African-American Voices for Africa: Moving Forward with the Congressional Black Caucus
Photo: Martha Togdbba of Kpaytno, Liberia, grows vegetables, including tomatoes and chili peppers. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Kristen Y. Archer
Rarely do Bread for the World’s issues converge so seamlessly with legislative priorities as they did at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 42nd Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) in Washington, DC, last week. Bread’s African-American Voices for Africa initiative stood out as particularly relevant to legislative decisions currently on the table.
Rev. Derrick Boykin, who leads the initiative, spoke at the Emerging Leaders Instant Apprentice Luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 20. At the event, Derrick addressed the need for courageous African-American leaders to advocate for and shape U.S. poverty-focused development assistance to effectively reduce hunger and poverty in Africa. From Derrick’s perspective, Bread and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) share a mutual interest in promoting a prosperous Africa.
The leadership of the CBC is essential to raising the issues of poverty in Africa to a level of global importance. Through congress members such as the late Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) and now Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), African issues and concerns have been brought to the forefront within the caucus.
This was evident in the 2012 Africa Braintrust session convened by Rep. Bass on Friday. Derrick, Bread’s racial and ethnic outreach associate Bishop Don Williams, and I attended the event, which was titled “Africa Rising: A Continent of Opportunity.” During the first panel discussion, “Africa’s Growing Economy,” we heard from Ambassador Tebelelo Seretse of Botswana, who emphasized that African nations are now focused on “trade, not aid.” In other words, countries making investments in African development should direct funds toward business, commerce, trade, and agriculture—areas that offer longer-term sustainability than does aid offered only during times of crises.
This is, of course, consistent with Bread’s 2011 Offering of Letters campaign, in which we pushed for more effective U.S. foreign assistance in reducing global poverty.
During the second panel, “Health Investments for Africa’s Future,” Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, also emphasized the notion of “Trade first, aid second.” While the rest of the world was falling into an economic depression, African economies were growing tremendously. The challenge now is to ensure that infrastructure in those nations can keep up with economic advancements in a way that is sustainable for the future of the continent.
Perhaps the most relevant charge came during that same panel from Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme. Ms. Cousin provided some alarming statistics—namely, that the UN World Food Programme feeds 100 million people every year, 60 percent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. It is both uplifting that the UN World Food Programme is capable of making that kind of an impact, and disheartening that it is still so needed.
As Ms. Cousin boldly stated, “We cannot talk about the security of our country or the global community as long as there is hunger.” We could not ask for more validation for the work we do than that.
Kristen Y. Archer is the media relations specialist at Bread for the World.
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