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REMINISCENCES — HOW PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON PRESSED FOR DEBT RELIEF SPECIFICALLY FOR NIGERIA; SOUTH AFRICA

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‘’If you want to give Mr. Nelson Mandela a birthday present, do something to deal with Africa’s challenges, do something to tap Africa’s promise. It is not as if we don’t know what to do, it is not as if we have no evidence that what we can do will work. Africa abounds with evidence of what works. What we have to do is take what works and spread it across the continent. That is our job.’’ For the first time in history the rest of the world is interested in working not for or against Africa, but working with Africa, listening to you, looking to you, and learning from you. One lesson we all have to learn from Mr. Mandela is how to build a community across divisions of race, religion and tribe.  President Bill Clinton

GOING INTO HISTORY: Records indicate that there is no United States president (past or present); or even world leader that has championed the cause of Africa and its welfare more than Bill Clinton; in and out of office. He tied his campaign for debt relief to countries committed to reform and democracy, and succeeded in getting the G7 Group of industrialized countries to embrace the campaign at their meeting in Germany, in June, 1999.  He offered debt forgiveness to the tune of US$5.7 billion owed the United States by 36 of the world’s poorest nations, provided that they used the windfall to finance what he called “basic human needs.” Clinton Administration’s foreign policy tilted towards multilateralism (involving several States) instead of bilateralism. Clinton engaged in transformed regionalism in Africa; and State Department officials embraced warmly the Nigeria-led ECOMOG peace operations in Liberia, despite media criticism. Washington gave some $29 million support to the ECOMOG peace-keeping operations and channeled some $200 million through aid agencies and Amos Sawyer’s government in Monrovia for humanitarian assistance (Africa Confidential, 1993: Vol. 34). US officials also encouraged the Organization for African Unity, now African Union (AU) to give a stronger lead in regional crises as it moved away from its strict doctrine of non-intervention in domestic conflicts.

SUSTAINING IMPECCABLE RECORDS:The first Nelson Mandela Annual lecture held in 2003; and was delivered by Bill Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States who was most sympathetic to the plight of Africa. Bill Clinton was 46 years old when he was inaugurated; and was in office from 1993-2001. President Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest ever; and was inaugurated at age 42 years.  JF Kennedy became the United States president at age 43 years. Clinton has a passion for Africa as revealed in his speeches and actions, including the activities of his Foundation. Records indicate that Bill Clinton vacated the presidency with the highest end-of-office approval rating  of any U.S. president since World War 11. And he is reported to have continually been rated high in the rankings of presidents of the United States, consistently landing in the top third. Since leaving office, he has been involved in public speaking and humanitarian work. He created the William J. Clinton Foundation to address international causes such as the prevention of AIDS and global warming. (Wikipedia)  With his disposition, it should naturally be expected that his speech at the inaugural Nelson Mandela Annual Lectures would contain positive pronouncements about the plight of the developing world; and particularly his consistent observation about inequalities, instability, hunger, the global food crises, health issues and problems confronting the developing world; particularly Africa and Asian regions.

EXCERPTS FROM BILL CLINTON’S SPEECH AT THE FIRST NELSON MANDELA ANNUAL LECTURE: Nelson Mandela has endured and given to South Africa, to the people of this continent and to the world, no one would have begrudged him a quiet and peaceful retirement. The life and work of Nelson Mandela has done much to help the rest of us to see the promise as well as the problems of Africa. The promise manifests in more democratically elected governments than ever, in a new generation of leaders committed to understanding and unleashing your economic potential. Especially President Mbeki with his leadership of NEPAD, which renewed efforts to resolve the continent’s conflicts and to insist on respect for the Rule of Law and Human Rights as the price of admission to the community of new African Nations, and with more leaders than ever on this continent as committed as Madiba is to reversing the destruction of AIDS, TB and malaria.

The second challenge Africa faces is to unleash the economic potential of the hundreds of millions of people who get up and work hard everyday and who are just as intelligent as any other people on earth. There have been unprecedented efforts in the last few years to help Africa’s economies, beginning with the adoption of the Millennium Debt Relief Initiative first embraced by the G7 countries in Germany in the late 1990s and funded by the United States Congress in 2000; thanks in no small measure to another of Nelson Mandela (Madiba’s) great friends, Bono, who is here with us today, and I thank you for what you did on that. Thank you so much. Debt relief has had an enormous impact in the 25 countries which have qualified. Education spending has gone from being less than what the nations were paying to their foreign creditors to more than twice that amount. Health care spending has increased by 70%.

