The 1970s ushered in remarkable changes on the African continent and at The Africa-America Institute. By and large, a majority of African countries were free from colonial rule by this time and moving towards building strong, stable independent nations. Yet, much of southern Africa was the final holdout in achieving independence on the continent.
Creating high-level opportunities for African and American leaders to deal directly with the region’s challenges was a key role played by AAI during the 1970s. In 1976, AAI jointly convened a conference with African governments in Maseru, Lesotho, to grapple with U.S. policy towards Africa, specifically confronting apartheid in South Africa and colonialism in the region and development assistance.
More than 110 participants attended the conference, which included the Deputy Prime Minister of Tunisia, foreign ministers, deputy foreign ministers, and ministers of finance, agriculture and education from African countries such as Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia. Members of southern African liberation movements were also in attendance.
The American delegation of 50 persons included then-U.S. Senator Joesph Biden and 11 Members of Congress and several corporate executives. Long-time AAI supporter Andrew Young, who was the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, served as the opening American speaker and led policy discussions on Southern Rhodesia, known today as Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
At the conclusion of the Lesotho conference, delegates from the U.S. and Africa committed to deepening engagement in southern Africa. U.S. Rep. Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, pledged “vigorous action for positive [U.S.] policy changes”.
Tunisian Deputy Prime Minister Mohamed Sayah said the conference affirmed “the necessity of a new approach to the problems of development based on a greater solidarity and cooperation which is mutually advantageous to all parties.”