$50 Billion in Aid Proposed Towards African Prosperity

LONDON, UK, March 11, 2005 (ENS) - Africa would receive a multi-billion dollar boost in aid during the next 10 years under a new proposal advanced today by the Commission for Africa chaired by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. The plan includes actions to ensure that environmental sustainability is integral to donor interventions and to manage and build Africa’s resilience to climate change.

The world's developed nations should work together to tackle the "fundamental moral challenge of our generation," Blair said at the launch of the Commission for Africa report which took place at the British Museum in London.

He envisions an Africa "where millions of people worry less about where to get their next meal or clean water and more about fulfilling their hopes for the future."

The report is "blisteringly, sometimes painfully, honest." Blair said. "We have told the truth about Africa. We have been frank about corruption and conflict. But we are also frank in our criticisms of rich countries - about how they have failed to fulfil their promises on aid and trade."

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From left: Prime Minister Tony Blair, Commission Member and musician Bob Geldof, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown at the Commission's first meeting May 4, 2004. (Photo courtesy British Embassy The Hague)
The report was published in part to establish the basis for talks at this year's G8 summit chaired by Blair in Gleneagles. The UK government has promised to make the plight of Africa, along with climate change, one of the twin focuses of the UK's chairmanship of the G8.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a member of the Commission, hosted a concurrent launch in Addis Ababa, while a third event was held in New York by William Kalema, chairman of the Uganda Investment Authority, and British government minister Baroness Valerie Amos, representing Blair.

The document sets out a "forceful response" to the twin problems of African poverty and stagnation which it calls the "greatest tragedy of our time."

It proposes an increase in aid of $25 billion a year by 2010, and a further increase of $25 billion by 2015.

After this, the Commission would expect another $25 billion to be generated within Africa.

The report contains proposals to increase trade and cancel 100 percent of debt in sub-Saharan Africa.

Blair said, "There can be no excuse, no defence, no justification for the plight of millions of our fellow beings in Africa today. That is the simple message from the report published today."

"If we fail to act, we will betray the future not just of hundreds of millions of children in Africa but that of our own children as well," Blair said.

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Clean water makes all the difference in public health. Here villagers are using a new water pump at Mamo, Sierra Leone financed by the Danish International Development Agency and the governmentof Norway under the UN's Programme for Integrated Develpment of Artisanal Fisheries in West Africa. (Photo by L. Callerholm courtesy FAO)
The Commission for Africa was established last year by Prime Minister Blair. There are 17 members of the Commission, more than half from Africa. Its aim has been to generate ideas and action that will accelerate and sustain Africa's growth and development, leading to a strong and prosperous continent.

Blair said "change is possible," citing the example of Europe, now prosperous and reunified after years of war and dictatorship.

"Forty years ago, Asia was the poorest continent on the planet - twice as poor as Africa. Today, it is the fastest growing continent on the planet and twice as rich as Africa," the Prime Minister said.

At the launch of the Commission's report, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown outlined its request to the world's wealthiest countries not to leave Africa behind.

"The report we are launching today challenges the rich countries to reach 0.7 per cent of national income in long-term and predictable aid for investment in the poorest countries," he said.

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UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown (Photo courtesy UK Government)
Brown urged that "on the road to 0.7 per cent, we create now, this year and urgently, an International Finance Facility that would generate up to $50 billion of resources each year from 2005 to 2015 - the quickest most effective way of guaranteeing long-term, stable, predictable funding."

Negotiations should be opened, the report says, on an international arms trade treaty by 2006 and aid should be provided to help African nations resolve and prevent conflict.

There should be funding for a million doctors and nurses by 2015, extra money to provide quality education for all children and investment in infrastructure projects like roads and airports.

An extra $10 billion should be provided a year to help prevent, treat and care for people with HIV and AIDS.

The proposals in the report – on infrastructure, investment climates, governance, peace and security, trade, human development, culture, the environment and the quality of aid – should both boost participation and contribute strongly to increasing sustainable growth, investment and employment, the Commission states.

Brown, who visited Africa earlier this year, said that instead of waiting 10 years for the UN Millenium Development Goals to be met, Africa would have to wait more than 100 years at current rates of progress.

