Africa Can Inspire America in Fighting Hunger
A few minutes ago, Bread for the World President David Beckmann addressed the 13th U.S.-Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, one of the official events leading to the historic U.S.-Africa Summit next week.
He focused his speech on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and its role in opening the continent’s economies and building free markets. Since 1981, Bread has maintained a long-standing focus on African development. We helped to pass the first AGOA legislation in 2000 and have been actively involved in AGOA ever since.
Beckmann in particular addressed broader efforts to fight hunger and poverty worldwide, and how African countries can inspire the United States in this effort. Here is an excerpt from his speech:
I want to talk about AGOA in the context of the world’s remarkable progress against hunger and poverty.
The number of people in extreme poverty in the world in 2015 will be roughly half what it was in 1990. This progress against material misery is unprecedented. I’m a preacher, so I see this great liberation as an exodus—an example of our loving God moving in our history.
Africa’s economic and political progress is an important part of this story. The percentage of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa in extreme poverty has dropped from about 60 percent in 1990 to less than 50 percent today. The fraction of the African population that suffers from hunger has dropped from one-third to one-quarter.
Africans are often surprised to learn that many people in the United States still struggle with poverty and hunger. It’s not nearly as severe as poverty and hunger in Africa. But ironically, we have not managed to reduce poverty and hunger in the United States since 1990. So shifting from an aid-dominated relationship to a mutually advantageous business relationship is not only good for Africa. It is also politically important in this country that our relationship with Africa is visibly good for workers and consumers here.
Let me suggest that Africa’s progress can also be an inspiration for the United States. Many Americans have become discouraged about the possibility of reducing hunger and poverty. They are willing to help out at a local soup kitchen, but they no longer believe that it is possible to change laws and systems in ways that will dramatically reduce poverty.
What you have done in much of Africa to overcome huge problems demonstrates the feasibility of economic progress for the rest of the world. Indeed, the nations of the world are converging around the goal of ending extreme poverty and hunger in all countries, including this country, by the year 2030.
The launch of AGOA 15 years ago was a significant step forward in Africa’s development, and 15 years from now we’ll look back the new partnership between Africa and the United States as another step forward toward the end of extreme poverty and hunger in both Africa and the United States.
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