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May 3, 2013

Growth in Africa to be focus of Sunday Forum talk

The last decade’s economic gains in Africa, and China’s growing financial expansion into that continent raises a number of questions for the U.S., notes veteran diplomat William “Mark” Bellamy.

And come Sunday, Cape Ann residents and visitors will get to hear Bellamy’s views first-hand when he serves as guest speaker for the Cape Ann Forum’s final presentation of the season, slated for Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian-Universalist Church, Church and Middle Streets, Gloucester.

The event is free and open to the public, and Sunday’s Forum will also feature the recipients of the eighth annual Forum scholarship, Gloucester High School senior or seniors who have done the most to educate her or his peers on international issues. Two students will share the prize this year.

Retired ambassador Bellamy served as U.S. ambassador to Kenya from 2003 to 2006, during which he directed U.S. security programs throughout the Horn of Africa. His earlier diplomatic assignments include deputy chief of mission in Australia’s capital city of Canberra (1997-2000), political minister-counselor in Paris (1993-1997), and political counselor in Pretoria and Cape Town (1991-1993). In South Africa, he was closely engaged in U.S. diplomatic efforts to promote a peaceful transition from apartheid to democratic rule.

Bellamy says the jury is still out on where the current changes in Africa will lead, but the United States cannot stand idly by without trying to influence the outcome — and it’s not. But, he asks, are we doing enough, and is it the right thing — both for our interests and for those of Africa?

“As analysts and investors tout Africa as the next great economic frontier, and as China deepens its engagement as the continent’s biggest trading partner, Africa’s middle class is expanding,” Bellamy says. “But do ordinary Africans – the 50 percent still subsisting on less than $2 a day – also stand to gain? And are democracy and respect for human rights also advancing in Africa, or is Chinese-style authoritarianism emerging as an alternative form of political development?”

For more information, go to the Forum’s Web site at www.capeannforum.org.

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