Bush’s singular success
There aren’t many places in the world where President Bush can visit and be greeted fondly, but Africa is one of them. The reason is simple: It’s one area—perhaps the only area—where the president has done truly good work. If there is to be a positive side to his legacy, Africa is it.
His recent trip to that continent provides an opportunity for Americans to recognize his accomplishments there, and to take note that it is precisely his willingness to express this country’s compassion and generosity, rather than its imperial clout, that has made him so popular in countries like Rwanda, Ghana and Tanzania.
Under his watch, the United States has provided more than 1.3 million Africans with lifesaving antiretroviral drugs and put nearly 30 million impoverished children in schools. It has offered crucial support to Liberia’s excellent new president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; effectively linked trade and aid to good governance; and, with the Millennium Challenge legislation, spurred U.S. investment in Africa.
The president has committed billions of dollars to Africa, more than any president in history, and done so in a way that makes good use of the money. In addition to fighting the scourge of HIV/AIDS, he has launched an effort to eradicate malaria, and on his recent trip he delivered millions of mosquito nets to residents of malaria regions.
The president also has been a leader in securing debt relief for the continent’s poorest nations, an invaluable boost for their efforts to develop sound economies. He’s fostered trade and set up investment funds for African business owners to help spur job creation and economic growth. In doing so, he has offered an important counterweight to the increasing influence of Chinese and Indian mercantilism in the region.
As he said just before he left on his trip, “Africa in the 21st century is a continent of potential.” In his effort to help Africa realize its potential, he’s proven the benefits of using America’s “soft power” to help people, and in doing so pointed the way for his successor.