Jul 27
July 27, 2012

Continuing A Commitment To Africa


See a timeline of President Clinton's commitment to Africa.

In 1998, I travelled to Africa for the first time, visiting Ghana, Uganda, Senegal, Rwanda, Botswana, and South Africa. It was the start of what I hoped would become a new, collaborative relationship between the U.S. and Africa and a shared commitment to creating a better future.

Since that trip – through my presidency and, over the last decade, through the work of my Foundation – I’ve worked to uphold that commitment. I’ve returned to Africa eight times since I left office to visit programs and initiatives supported by the Clinton Foundation, to spend time with our partners on the ground, and to meet the people whose lives have been changed because of our efforts. Each visit leaves me grateful for all that we’ve achieved together, and more certain than ever that – with continued investment, innovation, and collaboration – Africa’s future will be a bright one.

My trip to Africa last week was no exception. In a little over a week, I visited Mozambique, South Africa, Rwanda, and Uganda, and saw firsthand the dramatic impact that my foundation has had in each country.  I saw the legacy of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) when I visited a craft market in Mozambique; celebrated Mandela Day in South Africa at the opening of a new library at the No-Moscow Primary School; met with farmers at the Mount Meru Soyco factory, an agribusiness project outside of Kigali, Rwanda; and visited health centers dedicated to maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, cancer diagnosis and treatment, and life-saving treatment for diarrhea in Mozambique, Rwanda, and Uganda.

While each visit was unique, each shared a common theme: by bringing together the private sector, governments, and nongovernmental organizations, and by working closely with communities on the ground, we can implement lasting solutions that empower local people to build their own futures – futures in which they rely on their own resources and enterprise and not on foreign aid.

We can see this happening in Rwanda, which has changed dramatically since my first visit 14 years ago. Today, Rwanda's per capita income is five times as high as it was in 1998, roads and infrastructure have improved immensely, and more than half of the country’s members of Parliament are women, making Rwanda the first country in the world to achieve that distinction. Rwanda's focus on creating a better future, through infrastructure, capacity-building, and public-private partnerships, is all the more evident each day, and serves as a beacon of hope for other African nations.

Seeing this work in action and meeting people whose lives we’ve changed have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. But the most rewarding part of all is to know that someday, if our programs are as successful as we hope they will be – as we believe they can be – we’ll have worked ourselves out of a job, and these countries, communities, and citizens will thrive all on their own.