MORE COUNTRIES MUST BE ELIGIBLE FOR DEBT RELIEF: Now I believe we need another round of debt relief and I believe more countries should be made eligible. Countries that are too rich to be poor; and too poor to be rich. Countries that look rich because there are a few very wealthy people that push the average up but it doesn’t really tell the story of how people live. When I was raised up in political discourse I was always taught to be careful when people talk about the average this and the average that. Sometimes it means just what it seems to mean, and other times it doesn’t. As one man said to me once, he said: “If averages tell the tale then if you stand in one pail of hot water and one pail of cold water why don’t you feel just right?” So we need another round of debt relief. We need to include more countries. For different reasons I think South Africa and Nigeria should be covered.

NIGERIA & SOUTH AFRICA HOLD THE KEY TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: The whole future of Sub-Saharan Africa depends on what happens in South Africa and Nigeria. Bono and I were talking about this last night. Look at the burden you have from health costs alone because of HIV and AIDS. A per capita income measure can never assess the impact of the massive migration into South Africa because of the problems in Zimbabwe. So we need another round of global debt relief and I can tell you, politically it is easier to get than direct aid because of the way all the rich governments in the world calculate the cost of debt relief. Everyone of them prefer to do it in their budgets because no one ever thinks they are going to get their money back.  So, if they relieve let’s say $10 million dollars in debt, it may only cost them $3 million in a budget year. So this is something that really ought to be done, and done right away. It is an affordable way to unleash massive sums of money for the most important human needs in Africa and throughout the world.

US-AFRICA TRADE: The African Growth and Opportunity Act which I supported and signed in 2000 has led to an increase in African exports just to the United States of more than 60% in two-and-a-half years. That means $8 billion more in Trade and $1 billion dollars more in investment for Africa. Still, if you set aside South Africa and its particular relationship to the export market, Africa’s share of world trade is a mere 1.2%. I believe the life of the African Growth and Opportunity Act should be extended. And I think more products should be covered. I’m glad President Bush talked about Trade on his recent trip, I hope he will push for these changes. There are members of our Congress, and both parties, who want to lengthen the life of this Trade Bill and broaden its reach. And this is more than money. This is about how people feel about America, about the West, about the future, about the market system.

TRANSFORMING THE ECONOMY: The third thing we should do on the economic front is to promote more internally generated economic growth in every African country through greater micro-credit lending and land-title reforms. I have seen whole villages in Senegal and Uganda transformed by micro-credit loans, but the wealthy world has not given enough of them to lift the economy of any nation. When I was President of the United States, we gave two million micro-credit loans a year – we funded them. But if we funded twenty million it wouldn’t cost very much, and if the world matched it, we could actually have a discernable impact on the economy of some nations. Of even greater potential significance is land-title reform. In Ghana, President Kufour invited me to work with the great Peruvian Economist, Hernando de Soto, to set up a Foundation on working capital for the poor, supported by all the Tribal Chiefs, who nominally supervised the holding of property in common, in much of Ghana.

THE GHANAIAN EXPERIENCE: The idea is to give ordinary people, no matter how poor, some clear evidence of title in their homes, their farms, and their businesses, so that their assets can be used cheaply without hiring a lawyer or waiting forever for some government process, to be collateral for loans. When de Soto did this in Peru, and completed the process, for three years in a row, the country had growth rates of 10% or higher. Just last week I was on the phone to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, arguing that what we are doing in Ghana should be speeded up and that we should offer a continental package of land-title reform to any African nation that wishes to participate. Even in the greatest trading nations, most growth is internally generated. In the end we have to find a way for Africans to make more money from each other, if we are going to maximize the potential of South Africa and every other African nation.

