AN ADDRESS BY PRIME MINISTER OF
GREAT BRITAIN BEFORE THE NIGERIAN PARLIAMENT
Friday, February 7, 2002
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Nigeria needs to succeed if Africa is to succeed, says Tony Blair
Text of a speech by the British Prime Minister to the National Assembly yesterday in Abuja.
IT is a pleasure to be here in Abuja, this city rising out of the savannah, today the capital of a democratic nation. I am grateful for this opportunity to address you, members of the National Assembly. It is an honour and a privilege to have this platform. I want to congratulate you all for your central role in re-establishing democracy in Nigeria.
Britain has long enjoyed a special bond with Nigeria. It is not just a question of history. British companies are major investors. Trade is growing. A quarter of the entire audience of the BBC World Service is Nigerian. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have made the UK their home - including international figures like the novelist Ben Okri, and football stars like Kanu and Finidi George - and I wish the Super Eagles good luck in Mali this afternoon in the African Nations Cup semi-finals. Forgive me if I don't repeat that in respect of the World Cup this June.
British Ministers come here regularly. Bilateral bodies, not least the Ministerial Bilateral Forum which President Obasanjo and I launched two years ago, promote closer ties. Our Department for International Development and the British Council are well-established across Nigeria. And British experts are working with Lagos authorities to make safe the area of the tragic accident on January 27. Our thoughts are with all the families of those who died that day.
Nigeria is a nation, which vibrates with energy. It personifies the richness and sense of possibility that is Africa.
That sense of possibility is my theme today.
told my party's annual conference last year that the state of Africa today
is a scar on the conscience of the world.
My purpose today and in the coming three days is to develop support for a new partnership between Africa and the developed world. I stress the word 'partnership.' This is not just about aid. It is not only about what we give. You need our support. But we need you to succeed.
This partnership should cover the full range of issues that inhibit Africa, that suppress her potential, that hold her back. We need aid to invest in creating capable states that encourage economic growth and invest in public services. But we also need wider policies to address low investment, conflict resolution, governance, health, and education. Because there is not just one cause of Africa's plight. There is a multiplicity of causes, each has to be identified and a coherent plan put in place to tackle it.
There exists today, for the first time in years, a growing unity of purpose among forward-thinking African nations about how to do this, and a growing commitment on behalf of the developed world to support that effort.
Last year in Genoa at the G8 summit, President Obasanjo, together with President Wade of Senegal and President Mbeki of South Africa, presented their strategy for African renewal to the G8 leaders. It was agreed that the G8 should come up with an Africa Action Plan as a response. We all appointed Special Representatives to ensure that our plan was thorough and robust. This partnership concept will now effectively be the key issue of the G8 summit in July in Canada.
The strategy that was presented by African leaders is now called the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). President Obasanjo is the Chair of the Implementation Committee. Valerie Amos, who is my appointee to the G8 group, and other representatives have been in close touch with the NEPAD work.
Prime Minister Chretien of Canada - who will chair the next G8 Meeting - set out his hopes for the G8 action plan at the world Economic Forum in New York last weekend. As he put it: "The New Partnership for Africa's Development presents a profound opportunity to turn a page in human history. Implementing its principles is not just the right thing to do. It is good investment. An investment in our common future. In our collective security and common humanity." Tomorrow President Chirac is holding a meeting with African leaders in Paris. On Saturday Michel Camdessus, President Chirac's representative, will join me in Senegal, a key francophone nation and another founding member of NEPAD. Paul O'Neill, the US Treasury Secretary, plans to visit Africa shortly.
The timing of all these activities and my visit is significant. In March the African side will publish its detailed proposals. It is crucial, before that happens, that our dialogue is as intensive as possible.
There is already a huge consensus about the objectives of this development partnership. At the UN Millennium Summit, the world's governments endorsed the Millennium Development Goals. These include halving the proportion of the world's population living in poverty, universal primary education, a reduction by two-thirds in child mortality, and a cut three-quarters in maternal mortality - all to be achieved by 2015.
is now an emerging consensus, too, about the reform agenda necessary to
deliver these goals. Today, I want to talk about the critical areas identified
by President Obasanjo and the African leaders in NEPAD:
So NEPAD is right to give priority to preventing and resolving violent conflict. This is a pre-condition for development and poverty reduction in Africa.
