From the Archives: Interview with Donald Easum, Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

January 21, 2015

AAI will feature a monthly “From the Archives” blog, highlighting historical milestones in AAI and African history. This blog post features verbatim historical documents from AAI’s files and articles from Africa Report, a monthly publication of in-depth analysis and reports chronicling the continent’s dramatic political and economic developments.

Published from 1956 through 1995, Africa Report became the most significant Africa-focused publication in the U.S.

 

Africa Report, January-February 1975. Volume 20, Number 1

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Malawi President Dr. Hastings Banda with U.S. ambassadors Robert Stevenson and Don Easum in 1974.

During the Nixon/Ford Administration, The Hon. Donald Easum served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Easum gave an exclusive interview to Africa Report, after returning from a tour of Africa.

 

AFRICA REPORT: Following the low priority accorded lo Africa under President Nixon, President Ford appeared to make a poor start by omitting the continent from his list of areas of interest in the course of his first address to Congress. Do you have any hope that Africa will receive any greater attention under this administration?

EASUM: The question, it seems to me, reflects something of a misunderstanding of how the official conduct of foreign relations works. The attention that is paid by this administration to any foreign government or area reflects the nature and magnitude of the substantive relationships—that is to say the interests of one sort or another—that we have with that country or area and that it has with us.

Most of the nations of Black Africa are relatively young and the United States does not have the same types of political and economic lies with them that it has developed historically with older nations in other parts of the world. However, you can see by looking at trade and investment figures, to use one objective standard of measurement, that the involvement of the

United States with the countries of Black Africa has grown consistently during the era of independence. Our overall trade with Africa in 1972 was $3 billion: in 1973 it was 54.6 billion. United States direct private investment in 1961 was about 51 billion; 10 years later it was over 14 billion. Figures for the first half of 1974, if projected on an annual basis, would increase trade levels to nearly double the 1973 levels. As this involvement continues to grow, and as African countries continue to seek U.S. capital and techniques in developing their economies, U.S. official attention to Africa will also increase. But we have other reasons, outside the economic sphere, for closer attention to Africa.

One of the central elements in our historical relationship with Africa is the fact that 11 per cent of our total population is of African descent. Our Black community’s search for roots in Africa and for identity as Afro-Americans has made Americans of all races more conscious of the African heritage. This, coupled with the remarkable development of Black Studies and

African Studies programs on our campuses, has served to increase American interest in Africa. This rising awareness of the Black experience at home and abroad has brought a greater knowledge of and interest in the issues of economic and social development, racial equality and decolonization in Africa. Recent changes in geopolitical arrangements in southern Africa and increased press attention to them can be expected to contribute in new and important ways to this awareness.

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