From the Archives: The Africa Report Interviews Ford Administration’s U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
AAI will feature a quarterly “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 This blog post features verbatim historical documents from AAI’s files and articles from Africa Report, a monthly publication of in-depth analysis and reports chronicling the continent’s dramatic political and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
The Honorable Donald Easum, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under the Ford Administration, was interviewed by the Editor of Africa Report, Anthony Hughes, after returning from a tour of Africa in 1974.
A decade later, Easum served as President and CEO of AAI from 1980 to 1988, and devoted three decades of his career to strengthening U.S. relations with the African continent. He passed away on April 16 in Summit, NJ. Read a tribute to his life here.
AFRICA REPORT: Following the low priority accorded lo Africa under President Ninon, 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 I fiat Africa wf[[ 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 affairs. The attention that is paid by this or an/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 Stales direct private investment in 1961 was about $51 billion; 10 years later it was over $14 billion. Figures for tho 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 percent 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 decolonisation 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.