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Union Forges Ties with US Government, Ngo€s And Business Leaders

Chinazor Onianwah | 5/7/2009, 12:06 a.m.

Although Africa is arguably the richest continent on the face of the planet with its abundant natural resources, it was the enslavement of her people made the U.S. a rich nation. The colonization of Africa saved Great Britain and Europe from the vise of recession brought on by the industrial revolution from the 1700-1800 century.

What comes to mind now at the mention of Africa are challenges such as combating malaria and the AIDS/HIV epidemic, despotic regimes in Zimbabwe and Sudan and the failed state of Somalia that gave rise to piracy along the €Horn of Africa€. These challenges also include mediating in civil wars in the Congo, economic issues such as improving the standard of living of millions of impoverished, uneducated Africans, ecological issues such as dealing with recurring famines, desertification and lack of ecological sustainability.

According to African Union Deputy Chairperson Erastus Mwencha who was in Washington D.C. to discuss trade and investment and exchange views on security development in Africa with U.S. government officials, €The challenges Africa faces today overshadow the tremendous progress the continent has made in the last few years. From 1995 to 2005, Africa's rate of economic growth increased, averaging five percent in 2005. The continent has the highest growth rate in telecommunication development as well as a growing market for goods and services,€ Mwencha said.

However, Mr. Mwencha was not so persuasive when it came to clarifying the absence of any stated U.S. policy on Africa. He emphasized his mission to Washington DC was to meet with President Barack Obama, follow up with the recent G20 summit and help the new Obama administration formulate policy on Africa.

If Secretary of State Hillary Clinton€s recent hearing at House Committee on Foreign affairs is any indication of where Africa belongs on the totem pole of US foreign policy, in a 1,589 word address she did not mention any specific Obama U.S. policy on Africa. Clinton addressed the House committee on April 22. On the same day, South Africans went to the poll and elected Jacob Zuma president in an election that was free and fair.

€Now, I know that many of your questions today will deal with longstanding concerns: Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, certainly the Middle East, the fallout from the global financial crisis. I will speak briefly to those, and I look forward to answering any questions you might have,€ Clinton said.

The African Union is an intergovernmental organization consisting of 53 African states. It was established on July 9, 2002. The AU was formed as a successor to the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The AU's secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Libyan leader Muammar Al Gaddafi currently heads the AU.