Blair's African renaissance plan
05 March 2005 11:33

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will next week demand a radical shake-up of
the west's approach to the world's poorest continent when his year-long Africa
Commission calls for a doubling of aid, the dismantling of trade barriers, the
writing off of debts and immediate action to stamp out corruption.
In what is being billed as the most serious analysis of Africa's problems for a
generation, the prime minister will use the launch of next Friday's report to
urge a new partnership between developed and developing countries.
The report's recommendations -- likely to be the subject of hard bargaining
between Britain and her G8 allies in the run-up to the Gleneagles summit in
July -- include tough measures to tackle bribery by western multinationals in
addition to huge injections of cash to fund health, education and improvements
to Africa's rudimentary infrastructure.
Among the proposals are demands that banks in the developed world repatriate
money pilfered by corrupt leaders and inform on suspicious accounts.
The report concludes that corruption has been the single most important factor
holding Africa back, but adds: "Fighting corruption involves tackling those who
offer bribes as well as those who take them."
The 400-page report says the west should write off the debts owed by poor
countries to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African
Development Bank, increase aid by $25bn (about £13bn) immediately and by a
further $25bn from 2010, and eliminate the trade practices that damage poor
nations. Originally suggested by the singer and activist Bob Geldof, the
commission was launched by Mr Blair a year ago.
It has 17 members, including Benjamin Mkapa, the president of Tanzania, and
Meles Zenawi, prime minister of Ethiopia.
While not absolving Africa of the need to reform, it says governments, companies
and banks in rich countries must all act to help clean up governance.
"African governments must crack down on corruption," the report says. "Developed
nations can help in this. Money and assets stolen from the people of Africa must
be repatriated. Western banks must be obliged by law to inform on suspicious
"Those who give bribes should be tackled too: foreign companies involved in oil,
minerals and other extractive industries must make their payments much more open
to public scrutiny. Firms who bribe should be refused export credits."
The report, due to be published next Friday, was obtained by the magazine Africa
It contains a detailed list of recommendations that Mr Blair and Gordon Brown
will urge on other western nations in 2005, while Britain has the presidency of
the G8 and the European Union.
The report says extra aid and more generous debt relief should be used to fund:

*        $20bn a year investment in infrastructure.
*     $10bn-$20bn a year on health systems.
*  $7bn-$8bn a year to fund basic education.
*      $5bn over 10 years for higher education.
*       $3bn over 10 years to help bridge Africa's technology gap.
*     $10bn a year to tackle Aids within five years.
With conflict seen as a prime cause of poverty, the report says that the west
should fund half of the Africa Union's peacekeeping budget and that the global
community should start work on an international arms trade treaty.
The prime minister and the chancellor believe that 2005 is a "make or break"
year for Africa, but are prepared for a tough fight to get the recommendations
of the report accepted, particularly by the United States.
In a challenge to the European Union and the US ahead of this December's meeting
of the World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong, the report says rich countries
"must agree to immediately eliminate trade-distorting support to cotton and
sugar and commit by 2010 to end all export subsidies and all trade-distorting
support in agriculture."
It also endorses Mr Brown's aid proposal for an international financing
facility, which was rejected by the US and Canada at the February G7 summit.
Some of the proposals throw into sharp relief the British government's recent
reluctance to enforce policies dealing with the exploitation of resources and
stolen public funds.
Critics, including members of the all-party committee on genocide, have pointed
out that the Department of Trade has been unenthusiastic about the
investigation of allegations by the UN of alleged improper exploitation of
resources in the Congo.
- Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005