February 21, 2008

HARRISONBURG—In his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, looks at the Republic of Cape Verde, which he characterizes as “an exceptional African nation.”

Beginning with the archipelagic country’s relations with the United States which go back to 1843 when the USS Saratoga, flagship of the transatlantic slave trade-indicting Africa Squadron commanded by Captain Matthew Calbraith Perry, sailed into what is now Praia to make it the squadron’s base—a tradition of military engagement led by the U.S. Navy which was renewed last November when the USS Annapolis became the first U.S. submarine ever to make a visit to Sub-Saharan Africa when it called at the same port—the article traces developments up the present, including Cape Verdeans’ political and economic progress. Last year Cape Verde became only the second country ever to be “graduated” by the United Nations from the ranks of the world’s fifty “least developed countries” (LDCs) into the ranks of its moderately “developing countries.” Cape Verde is ranks as the freest among the eleven Sub-Saharan African states characterized as “free” by Freedom House in its annual report on Freedom in the World.

While its achievements have qualified Cape Verde for assistance from America’s Millennium Challenge Corporation which rewards countries with assistance based on their performance on independent and transparent policy indicators for good governance, economic freedom, and investments in their people, Dr. Pham notes “one of the perverse ironies of the current international system is that…Cape Verde’s good record of competent and transparent government risks costing it access to the soft terms and other preferential treatment that the world reserves for LDCs.” Thus Dr. Pham concludes:

Defying the odds stacked against it by nature, geography, and history, Cape Verde has proven itself to be an exception to the curses of bad governance and economic malaise which have bedeviled post-independence Africa…[It is] as a stable democratic state, aligned with the United States and its traditional allies, developing it economy transparently and responsibly trying—if not always succeeding—to provide adequate services to its citizens. Countries like Cape Verde deserve to have their levels of assistance increased, rather than decreased, as a result of their progress. After all, if aid resources are scarce, then they are better spent consolidating Africa’s rare boot-strapping successes rather than wasted on the continent’s self-destructive basket cases.

To read the full text of the article, “ Cape Verde: A Rare African Success,” click here.