Obama defends work in Africa

President Obama defended his administration’s efforts in Africa on Monday even as he praised the work of former President George W. Bush.

Critics have blamed Obama for not paying enough attention to the continent during his presidency, and for eliminating millions of dollars in aid for heath and social work there.

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They have sometimes compared Obama critically to Bush, who made fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa his signature policy objective there.

Obama, who is on a multi-nation, eight-day trip to Africa, took issue with those who argue the U.S. has reduced its commitment.

“The one thing that I do think is worth mentioning is that there's been some suggestion that somehow we've reduced our commitment there,” he said Monday at a press conference in Tanzania.

“The fact of the matter is that we are serving four times the number of people today than we were when PEPFAR first began,” Obama said, referring to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

“But because we've gotten better at it, more efficient at it, we're doing it at reduced costs” he said. “And then we're not taking that money out of global health. What we're doing is we're putting it back into things like tuberculosis and malaria."”

Obama and Bush will meet Tuesday in Africa.

Obama said he was looking forward to meeting with Bush “to thank him on behalf of the American people for showing how American generosity and foresight could end up making a real difference in people's lives.”

The president acknowledged at a press conference that his predecessor's work on PEPFAR is “one of his crowning achievements” and that he deserves “enormous credit” for the program.

“Because of the commitment of the Bush administration and the American people millions of people's lives have been saved,” he said, adding that children have been able to avoid infection because of these efforts.

“We've been able to continue that work and we are going to continue that work,” he said.