As President Bush visits Africa this week, much attention will focus on the fight against HIV/AIDS, and rightly so. More than 1.4 million men, women and children now receive anti-retroviral drugs because of the generosity of the American people. The President’s AIDS initiative has been a soaring success - a case study in the power of American compassion to save lives.[# More #]
But while the fight against HIV/AIDS deserves this attention, there is other good news on the African continent that goes beyond the progress made against this terrible epidemic.
On his visit to Tanzania, President Bush signed the largest agreement ever - $700 million - as part of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). Like the President’s AIDS initiative, the MCA is a bold, innovative venture of American leadership.
The MCA has fundamentally changed the way the United States delivers financial support. The account gives African leaders and governments incentives and practical help to fight corruption, free their economies from repressive and unfair policies and increase investment in education and health. Countries that take these courageous steps are awarded a MCA compact. To date, more than two-thirds of the MCA’s $5.5 billion is being invested in African countries that are enacting broad-based, fundamental reforms. Other African nations, which naturally want their own financial support, are getting the message and starting down the difficult but crucial road toward government transparency and accountability.
More than simply sending dollars, the MCA lays the groundwork for sustainable growth in Africa - the type of growth that can raise millions above extreme poverty. Economic development, in the long run, results from trade and foreign investment. The most effective kind of aid helps build the infrastructure, human capital and legal structures that encourage trade and invite investment – roads, health care, education and strengthening the rule of law.
Today, the MCA has been such a success in Africa that there are many more countries competing for its funds than there are funds available. Congress should fully fund this vital program. And I hope ONE Members, and all voters who care about seeing the African people succeed, will push their leaders to invest in the promise of the African people by investing in the MCA.