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Murphy, Thomas H. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 77, Number 2 (Jan. 1976)

Wiley, David S.
The African connection,   pp. 7-11


Page 10


We are guilty
   Against this backdrop of long his-
 torical ties, cultural inheritance, and
 dependence for strategic minerals,
 the present attitude of the United
 States toward Africa is highly
 perplexing. At the time of independ-
 ence for many African nations
 in 1960, there were few illusions
 about racial discrimination in the
 United States. Indeed, some African
 leaders who had studied in the United
 States in the 1950s (e.g. Ghana
 President Kwame Nkrumah, Nigerian
 Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Kenyon
 Tom Mboya) had direct experience
 with it. President John Kennedy's new
 administration, however, made
 pledges of a fresh start in American-
 African relations and sent affable
 G. Mennen Williams as his Assistant
 Secretary of State for Africa.
 Williams found a friendly welcome
 in most African nations. After all, the
 United States had never been
 a colonial power in Africa and had
 fought Britain for its independence,
 too. With our many black Americans,
 our great wealth, and our knowl-
 edge of economic development,
 the Western Hemisphere could bring
 friendship and assistance to newly
 independent black governments.
 The "era of good feeling" was short-
 lived, however, for Africans had
 underestimated the extent of
 U.S. commitment to powerful interests
 which guided foreign policy
 and protected American corpora-
 tions abroad, to keep as low as pos-
 sible the prices of raw materials for
 American industry, and to halt the
 spread of international communism
 and socialism in the Third
 World. These commitments from
 the past resulted in strong ties of the
 U.S. government and major corpora-
 tions with, first, the Portuguese
 Salazar dictatorship, which, it was
 assumed, would remain in power for
 decades. That regime used our naval
 and air base in the Azores to
 bargain for U.S. support, or at least
 passive acquiescence, for her wars
 against the African peoples in
 Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and
Angola. Thus, in spite of our many
public speeches in the United Nations
for support for "the self-determination
of subject peoples," United States
10
military assistance flowed to
underdeveloped Portugal; napalm and
herbicides were used on villages;
and American Boeing 707s were
sold to ferry Portuguese
troops to and from the wars.
   Similarly, while neighboring African
 nations have spent millions of
 dollars of urgently needed develop-
 ment funds to enforce United Nations
 sanctions against the avowedly
 racialist Rhodesian white govern-
 ment, the U.S. openly allowed the
 Union Carbide Corporation to continue
 to export ferrochrome from its
 Rhodesian mines, thereby providing
 the whites with badly needed foreign
 exchange. And American mercenary
 soldiers have joined the white
 army there. Americans who work
 in Africa are asked frequently how
 "your interest in that company or that
 chrome ore could lead you to
 open trade with a regime which
 stands for everything you
 Americans say you are against."
   Likewise, American economic inter-
ests in profits, ores, and balance of
payments issues in South Africa have
created a situation which leads
independent Africa to assume
no contradiction between the principles
of the American peoples and gov-
ernment and the practices of South
Africa. Those practices include
the effective outlawing of black
unions, legalized segregation in every
aspect of life, the open reservation
of good jobs for whites, the segregation
of man from wife and father from
children for the sake of cheap labor,
relocation of large segments of
the African population into
isolated rural slums, one of the
world's most extensive policing and
control operations of non-white
populations, resulting in the highest
arrest and imprisonment rate anywhere.
  Americans who visit Africa
are questioned about our economic
policies beyond the support of
avowedly colonial and racialist
governments. First, in spite of our
great wealth and our special relation-
ship with Africa, she has received
very little economic assistance
from us. For instance, since World
War II, Americans have given more
foreign aid to Germany, our
former enemy against which many
African men fought and died with us,
than to all of sub-Saharan Africa.
Indeed, since 1945 the two
dictatorships of Spain and Greece
have received more foreign aid from
the United States than all of
Africa combined.
   More important than aid, however,
 was economic policy toward African
 products. One United Nations econo-
 mist estimates that in the 1950s
 and 1960s Africa lost twice
 as much money as all the foreign
 aid assistance it received simply
 through the drop in the price of
 African commodities on world markets.
 For instance, in 1954 during the
 colonial period, Ghanaian cocoa
 sold for $1575 per ton. By 1965, the
 price had fallen to $256 per ton, and
 those inflated dollars were worth
 much less. Similar stories may
 be told about Zambian and Zairean
 copper, Tanzanian sisal, Nigerian and
 Senegalese peanuts and other agricul-
 tural commodities. The refusal of
 the United States to support the
 various African proposals to
 stabilize these prices at a reason-
 ably profitable level for African
 governments and farmers is creating a
 great deal of ill will among these
 nations which are trying to catch up
 very rapidly with decent standards
 of health care and nutrition.
Fabric mill in Ghana
Photo/Ghana Information Service


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