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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Wolfowitz Sees Himself as Advocate for Africans

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Former U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz ended his first foreign trip as World Bank president saying Africa viewed him as someone who could get things done and not simply as a hawk from President George W. Bush's administration.

On a six-day visit to Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Rwanda and South Africa he said he focused on listening and tried to move his image beyond that of an architect of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"My impression is that all Africans care is that you really are going to work with us and going to get something done here and that is the big challenge," Wolfowitz said in an interview late on Saturday before he boarded a plane for Washington.

"They do see me as somebody who seems to know how to get things done, and I don't know where they derive that from. I hope it's true," he added.

Wolfowitz said he would go into his first budget planning meeting on Monday with firsthand knowledge from Africa -- but not yet with a strategy for helping the continent.

"Even if I had firmly fixed views it would be presumptuous of me to have a strategy for Africa. A strategy for Africa needs to be a somewhat commonly agreed strategy," he said.

"Africa doesn't want to be condescended to, and I think they're right to have that reaction if people are condescending to them."

Through meetings with African leaders and officials Wolfowitz said he learned that donor efforts needed to be better coordinated.

Wolfowitz also said he was struck by how African communities managed despite poverty.

"All the emphasis on the desperate conditions that many people live in Africa is obscuring ... how well they do in these desperate conditions and how hard they work and what good use they make of the systems when it is given to them," he said. "And among some of the poorest people we met, we encountered a wonderful attitude," he added.

Wolfowitz said there had been "enormous progress" in treating HIV/AIDS, but acknowledged that "there is obviously some argument in [South Africa] at the government level of the nature of the problem."

Paulo Gomes, one of only two African executive directors on the World Bank's board representing African countries, said he was impressed by the way that Wolfowitz conducted talks with leaders and interacted with people in villages.

"We wanted to see first who was the man, we thought it was quite unfair to take the Wolfowitz from the Iraq war ... but we are pleased to see he will be a multilateralist and not a unilateralist," he said.