fight against HIV/AIDS and millions of people have received life-saving treatment, preventative education, and hundreds of thousands of pregnant women have been treated to prevent transmission to their unborn children.   Former President Bush highlighted many of these efforts earlier this month in visits to Tanzania and Zambia.

American economic assistance programs are having a meaningful impact in these emerging economies.  For example, Millennium Challenge Corporation has compacts and threshold agreements throughout Africa that work with the governments to encourage economic reform and improved governance.  Cape Verde has seen striking growth and improvement since receiving its MCC Compacts, and has been noted as one of the best reforming governments in the world in recent years.  These programs work to build the infrastructure necessary for economic growth and offer the African workforce access to new markets.   However, these programs do more than help Africa, they also help the United States. Especially in this time of economic uncertainty, developing markets and commerce is vital to building a more robust economy.

And of course, American diplomats have worked tirelessly to create a more stable, hospitable environment for the United States, through mediating conflicts, building relationships with local governments, creating trade agreements, and promoting U.S. interests in Africa.  They make it possible for American students, businesses, travelers, and aid workers to come to Africa and be a part of this progress and opportunity.

The multifaceted nature of American development work contributes to a stronger more capable partner in Africa. While ongoing crises like the famine in the Horn of Africa should not be overlooked, it is important to assess the progress that is being made, the opportunities for further growth, and the importance of sustainability in this critical time for Africa.  As we look back at this past year filled with drastic changes and shifts throughout the world, we can also look forward with hope to a new year and continued growth in Africa.