NY Times writer decries U.S. attitudes toward Africa

Christopher Guess – The Daily Cardinal

Friday, October 28, 2005
The Daily Cardinal
Howard French speaks at Vilas Hall Thursday about his experiences in Africa as a New York Times correspondent.
Howard French, Chin correspondent for Th New York Times, spok Thursday about hi tenure in Zaire, th Congo and Niger, and how the U.S government neglects the possibilit of African democracy. UW-Madison students and faculty ha the opportunity to learn more abou these geopolitical currents in Vila Hall.
His recent book, A Continent for the Taking: the Tragedy and Hope of Africa, substantiated much of the discussion.
French’s presentation advocated a renewed policy on U.S. involvement in economic and democratic development in Africa. He stated how U.S. media and public opinion tend to focus primarily on disaster, despair and hopelessness there.
French related how many democratic movements have sprung up in Africa since the end of European imperialism in the 1960s, particularly after the Cold War.
“The popular 1992 coup of Mali’s dictatorship is a great example of the hope for African citizens,” French said.
French outlined several ways in which the U.S. government could take a progressive stance toward Africa, one of which is supporting a modern health-care system.
“Africa has the largest problem with infectious diseases that are mostly curable,” he said. He pointed out that U.S. companies could benefit from private investment in disease prevention, while the positive impact would improve global perceptions of U.S. policies.
French asserted the majority of U.S. opinion holds that progress in Africa is hopeless, adding that Africa is seen as a distant, corrupt place that is not interwoven in American history.
“The reality is that a significant part of America was built upon African labor,” he said. “We have an obligation to help Africa build.”
Joyce Endeley, a professor at the University of Buea in Cameroon, who recently gave a speech for UW-Madison’s African Studies program, thanked French for his speech.
“It is truly an awakening of citizens of both countries,” she said.

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