"The economic plans of our Commission for Africa are founded on our evidence that, at best on present progress in sub-Saharan Africa the millennium development promise - free primary education for all - will not be met on time in 2015. Indeed will not be met on present rates of progress until 2130," said Brown today.

"The promise to halve poverty will not be met in 2015 but in 2150," he said.

"The promise to cut by two-thirds avoidable infant and maternal mortality not by 2015 as promised but by 2165," said Brown. "Africans have long known the virtues of patience but the whole world should now know that 150 years is too long to ask peoples to wait for justice."

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African boy enjoys a bowl of clean drinking water. (Photo courtesy British Embassy, The Hague)
Brown said this is the first official report "to call for a lasting deep seated trade justice that would mean that Europe and the richest countries be honest about and address the scale of the waste and scandal of agricultural protectionism, unfair rules of origin and much criticized economic partnership agreements and address infrastructure needs - transport, power, water, telecommunications and then technical and vocational skills - to build the capacity African countries need to trade."

ActionAid, a charitable organization that works with poor and marginalized people to eradicate poverty, had qualified praise for the Commission's report.

"The Commission has raised the bar," said Steve Tibbett, ActionAid’s head of policy. "It’s strong on aid and on debt cancellation. It recognises that we need to comprehensively fund the fight against HIV and Aids. There are some pretty big holes on trade and investment. But in a year when we are trying to make poverty history, we mustn’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good."

"One glaring omission is the absence of serious proposals to regulate multinational companies in Africa, given that the report envisages a major expansion of private sector investment," Tibbett said.

Taaka Awori, county director with ActionAid Ghana and chair of ActionAid’s African Commission for Britain said, "Too many initiatives start from the assumption that West knows best. Donors apply conditions to force African governments into following ‘sound’ policies. Trade negotiations lock African countries into a free trade regime that rich countries don’t follow themselves.

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Aid has helped in the past, but more is needed. At Rutongo, Rwanda seeds are being distributed to Rwandan refugees, 1997. (Photo by H. Toros courtesy FAO)
"There are key actions that Britain must take before it can be considered a true friend of Africa. These include doubling its aid, cancelling unpayable debts, promoting a just international trading regime and contributing a fair sum to the fight against Africa’s Aids epidemic."

The international aid agency Oxfam said the success of the Commission's report must be determined by actions taken to implement it. “In the long term, history will judge this report not just by its content but by its capacity to deliver genuine change,” said Oxfam’s Adrian Lovett today.

“This report can be a rallying call for a generation that will no longer tolerate the obscenity of extreme poverty in Africa - or it could end up gathering dust. It’s now up to world leaders to make that choice.”

Oxfam said it is urgent that G7 finance ministers finalize a deal to write off Africa’s debts when they meet for the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington next month.

The UK must get "G8 foot-draggers" to agree to a doubling of aid by the G8 summit in July.

"Tony Blair must now push harder to get reform of European and US agricultural policies by the crucial WTO meeting in Hong Kong in December," said Oxfam.

Brown emphasized that this year's meetings are crucial for the success of the Commission's goals. "The call for justice for Africa - must now be heard at the IMF and World Bank meetings at Easter; at the G8 summit in Gleneagles in July; at the United Nations special summit in New York in September; and at the World Trade talks in Hong Kong in December," he said today.

"This year, now, urgently. No longer evading, no longer procrastinating, no more excuses."

The Report of the Commission for Africa is online at: http://213.225.140.43/english/report/introduction.html

{Members of the commission include Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown MP (UK), Finance Minister Trevor Manuel (South Africa), African Personal Representative Michel Camdessus (France), International Development Secretary Hilary Benn MP (UK), UN Economic Commission for Africa Secretary K.Y. Amoako (Ghana), musician and activist Bob Geldof (Ireland), Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (Ethiopia), Chairman of the Uganda Investment Authority Dr. William S. Kalema (Uganda), Chairman of the FATE Foundation Fola Adeola (Nigeria), Central Bank Governor Linah Moholo (Gaborone), former Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker (USA), Aviva PLC Development Director Tidjane Thiam (Côte D’Ivoire), President Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania), Finance Minister Ralph Goodale P.C., MP (Canada), and Executive Director of UN HABITAT Anna Tibaijuka (Tanzania). Bono, the rock singer and activist, is serving as the ambassador for the commission.}