Frazer, formerly the leading architect of U.S. Africa policy as U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 2005 to 2009, called the initiatives she spearheaded “transformative” and said that the new administration should build on its predecessor’s success by increasing dialogue with African leaders to address the myriad health, economic, and political problems that plague the continent.
“You need to work with people on the ground,” Frazer said. “We need to see an African leader in the Oval Office.”
Frazer said the establishment of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—a $15 billion effort that she said has saved over 1.5 million lives—had lessons for future policies in the region.
The active involvement of African leaders in developing and implementing the program was crucial to its success, Frazer said, adding that the Obama administration should make a concerted effort to make African leaders an instrumental part of their policies there.
Frazer also cited policies in economic development, specifically referencing the Millennium Challenge account, which provides billions of dollars to African countries with sound governing and economic practices as a means of incentivizing sustainable economic development in developing African countries.
Audience members said Frazer’s comments were surprisingly frank and at times even confrontational about her viewpoint on U.S. policy toward Africa.
“Very informative. Very knowledgeable. Very sharp. She was very candid, especially for somebody in public office,” said A. Kayode Ogunro ’05, co-president of the Harvard Business School’s Africa Club.
One audience member said Frazer’s glowing remarks about Bush administration policy might have been motivated by her role there.
“I think that she still feels the need to defend the administration,” said Pearl T. Robinson, professor of African American politics at Tufts and a friend of Frazer.
But Robinson added that Frazer had ample reason to call the policies successful.
“The biggest foreign policy success that [Bush] can claim is in Africa,” Robinson said. “I think she’s done well.”
The event was part of the ongoing Africa Week hosted by the Harvard African Student Association and the Black Students Association, and drew a crowd of about 50.