As the G W Bush presidential library opened in Dallas, Texas I could not help but reflect on the Bush legacy and policy toward Africa as a whole. For Africa, Bush was an ally who spearheaded several causes. President Obama will soon embark on his second African trip where he will visit Senegal, Tanzania, South Africa and many Africans will eagerly await the new policies implemented as a result of this visit. Many things have changed since Bush was President and President Obama will be forging new relationships based on changes in the world economy, terrorism and the usual fight for natural resources at which Africa is always the center.
The last time then Senator Obama was in South Africa he expressed disappointment at the handling of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa. However, during his Presidency, Bush saved millions of lives through his AIDS campaign by providing an estimated 10 million people with antiretroviral drugs and thus helping to extend the life expectancy of many people for which African recipients are eternally grateful. He could have chosen to spend the money on any other initiative but he chose Africa and the AIDS campaign PEPFAR. Those with ties to Sub-Saharan Africa will testify that thanks to GW Bush there are fewer people dying of HIV and those with the disease are living longer and more productive lives. Parents are able to raise their children and as long as they stay on the medication the treatments are working. There is certainly no price tag on human life and much of Sub-Saharan Africa has Mr. Bush and the Americans to thank for their generosity. HIV had ravaged many families and communities particular in the south and the close family bonds that once held them together were tested by the disease as adults could all be wiped out leaving elderly parents to care for 20 to 30 grandchildren on meager income. Surviving sibling felt the brunt of caring for orphaned nieces and nephews even as their currencies depreciated and their salary remained stable yet their burden increased and social services became scarce to nil.
President Bush worked tirelessly to bring peace to the Darfur region and worked towards the two state solution between the Arab Muslim controlled northern region and the black Christian African controlled oil producing Southern region after decades of war. Some families decided to honor Bush by naming their children George W.
President Bush during his tenure advocated for debt cancellation for up to 21 African countries. This measure was meant to lessen the burden and help the countries spend on initiatives that would help their economies and citizens to ease poverty. This certainly helped the most debt ridden nations though it was on paper in the long term it helped alleviate poverty because the interest that would have been paid could be used to build schools or for farming equipment and seed to help farmers provide their basic food supplies and hopefully have a surplus to sell.
Perhaps it was when President G W Bush was reading about former President Theodore Roosevelt who spent considerable time in Africa that he may have developed an affinity for Africa. It is not a secret that President G W Bush greatly admired Teddy Roosevelt and it is perhaps his influence upon 43 that may have led to favorable policies toward Africa. So if you are in the Dallas area, and if you cannot visit the library physically then go virtually to http://www.georgewbushlibrary.smu.edu/
There are many issues Africa in general is grappling with including education, energy independence, entrepreneurship, trade, stronger economic growth, political unrest, violence during elections, corruption in the public and private center etc. As President Obama visits Africa we look forward to how his policy will shape global and local challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa.