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Engel Remarks on U.S. Interests in Africa

May 18, 2017
Press Release

 

- As Delivered –

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks at the full Committee hearing on U.S. interests in Africa:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for convening this hearing.  And to our witnesses: welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee.  We’re grateful for your time and for your expertise.

“The region we’re focused on today, sub-Saharan Africa, holds tremendous importance for the United States and for other emerging global powers.  If we don’t give Africa the focus it deserves, those strategic opportunities will slip away at great cost to the United States and, I believe, to countries across the continent.

“In recent years, American policy has played a major role in driving political, economic, and security progress in sub-Saharan Africa. For the most part, these policies have won strong bipartisan support. They’ve also shown good results. 

“Working together, we’ve helped promote economic opportunity through the African Growth and Opportunity Act—what we call AGOA—and the Electrify Africa Act. We’ve improved access to life-saving health care through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, and through the American response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014. And we’ve worked to tackle the problem of wildlife trafficking, which is tied to so many other criminal activities, through the END Wildlife Trafficking Act.

“These initiatives are great examples of how doing good for other people also does good for America’s interests. 

“If we can help provide access to reliable power or health care, we should. It’s the right thing to do. 

"At the same time, when we make these investments, we’re helping communities and countries become more stable and more prosperous.  It adds up over time, and we end up with stronger partners on the world stage and populations who view the United States as a friend.

“But these efforts, as worthwhile as they are, haven’t made a dent in other challenges facing many African countries. For example, conflict and climate change have given rise to massive humanitarian crises—including an ongoing famine in South Sudan, and the risk of famine in Somalia and northeastern Nigeria.

“The victories we’ve achieved are fragile, and a lot of work remains to meet remaining challenges. So I’m worried that after robust engagement during both the Bush and Obama Administrations, United States policy toward Africa has suddenly gone adrift.

“Part of this is due to some diplomatic missteps. In April, Secretary Tillerson invited the Chair of the African Union Commission to meet in Washington, then at the last minute canceled the meeting. In March, the African Global Economic and Development Summit took place in California. Not a single citizen of an African country was granted a visa by the State Department to attend this event.

“I have to ask: would the Secretary of State brush off the European foreign policy chief? When we hosted the APEC summit in 2011, how many citizens of Asian countries did we turn away? Mistakes like this send an unfortunate message.

“What sends an even clearer message—and will do real harm to people across Africa—is the Administration’s proposed international affairs budget cut. If we cut by nearly a third our investment in diplomacy and development, we put at risk all the work we’ve done to foster good governance, economic growth, and counterterrorism efforts. And I am happy and I am pleased to say that when we held hearings in this Committee, people on both sides of the aisle spoke out against these horrific budget cuts.

“Cutting USAID initiatives and support for UN organizations will put lives at risk. The appalling reinstatement and expansion of the global gag rule will have an outsized impact on African countries, cutting off vulnerable communities—especially women and girls—from needed health care. Scaling back the Peace Corps will undermine one of our most cost-effective tools of providing assistance and building relationships with other cultures.  And expanding the American military engagement on the continent just doesn’t make sense if we’re not also working on a parallel track to address the drivers of political instability.

“The good news is that Congress decides how much we invest in foreign affairs, and where we put that money to use.  We have the power of the purse. So I’m confident as we move forward, we will continue to give our initiatives in Africa the resources they need, and that we will do more to address the range of unmet challenges.

“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about the best way forward on these issues. I again thank Chairman Royce and Ms. Bass for all her work on this, and I yield back.”

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