In my view, the following agenda must be driven forward with urgency:
First we must take forward UN reform. The UN already devotes a great deal of effort to conflicts in Africa. We need to make sure it is more effective. We should take the Brahimi Report on UN peacekeeping forces and develop it specifically in respect of Africa. We need to strengthen the capacity for African nations to provide effective peacekeeping under UN auspices, possibly on a regional basis. And we need to strengthen the UN's ability to broker and sustain peace and to support the efforts of those African countries trying to do the same. We are in active discussion with the UN Secretary General on how to achieve this.
Secondly, the main developed nations should come together to help provide the training, logistical support and, where necessary, funding for such forces to operate.
The UK has been working hard with British Military Advisory and Training Teams in Ghana, southern and eastern Africa and now with a military adviser in Nigeria to provide assistance and advice for those who want it. The U.S. and France have parallel programmes. We should work with African countries and regional organisations to build up peacekeeping capacity of African forces. Tomorrow we will publish our paper which set out in more detail our hopes for what can be achieved.
There are two African conflicts in particular where, with greater international attention, we could deliver peace - the Great Lakes and Sudan. They are massive countries, each as big as Western Europe. Both have natural resources that would promote development and poverty reduction but both are mired in poverty and conflict.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has massive potential for development. The Lusaka Peace Accords are a wise and reasonable proposal - made in Africa and endorsed by the Security Council. We must work harder to drive forward implementation and then help re-build the DRC.I hope that the recent visit by the British and French Foreign Secretaries, Jack Straw and Herbert Vedrine, will help to ensure that we all work together on this.
The second area is Sudan, mired in conflict for all but 10 years since independence in 1956. We and others continue to provide extensive humanitarian aid, but that is no substitute for a lasting peace. I believe there is now a chance for peace. I want to announce today that I intend to appoint a Special Envoy to work with others in the search for peace.
Britain will show the necessary political commitment and tangible support. In June I will call upon the G8 to redouble its efforts to bring peace to these two conflicts.
Faster progress on development also requires good government. And despite the appalling things happening in Zimbabwe, there has been significant progress.
Two years ago, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) adopt7ed the principle that governments which came to power through unconstitutional means, would no longer be welcome members. There have been no successful military coups for two years in a row, and there are now no military governments in sub-Saharan Africa. In these last two years we have seen peaceful changes of government in Senegal, Mauritius, Ghana, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe. And there were seven successful elections during the course of last year.
But there is still much to be done against the corruption originating in poor government and corrupt business practices. We are strengthening and transforming our international effort to focus on building competent well-managed government systems that crack down on corruption and deliver services to people. We are working with others to support transparent financial and commercial systems in government, establishing effective-anti-corruption bodies, and clearer rules on political financing. And we are supporting reform of civil services and justice systems.
Without such a new commitment to high standards of economic and political governance, and action against corruption, the international and, especially, the investment community will not find the will to act.
So, I applaud the efforts of the NEPAD committee to devise a coherent set of codes and standards for economic and political governance.
What we must do, very simply, is to enlarge the whole notion of aid and assistance. Today help with building good commercial, fiscal and legal systems, and good government institutions, is every bit as vital. This is indeed the thrust of our own international development policies and I totally support the recent statements of Jim Wolfensohn of the World Bank on this question. Again, let us agree concrete tests and benchmarks for this in Canada in July.
Better governance is key in fostering higher and more inclusive economic growth.
More than 20 African countries achieved growth rates of 4 per cent last year. Uganda is among the 10 fastest growing economics in the world. Countries which have strengthened their public expenditure management include Mali, Senegal, Mozambique, Malawi, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania.
But if Africa is to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015, it needs annual economic growth of more than 7 per cent. And Africa's current average annual growth rate is less than half that. Aid is one important component of helping Africa to grow. But it is time to view aid in a different context. The UN meeting on financing for development in Mexico in March will set out goals for sustainable development. The initiative from the British Chancellor to generate massive additional development assistance is important. Half of these resources can be used to reverse the decline in aid to Africa.
But this money should not be seen as a handout to the poor. It is, rather, an investment in our collective future. It should be specifically directed to the areas we know can make a difference, like education for all, including girls. And it should clearly make the link between development and good governance. Some people doubt if the will is there to make this happen. I believe it is there. But people need to know it is investment that is well targeted, specific and properly used.
Under Clare Short's leadership, the UK has doubled its assistance to Africa since 1997 and we will do more. I will be arguing in the G8 that where there is a clear commitment to reform and the partnership principles, donors should increase their aid flows. I also believe that all countries should untie their aid from commercial contracts, as the UK has done - the World Bank estimates that untying aid increases its effectiveness by 25 per cent.
