Speech by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Rt. Hon. Tony Blair MP

 

Delivered on Thursday 7th October 2004 at Africa Hall, Addis Ababa

 

 

I am delighted to be here, in Addis Ababa, the seat of the new African Union, which is already showing its importance to building a peaceful, hopeful future for Africa.

 

I am also pleased to be here at the UN Economic Commission for Africa, which has been led so effectively for the last nine years by KY Amoako, who is also one of the members of the Commission for Africa.

 

Today, I want to look ahead to a year when Africa will be in the spotlight of international attention.  And I want to set out how I think that international attention can be turned into international action, to help Africa beat poverty and end conflict.

 

Next year will be a year of decision for Africa and for the international community.

 

The problems are multiple - debt, disease, conflict, poor governance, inadequate aid.  The difference is that, this time, we have to put together a plan that is comprehensive in its scope and has at its core a real partnership between Africa and the developed world.  The price for failure will be disaster for Africa.  The prize for success will be and Africa standing proud in its own right in the international community.

 

Africa deserves this international attention

 

The beginning of the 21st century is a time of unprecedented wealth and opportunity for the world.  The European Union is enlarging to the east, restoring prosperity and political stability to those countries.  In south East Asia, we have seen incredible economic progress.  The face of Latin America has been transformed.  and today, the world's two largest countries - China and India - are growing at as much as 9% per annum, lifting over 20 million people out of poverty every year.

 

But when the United Nations meets next year to review progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, it will find that Africa - as a continent - has not enjoyed the progress which other parts of the world have seen.  In Africa, most countries are still as poor as they were 40 years ago.  and in some countries, life expectancy, having improved for many years, has fallen back to what it was in the 1950s at a result of AIDS.

 

This is wrong.

 

It is wrong that more than one in six African children die before their 5th birthday.


It is wrong that only half of the lucky ones that survive are able to complete their primary education, before they have to go out to work to support their family.


And it is wrong that 12 million children in Africa have been made orphans by AIDS.

 

It is wrong that somebody's chances in life depend so starkly not on their talents or ambitions or how hard they work, but on where they are born.  Those of us who believe that everyone - not just a few - should have the chance to fulfill their won potential, cannot stand by and watch Africa be left behind by the rest of the world.

 

I and a huge proportion of people in Britain - believe this.  That is why British people give millions of pounds to charities working in Africa every year.  Most people in other countries believe it too.  That is why NGOs from all over the world, in Africa itself, in Europe, in Asia and in north and South America - are joining together to call on world leaders to Make Poverty History.  That must be our aim.  So there is a moral cause.

But there is a second reason why the rest of the world cannot stand by and watch Africa get left behind.  Because we cannot afford to.  Because what happens in Africa, affects the rest of the world.

 

Millions of people in Africa suffering from persecution, conflict, extreme poverty and even starvation, have has to leave their homes behind.  Most of these people don't have the resources or the ability to get very far and will probably become refugees in another poor country in Africa that cannot afford to protect them.  But many do find their way to Europe and elsewhere.

 

We know that poverty and instability leads to weak states, which can become havens for terrorists and other criminals.  Even before 9/11, Al Quaeda had bases in Africa.  They still do.  Hiding in places where they can go undisturbed by weak governments, whilst they plan their next attack - which could be any where in the world, including right here in Africa, as we have seen.

 

For these reasons, because it is morally right and because it is in our own interests, it is clear that Africa deserves the attention of the rest of the international community.

This is why I have said that Africa will be one of my two priorities for the UK Presidency of the G8 in 2005 - along side climate change.

 

I want to use our Presidency - and the interest that the G8 has taken in Africa for many years - to turn this international attention into renewed international action to support Africa.  And we set up the Commission for Africa in May to help us achieve that.

The Commission includes seventeen men and women form government, business and civil society, form around Africa and the rest of the world.  Its job is to look at the evidence and to produce a comprehensive plan - which will be published in early 2005 - for how the international community can support African development.

 

My colleagues on the commission are meeting here to look at the evidence gathered so far and to agree on some early findings which we can start to test out with the experts - the people in Africa who live with poverty every day.

 

We will be looking at the evidence of what holds progress back in Africa - conflict, disease and often-weak governance.  But we will also be looking for the evidence of what has worked in Africa.

 

Because we do know that Africa can make progress.

 

At Independence in 1996, Botswana was one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, it is now one of the richest.


