The Marketplace Report: U.S. Aid to Africa

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President Bush has announced the U.S. will provide a $1.7 billion aid package to Africa in advance of next week's G-8 summit in Scotland. Madeleine Brand talks with John Dimsdale Marketplace about aid to Africa, and other issues likely to be raised at the gathering of the world's economic leaders.


Back now with DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Leaders of the world's major industrialized nations will meet next week in Scotland for the G8 Summit. A major item on the agenda is aid to Africa. The host of the meeting, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, wants rich countries to commit to doubling the amount of aid for food, medicine and development to Africa by 2010. Joining us is "Marketplace's" John Dimsdale in Washington.

And, John, is the US meeting those ambitious goals?

JOHN DIMSDALE ("Marketplace"): Well, the Bush administration claims it is, saying the US has already tripled aid to Africa and is committed to double it again in the next five years. But there are critics who question whether the actual spending is matching the rhetoric. The White House has been making several announcements in the lead-up to the G8 meeting. President Bush gave a speech yesterday announcing $1.7 billion in new programs in Africa to fight malaria, improve education, reduce violence against women.

A few weeks back, during Tony Blair's visit to the White House, the president committed an additional 674 million in food aid. Plus, the US will participate in an international agreement to cancel $40 billion poor countries owe to international aid organizations like the World Bank.

BRAND: And I understand there's some questions being raised about how much aid is actually reaching people in Africa.

DIMSDALE: Yeah. We should go back three years to when the president announced a $10 billion aid program for poor countries called the Millennium Challenge Account. The administration claims the program has increased assistance to Africa, but there are development advocates along with some leaders of African nations who say the money hasn't been forthcoming. For example, Ann-Louise Colgan with Africa Action says neither the president nor Congress are living up to their commitments.

Ms. ANN-LOUISE COLGAN (Africa Action): And what we have seen in each subsequent year is that the president's request has been less than what he had initially promised, and that Congress has appropriated still less than what the president had requested. So where we stand right now, the Millennium Challenge Account has received less than half of what the president had promised it would receive, and hardly any money has been dispersed so far.

BRAND: And, John, what's the response from the Bush administration?

DIMSDALE: They acknowledge that there has been a slow start. They've had some difficulties hiring staff, setting up these assistance programs with accounting checks to make sure that the money gets to needy people and doesn't end up in the pockets of corrupt officials and criminals in Africa. The administration says it now spends $4.3 billion for African aid, and they'll double that in five years.

But the budget debate going on now in Congress illustrates the problem. The White request for $3 billion for the Millennium Challenge Account is on the chopping block. House appropriators are looking at approving only $1 3/4 billion for next year. So there's kind of a circular debate going on over the Africa assistance.

Later today on "Marketplace," we look at how Chinese companies are trying to comply with international labor standards.

BRAND: John Dimsdale of public radio's daily business show "Marketplace." And "Marketplace" is produced by American Public Media.

Thanks a lot, John.

DIMSDALE: Thank you.

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