California State University East Bay

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California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

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Chief Advisor Signals Hope for African Nations

Clinton advisor Steve Radelet answers CSUEB student's questions

CSU East Bay was visited on Tuesday by Steve Radelet, a senior advisor of development to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

Radelet, who formerly served as a senior fellow for the Center for Global Development, spoke to a packed lecture hall of students and faculty in support of his new book, “Emerging Africa: How 17 Countries Are Leading the Way.”

As the title implies, the presentation focused on the economic and social advancements of a number of key states in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Dr. Carl Stempel, an associate professor of Sociology and Social Services, Radelet’s book hopes to describe “how many countries are democratizing, reducing corruption, taking advantage of new communication technologies, improving macroeconomic management, and strengthening education, and how these changes are paying off in terms of economic growth and reducing poverty.”

Radelet pulls no punches in exposing the problems that have historically crippled nations such as Liberia, which has suffered through decades of warfare, corruption and poverty.

However, he also believes that there is a side of Africa that is rarely reported on.

“We never, in the news, hear about countries doing well,” he said.

Radelet reported how since 1989, when there were few African democracies, 22 stable democratic nations have formed. In fact, Botswana and Namibia can be seen as examples of successful economic and political turnaround in the region.

Radelet sheepishly mentioned how the 2006 inauguration of Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf marked the first time that a female head of state has been elected in Africa, stating that his comment “has nothing to do with who I work for.”

Marked progress through ensuing difficulties was the theme of the day. “Corruption is still a problem, but it is getting better,” said Radelet. “There was a time you couldn’t buy anything in the market, corruption was rampant—no one could get a job.”

There are clear generalities in Radelet’s central arguments, one being that 1989 can be seen as a turning point in African history. However, Radelet’s mastery of explaining international policy clearly shined through to the audience.

Radelet also highlighted the positive impacts of technology and global communications. Currently, health records can be downloaded, language lessons can be texted and farmers can communicate with each other on their cell phones. Many Westerners who have recently traveled to Africa have been surprised to see cell phones in rural areas.

These changes have had a tangible impact—infant mortality has decreased by 30 percent in recent years.

“Is this enough? No, but it’s progress,” said Radelet, who pointed out that the decimating impact of AIDS should not be understated.

During the question-and-answer portion of the presentation, CSUEB’s international spectra became apparent as students and faculty originally from Africa were able to engage in the discussion.

When the conversation turned to America’s role in African development, Radelet was quick to note that the U.S. often has two separate motives. Its desire to deliver economic aid can be tempered by a need to fight global terrorism.

“The problem is these often come into conflict,” said Radelet.

A moral conflict has also arisen recently in Uganda, where the U.S. is caught between chastising a government that has currently made homosexuality illegal and fighting terrorist cells within the country.

Radelet closed the presentation by urging the audience to be more mindful of Africa, stating, “this is a special moment in time.”

It is true that the world rarely pays Africa any mind, and when it does, it’s usually is usually portrayed in a negative light.

Though problems remain, Radelet would agree that Africa is a land of unlimited optimism and potential.

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California State University East Bay
Chief Advisor Signals Hope for African Nations