Average income has risen from a few hundred dollars in 1996 to over 3000 dollars today.


Economic growth has averaged 71/2% per year.  That shows us what can be done.

 

And because of this progress, Botswana is better placed to respond to one of the worst AIDS epidemics in the world, with one of the most advanced treatment programmes in Africa.

 

For other countries the picture has been more mixed.  For every step forward, there has been a cruel push backwards; whether through disease or conflict, falling world prices for a major export, or a failing government.  But countries have come back from these setbacks.

 

UK military intervention in Sierra Leone helped to end a 10-year civil war in 2002.  Just two years later, the rebels have been disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into civilian life and, just last month, the UN peacekeepers handed over prime responsibility for security in the last remaining sector of the country to the Government.

 

We also know that progress in Africa must be led by Africa.

 

If we look at history and learn the lessons, we can see that there is no single path to development.  Different countries in Africa will develop differently.  How they make progress, how they change and reform, will depend on the different cultures and features of each country.

 

So the international community – donor countries and the development banks – must allow African countries the space to determine their own paths to development – agreed amongst their own people.

 

Countries should not be forced to sign up to policies which they do not believe will work, because a donor thinks they will be good for them.

 

And donors must do better at coordinating their efforts.  We have learned in the UK that having myriad different budget lines all with different conditions can make it impossible for managers to use their own judgment to solve the problems they face on the ground.  In the same way, developing countries who have to meet different conditions from perhaps twenty or thirty different donors, and perhaps hundreds of NGOs, spend too much of their time filling in forms for donors instead of getting on with the job.

 

This is already being done.

 

In Mozambique, 14 donors and the World Bank are supporting common policies set by the government and agreed with donors.  In return, donors provide more predictable and more co-ordinated support to the government’s development plans.  And everyone uses the same set of results.

 

This needs to become the norm, not the exception.

 

African leadership is also vital at the continental level.  The African Union is already showing how important it will be, particularly on governance and security issues.

The African Union’s New Plan for Africa’s Development, and its African Peer Review Mechanism is an African led initiative to get African countries to encourage each other to improve governance, which the evidence shows is vital to real progress.

 

23 countries, covering 75% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, have now signed up for Peer Reviews.  I strongly welcome this African led approach to improving – demonstrably – governance and believe the G8 should provide resources to support implementation of Peer Review recommendations.

 

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council, set up on Africa Day this year, is also an important step forward.  I applaud the African Union’s decision to establish a Stand By Force with a Rapid Reaction capability, to deal with conflicts and peacekeeping in Africa.  The first of five brigades will be operational by the end of the year.  The G8 is already supporting the development of this Stand By Force.

 

I have just been to Sudan, where there is an appalling humanitarian disaster happening, with thousands of people dying every month as a result of disease, malnutrition and violence.  I set out the necessary action yesterday and look forward to it being implemented.  The African Union is playing an absolutely vital lead role in trying to resolve this crisis, both by bringing the Government and the rebels together, to try to resolve the conflict peacefully and, meanwhile, monitoring that they are observing their interim ceasefire agreement.

 

The UK and the EU are also ready to assist the AU to expand this mission urgently.  We have already provided some 15 million dollars to the first AU mission in Darfur.  We must increase this to at least 150 million dollars and the UK will do its part, providing another 20 million dollars to the AU mission.  The EU is also ready to provide planning, logistics and policing expertise to assist the AU in mounting this huge but vital undertaking.

 

So, armed with the evidence from the Commission for Africa about what Africa needs and what has held back progress in the past, I want to turn international attention on Africa into international action to support Africa.

 

With that report the time for excuses will be over.  The world, inside Africa and outside Africa, will know not just what the problems are, but also the solutions.

 

So next year is the year of decision for Africa and for us: to have the political will to confront the challenge of Africa an overcome it together.

 

There are already some things which it is clear that the international community must do.  I would like to set out four:  two things which will stop progress being set back; and then two things which we must do to help accelerate progress.

 

Two of the biggest threats to progress in Africa are disease and conflict.

If we don’t tackle HIV/AIDS, there is no way the poorest countries in the world are going to escape poverty.  AIDS is already undoing much of the progress that has been made in combating poverty in Africa in the last 20 years.

 

In June this year, Britain announced that it would provide at least £1.5bn over the next three years to help combat HIV/AIDS in developing countries – especially Africa.  AS part of this, we have pledged to double our support for the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria to over 150 million pounds.  Other countries are also providing huge sums to tackle AIDS.

