By C. Payne Lucas and Kevin G. Lowther
C. Payne Lucas was Africare's president from May 1971 to June 15, 2002, and Kevin G. Lowther is Africare's former regional director for Southern Africa. This article was first published as an editorial in The Christian Science Monitor (July 11, 1995). It has been updated and is excerpted below.
The Dark Continent has become the Abandoned Continent. In its rush to balance the federal budget and virtually mothball foreign assistance, the United States Congress in recent years has cut Africa's modest share of the foreign assistance budget.
The message is clear as an African sunset: Africa is marginal to American interests; it is expendable.
Cutting off aid to Africa is not in the best interests of America. The reasons are both practical and moral.
Africa is a growing market for American goods. Trade is following aid to Africa, just as it did to postwar Europe, and more recently to Asia and Latin America. U.S. exports to Africa exceed American exports to the former Soviet Union. An estimated 100,000 American jobs are tied to African exports.
African nations have managed to develop their human and natural resources, their roads, communications and other infrastructure. And they have done this with our financial and technical support.
We do not, of course, export much to countries beset with natural disasters and man-made conflicts. We readily respond to humanitarian crises, at considerable and mounting cost, yet propose to disinvest in programs that reduce people's vulnerability to drought or foster development of more effective political and economic structures. Yet these are tomorrow's African markets.
Africa has the potential to be a net producer of food and renewable energy. Therefore, it has an important role in sustaining the planet's biodiversity and in preserving its ecological balance.
The moral imperative to remain engaged in Africa is equally strong. Millions of African slaves and their descendants helped to build this country. Millions more died in the slave trade. It was an African Holocaust, no less deserving of memory and reparation than the death of six million Jews in World War II.
Africa has had a significant influence on American culture. Much of our music, food, language and literature derive from African culture. And, to a degree that would surprise, flatter and perhaps embarrass many Americans, Africans admire our values, our institutions and our cultural diversity. They look to us for political, economic and even social leadership. They know they need America and are hurt that Americans may not recognize that they need Africa.
Copyright 1995, C. Payne Lucas and Kevin G. Lowther. All rights reserved.