- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2008

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — As the world tries to grapple with decades of failed attempts to alleviate disease, poverty and war in Africa, the Bush administration says that a new paradigm for aid to the continent is emerging that in many ways is spontaneous and unplanned.

The U.S. private sector is now giving far more aid to Africa than the government is, in a complete reversal of past trends.

It is generally agreed that simply pouring money into Africa has not worked.

“It’s a soul-searching time. Africa is much worse off now, despite the fact that there’s been a trillion of aid invested in Africa since 1950,” said Jon Halverson, a Tanzania-based manager with the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF).

President Bush, who is currently on a weeklong tour of Africa and will sign several aid packages during the trip, has decided that the money the government gives to fight disease should move primarily through private religious groups, and that infrastructure and development aid should go only to countries that show results in governing justly.

But the White House has also been pointing to the explosion of assistance to Africa by private businesses, nonprofit agencies and religious organizations of varying size.

Fifty years ago, government played the major role in helping the developing world. In the 1960s, the U.S. government disbursed about $5 billion, about $30 billion in today’s dollars, which was about 68 percent of U.S. aid to the developing world. Private aid amounted to about $1.4 billion in the late ‘60s, which is the equivalent to $8.6 billion today.

Government aid has stayed about steady in real dollar terms since the late ‘60s, with a $27.6 billion disbursement in 2005.

But by 2005, taxpayer-funded assistance was only 17 percent of the equation. Private-sector donations and aid had risen to $136 billion.

“This is an untold and remarkable story. This wasn’t planned. It’s just the generosity of the American church and corporations,” said Jay Hein, director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives.

Mr. Hein has said that U.S. private sector aid to Africa is the “the upside of globalization.”

“The degree to which today’s world is increasingly integrated has transformed the way that individual citizens, private corporations and public agencies think about and engage with other countries,” according to a report by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Bush administration does take some credit for the increase in aid to Africa through religious groups.

In fiscal 2006, 83 percent of the $3.3 billion disbursed under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, went to about 1,500 “faith-based or community organizations.”

“A lot of the PEPFAR money is directed to faith-based groups, because they’re the ones already on the ground, they’re the ones people respect and trust, their priest or their imam in their village,” first lady Laura Bush said yesterday.

Mark Dybul, Mr. Bush’s global AIDS coordinator, said that “30 to 70 percent of health care in sub-Saharan Africa is in the faith sector,” citing a World Health Organization report.

“So you can’t possibly tackle HIV/AIDS either in the health area or in the behavior change area if you’re not dealing with faith-based organizations,” Mr. Dybul said.

The White House faith-based initiatives office will host a conference in Rwanda in April to train nonprofit and religious groups in Africa how to access U.S. funding for disease prevention and treatment.

But such groups are only part of the puzzle. In fact, money from “private capital flows” made up 42 percent of U.S. aid to the developing world in 2005. That means good old-fashioned business deals, infusions of capital from outside companies through deals with businesses in developing countries.

“What Africa needs more than anything else is a middle class and secure jobs,” said Ward Brehm, USADF’s board chairman.

USADF is a small government organization with a $30 million annual budget, which works directly with businesses and entrepreneurs, and which connects large U.S. corporations with potential business partners in developing nations.

USADF is near to closing a deal this week where General Mills would invest in a grain processing plant here, in Tanzania’s capital city.

If the deal goes through, Mr. Brehm said, “that’s real business, real direct investment” in Tanzania.

“Those [grain farmers] aren’t going to be poor very long,” he said. “General Mills has an insatiable appetite.”

USADF has already helped connect Starbucks Corp. with coffee growers in Rwanda and Target Corp. with basket weavers in Tanzania.

The idea of helping the agricultural sector in developing nations is catching fire in the broader business and philanthropic arenas. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is also part of the partnership between Starbucks and African coffee growers, and last month Mr. Gates announced a $306 million program to help increase production among African farmers.

Mr. Brehm, a former consultant who has become highly involved in African issues and spoke on the topic at the recent National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, said that while development is a good thing, “unless it’s owned by the people it’s intended for, it won’t work.”

“They need to take ownership of these efforts or it’s not sustainable,” Mr. Brehm said. “You want to create opportunity for people and then that’s their springboard to social and financial independence. The only thing they need is capital.”

The main obstacle in Africa, he said, is bad governance — one of the targets of the Millennium Challenge Account aid packages that Mr. Bush is using his trip to tout.

“If a country has a lot of corruption, free enterprise can’t work,” Mr. Brehm said.

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