ON CHALLENGES OF EDUCATION: On the challenge of education what we have to do is simple. There are somewhere between 120 and 130 million children who never go to school. In a global information society which has a great premium on education, in every developing country in the world even one year of schooling can add 10 – 15% to annual income for life. So we should put the kids in school and make the school worth attending. This is not rocket science. In 2000, my last year as President, we sent $300 million to the World Food Organisation in Rome, to give to countries, to give a good meal once a day to children in poor countries, but only if they came to school to get the food. Guess what? In the participating nations, school attendance increased by seven million children. If you extrapolate from that for somewhere between $6 or $7 billion from the world, we could put the rest of the children of the world in school. For modest other amounts of money we could actually improve the schools, we could make sure they have learning materials, up-to-date Maths and other things that will make the schools function better.

I don’t know how many times President Mandela has told me stories of calling people on the phone to get them to give him money to build rural schools in South Africa, and then, oh by the way the teacher needs to have some place to live. But he simply cannot call someone for every village in Africa, in every village in the world that needs a school and a place for the teacher to live. If you want to generate more internal economic growth, putting the 120 to 130 million children in school will do it as quickly as just about anything you could do, besides the two initiatives I just mentioned, the land-title reform and micro-credit.

SECURITY: On security, I think that the rest of the world has more work to do with Africa. We should invest in Africa’s capacity to fight terror, to provide good law enforcement, to strengthen its borders and financial institutions and to engage in peace keeping. The Africa Crisis Response Initiative which began under our Administration has done a lot of good work using American Soldiers to train African Peace-keepers. And the rest of the world does need to be prepared under extreme circumstances to serve in peace-keeping missions on African soil, including Liberia.

SUPPORT FOR AN ENDURING DEMOCRATIC CULTURE: Finally, let me just talk a little bit about the need for us to support greater democracy. Before 1990 when you talked about democracy in Africa, you were essentially talking about Gambia, Senegal, Botswana and Mauritania. Now, there are far more than 20 countries that by any good standard have democratic governments. In the last three years, we have seen peaceful changes of government in Senegal, Mauritius, Ghana and Cape Verde, and the re-election of President Obasanjo in Nigeria. We are making progress in resolving long-standing conflicts in Sierra Leone and Angola, the Eritrea and Ethiopia historic Peace Agreement that I worked hard on after a mindless and bloody conflict. Throughout Africa we are seeing a growing belief in the rights of all people to participate in their nations’ futures, to choose their leaders, to hold them accountable. And an understanding that all of you have in South Africa because of your history, which is that democracy is more than majority rule. It is majority rule with minority rights, the rule of law, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom to criticize.

So, that is what we have to have in Zimbabwe and every other country on the continent if we are going to really maximise the potential of the African people. There are other things that time does not permit me to address today; I wish we could talk more about the water shortage, malnutrition and the continuing need for peace and stability. But the main point I want to make is this – if you want to give Mr. Mandela a birthday present, do something to deal with Africa’s challenges, do something to tap Africa’s promise. It is not as if we don’t know what to do, it is not as if we have no evidence that what we can do will work. Africa abounds with evidence of what works. What we have to do is take what works and spread it across the continent. That is our job.

GLOBALIZATION & PROSPERITY – PROBLEM OF UNSTABLE & UNEQUAL WORLD: For the first time in history, the rest of the world is interested in working not for or against Africa, but working with Africa, listening to you, looking to you, and learning from you. One lesson we all have to learn from Mr Mandela is how to build a community across divisions of race, religion and tribe. We do live in a world so interdependent that more email is sent everyday than postal mail, and a sneeze in Hong Kong leads to a quarantine in Toronto. But the very advances that have brought our world together – transportation, open borders, the internet – have been exploited by terrorists to tear our world apart. So, this is an exciting, but still unequal and unstable world. Yes, globalization has lifted more people out of poverty in the last 20 years than any point in history, but half the world’s people still live on less than $2 a day and a billion of them will go to bed hungry tonight. But a billion of the world’s people are hungry, a billion of the world’s people cannot read a single word. In short, in our interdependent but unequal and unstable world, our simple job is to move from interdependence to an integrated global community, of shared benefits, shared responsibilities and shared values.  (The inaugural lecture of the Annual Nelson Mandela Lectures was delivered in South Africa by President Bill Clinton in 2003)

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