Saturday, March 12, 2005

[Africa] It's time for an African Renaissance...

Advocating world leaders to pick up the arms to fight poverty using measures of dramatic aid increase, debt relief and anti-corruption strategies in the African Commission report released this month, British prime minister Tony Blair is convinced that wealthy nations need to wake up, smell the stark reality of poverty in Africa and pay their share.

"There can be no excuse, no defence, no justification for the plight of millions of our fellow beings in Africa today. There should be nothing that stands in our way of changing it. That is the simple message from the report," said Mr Blair, unveiling the findings of his Africa Commission at the British Museum in central London on Friday, March 11, 2005.

The 400-page report, Our Common Interest, calls on the international community to immediately double foreign aid to Africa, to $50bn (£26bn), and make fighting Aids a priority. It sets 100% debt cancellation as a goal and urges rich nations to drop trade barriers that hurt poor countries. The report calls for a partnership with African leaders, who it says must move faster toward democracy, tackle corruption and end the conflicts that block aid from producing results.

Mr. Blair has made helping Africa a priority for Britain's presidencies this year of both the EU and the G8 group of wealthiest nations. His hope, however, is an international acceptance of the report as a blueprint for an African Renaissance. While he promises his best to deliver the message, he still has not won the commitment from developed nations, in particular the G8, to fund the $25 bn annual increase in aid the report calls for by 2010.

"In a world where prosperity is increasing and more people are sharing each year in this growing wealth, it is an obscenity that should haunt our daily thoughts that 4 million children in Africa will die this year before their fifth birthday," Mr Blair said, calling for a new partnership between the developed world and Africa "that goes beyond the old donor and recipient relationship".

"If we fail to act we will betray the future not only of hundreds, millions of children in Africa but of our own children, too. It is unthinkable that we should do so," he said.

Africans and others working to solve the continent's problems said the challenge was to implement the report's recommendations.

"Unless we deliver, it'll just be another report," said Myles Wickstead, the director of the Commission for Africa.

The chancellor, Gordon Brown, spelled out the results of previous failed initiatives. The promise of the millennium development goals to halve poverty in Africa by 2015, he said, would not be met on current trends until 2150, and the promise to halve maternal and infant mortality by 2015 would not be met until 2165.

"Africans have long known the virtues of patience, but the world should know that 150 years is too long to wait for justice," he said.

Commissioner Anna Tibaijuka, of Tanzania, gave a sobering account of failed international promises. She described growing up and seeing the promise of independence squandered and successive UN promises to commit to Africa founder. She said that, in 1980, the UN called upon the developed world to commit 0.7% of annual income to aid for Africa, the same call being made in Mr Blair's report. It never happened.

That spectre of failed promises obviously haunted Mr Blair, who said he feared the judgment of future generations, who would ask: "How could wealthy people so aware of such suffering just turn away and busy themselves with other things?"

based on a report by Sarah Left, The Guardian

Category: Africa