We know that aid works best when it is allocated to countries with large numbers of poor people and a commitment to reform. Better donor co-ordination and simplified aid procedures could bring huge benefits to developing countries, reducing the administrative burden in dealing with different donors. That is why donors should allocate their resources in support of African countries' own nationally-determined, nationally-led development strategies, as set out in their Poverty Reduction Strategies.
Debt relief is important too. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative has brought real benefit to many of the poorest, most indebted countries in Africa. Nigeria is not as poor as the HIPC countries, but debt is a problem. We are keen that Nigeria should re-establish its credentials as a credit-worthy nation, and believed that this can only be achieved through economic reform. The UK, the largest creditor, is prepared to consider debt relief for Nigeria, provided a clear track record of economic reform is established.
Investment is the key, above all in public services - in water and sanitation, electricity, telecommunications and transport.
For example, the UK has just launched the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund. We and other donors have provided equity that has already levered in $200 Developed countries retain significant barriers to trade, particularly in agriculture. Africans are right to say that we should practice what we preach. Agricultural subsidies to OECD countries are worth over $320bn a year - roughly equivalent to the entire GDP of Africa as a whole. As Unilever Chairman Niall FitzGerald has commented, every cow in the European Union is subsidised to the tune of $2 a day the same amount that 450 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa subsist on daily.
My proposal is that all the countries of the G8 should introduce duty-free and quota free access for imports from all of the east Developed Countries - as the EU has already agreed to.
I will also be arguing that we should commit not only to a reduction in overall tariff levels in the WTO round, but to the peaks and escalation of certain tariffs which hit African countries the hardest. They prevent Africa adding value to its commodity exports and thus increasing its income from trade. And we should seek early progress in phasing out agricultural subsidies.
Investing in People.
But development isn't just a question of making markets and economic policy work better. We now know that investing in people in their health and nutrition, and in their education and training - is an indispensable part of good economic policy.
On health, Africa needs to do more in particular to tackle HIV/AIDS. Of the 36 million people living with HIV/AIDS 25 million are Africans. Conservative estimates show over three million Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS. The scale of this challenge is enormous, but Uganda, Senegal and recently Botswana have managed to curb the growth in infection rates. I hope very much that Nigeria can avoid an exponential growth in infection rates through effective action.
The creation of the Global Health Fund - which became operational at the end of last month - could also make a real impact, by helping to reduce the price of commodities and drugs for the treatment of these diseases. We have made progress with pharmaceutical companies in reducing prices for some drugs for poorer countries. Meetings with the main pharmaceutical companies are being held to drive this forward. The UK is working now on a plan with other G8 countries to ensure that drugs are made available to poorer countries at a reduced price.
On education it is important that donors honour the commitment made at the World Education Forum in Dakar to ensure that countries with a serious commitment to providing basic education for all should not be thwarted by lack of resources. We need a particular focus on those African countries many of them in this region - with the lowest levels of primary school enrolment.
The cynics, and as ever there are many of them, say - why should we succeed now where we have failed to make progress before? But that is what they have said throughout human history. If we had listened to them we would still be in the dark ages.
We have made progress. Nations that used to have a majority of their people living in poverty, even in my childhood, are now prosperous, vibrant members of the international community. My father's generation could never have contemplated the material wealth, the progress in health, education and science and technology my children's generation take for granted. None of it was ever achieved by cynics.
The vision of globalisation driven by a global ethnic, by global values, is not Utopian. It is modern realism.
There has never been a time when self-interest and mutual interest were so closely dependent on each other. Which are the nations that export drugs, terror, and extremism, that threaten the world's stability. The prosperous? The democratic? The ones at the cutting edge of technology and progress? No, it is the failed states, the dictatorships, and the economically and politically bankrupt that do so.
And what we know today - what we saw with horrifying brutality in New York on 11 September - is that globalisation no longer applies just to technology, trade, capital, culture and communications. Politics is global. The threats of weapons of mass destruction, religious fanaticism and terror can't be escaped. There is no leafy suburb far from the reach of bad things and bad people.
This idea of an African partnership is not impossible idealism. It is a down payment on a decent future.
You know the possibility of change. The role this National Assembly is playing in a democratic Nigeria demonstrates that this great country can get on the move again. Nigeria needs to succeed if Africa is to succeed.
We are read to be your partners in this journey of progress.
This is the best opportunity for a generation. Together, I believe that real advance is possible. Our shared responsibility to the people of Africa now is to make it happen.