 

So we must strengthen the role of UNAIDS as the key body that can properly coordinate all of the public and private donors now fighting AIDS.  We must ensure that in our urgency to tackle this disease, we don not overwhelm thinly stretched African governments with myriad different plans for tackling AIDS.  Malawi is leading the way in implementing the three ‘ones’ approach.  That means that a country should have one strategy for dealing with AIDS; one agency to co-ordinate donor assistance to implement this plan and one system for monitoring progress.  G8 and other donors must work with UNAIDS to ensure this happens everywhere.

 

Conflict has all too often set back progress in African countries.

 

As I have said throughout this speech, the international community should be supporting Africa’s own solutions to its problems.  As we are in Sudan.  The UK intends to train, directly or indirectly, nearly 20,000 African troops over the next 5 years.  This includes planners and logistics staff, to strengthen AU capacity to mount peacekeeping operations across the continent.

 

But there will be times when Africa cannot stop a conflict on its own.  Then, the rest of the international community must be ready to help.

 

That is why I want Africa to be the top priority for the European Union’s new rapidly deployable Battle Groups and to get them operational, initially, as soon as possible in 2005.  These Battle Groups would allow the EU to respond to a crisis in Africa within 10 days to deal with problems immediately, giving time for the AU or the UN to prepare a longer-term intervention.

 

If we can help Africa to stop progress being undone by disease and conflict, Africa’s people will ensure that Africa grows.  But in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in Africa by 2015, progress needs to be much faster.

 

This requires additional resources from the public and the private sector.  International action can make this happen.

 

In order to prove the additional 50 billion dollars which the UN says is required to meet the Millennium Development Goals, we need donor countries to increase aid and debt relief, to front load it and to direct more of it to the poorest countries which need it – in Africa.

 

The UK has shown the way.  We have more than doubled our aid budget since 1997.  We wish to continue increasing aid at this rate, which would mean that the UK would reach the 0.7% UN target in 2013.  As a result of this, we will be able to increase aid directly for Africa to £1 billion next year.  This will enable us to lift one million people in Africa permanently out of income poverty each year.

 

Twenty-seven countries are already benefiting from debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative.  In July this year, Ghana became the 14th country to reach Completion Point.  As a result, Ghana will receive 3.5 billion dollars in debt relief and Ghana could save approximately 230 million dollars annually in debt service costs for the next 10 years, which instead it can spend on education and health and other investments for its people.  But we need to go further.

 

We are calling for a revaluation of IMF gold to wipe out the debt owed by poor countries to the IMF.  And we have said that we will pay our share of the debt owed to the World Bank and the African Development Bank by the poorest countries, until a final settlement is reached.  And we must tackle the unsustainable debt of other poor countries, which are not part of the HIPC plan, like Nigeria.  The UK will lead efforts in the Paris Club to provide debt relief to these countries to get them to a level of debt which IMF analysis shows they can afford.

 

Finally, the UK has proposed a new International Financing Facility to front load these resources, so that they can be invested in Africa’s future now.

 

However, aid alone is not the answer.  We also need to increase private sector investment in Africa.

 

We need action to open up opportunities for business in Africa to grow faster by trading with the rest of the world.  There could be no clearer example that what is good for Africa is good for the rest of the world too.  We will all benefit from the fairer trade.

 

I welcome the progress made in the WTO negotiations in Geneva in July, in particular the agreement by other G8 countries to match the EU commitment to phase out all export subsidies on agricultural goods, which make it harder for Africa to compete with subsidized goods from richer countries.  West African cotton farmers alone could earn $250m from this.  The UK would like to see Africa get the benefit of this agreement as soon as possible.

 

But we should not wait for the WTO to increase the opportunities for Africa to trade.  We can increase these opportunities now.  For example, once Lesotho was allowed to import cotton from China to turn it into clothing, which it then sold to America, business boomed.  It increased from less than $100, to over $300m in three years.  The EU and the G8 must encourage such collaboration between developing countries to help them trade out of poverty.

 

These are things which the international community – the G8 – can do to support Africa, and should do.

 

I look forward to discussing these and many other ideas with my Commission for Africa colleagues later today.

 

They will help Africa make faster progress and make it more resilient to the challenges it will inevitably face.  It will help Africa be safer, healthier, cleaner, stronger and richer.

 

This would be good for the world.  And it would be great for Africa.

 

ENDS