Foreign Policy picked Rosa as one of the top 100 Global Thinkers of 2010. It hailed her for her leadership in drafting and implementing the African Growth and Opportunity Act and for changing the world’s conventional wisdom about Africa.
As the world poured foreign aid into Africa over the last decades, few noticed that an economic revolution was already taking place. It started in the early 1990s, when (Miles) Morland’s London-based investment firm proved that profit could be made in African economies that the world had long ago written off as too risky. Morland’s success spawned a host of imitators and admirers, among them Rosa Whitaker, who, a decade later, while serving as the first U.S. assistant trade representative for Africa, saw that the continent could be a vibrant consumer market as well as a hot spot for yield-seekers. In 2000, Whitaker helped draft and implement the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which encouraged trade between African economies and the United States.
Now celebrating its 10th year, the bill has proven more effective at boosting trade and growth than anyone could have imagined. Africa’s overall economy has expanded consistently each year even as the world’s has stagnated, and trade with the United States has more than doubled. As Morland said recently, Africa is “one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, where banks haven’t needed bailing out, no large companies have folded, with no accounting scandals, and where the biggest problem businessmen have is getting capital to finance growth.” It’s largely thanks to Morland and Whitaker that this sentiment now seems like conventional wisdom.