Time for excuses on Africa over - Blair
As he left Ethiopia after the opening of the British-sponsored Commission
for Africa, set up to reverse the continent’s fortunes, Blair charged that
now was the time for action.
"The price of failure would be disaster for Africa and for the wider
world," Blair said as he unveiled his vision for the continent, which has
grown poorer in the last 40 years. "The prize for success will be an
Africa standing proud in its own right in the international community.
Next year will be the year of decision for Africa and the international
Blair sees his positioning as president of both the powerful G8 and the
European Union in 2005 as a unique chance to tackle the crisis facing
Africa. And the commission he chairs will publish its report by March,
ahead of the UK- hosted G8 summit in June, to inform Blair on how to
combat the continent’s enormous woes.
Africa will be asked to intensify peer group review to stamp out
corruption and human rights abuses. Rich nations will be asked to
write-off debt, end subsidies and increase international aid. Disease,
HIV/Aids, debt, poor trade rules and conflict are all ravaging Africa.
African countries are saddled with US $305 billion in debt, and their
products account for barely 2 percent of world trade. Investment in the
continent has shrunk to $11 billion a year.
"The problems are multiple – we know them all: debt, disease, conflict,
poor governance and inadequate aid," Blair said. "The difference is, 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
The meeting is the commissions’ first in Africa after its initial
gathering in London. The 17 commissioners include Ethiopian Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi and Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa.
At its opening the Prime Minister announced a European Union battle force
dedicated to intervening in African conflicts and deployable within 10
days of a political instruction. Blair said the force should be ready next
year. He called for funding of the troubled Darfur region to be increased
tenfold from $15 million to $150 million.
Blair also revealed that Britain would train, directly or indirectly,
20,000 African troops over the next five years. He said a recovery for
Africa was necessary to keep the rest of the world secure.
"We know that poverty and instability lead to weak states, which can be
havens for ists and other criminals," he said. "Even before 9/11,
al-Qaida had bases in Africa. They still do, hiding in places where they
can go undisturbed by weak governments."
Speaking to a hall of leading African politicians and economists, Blair
described the drive to restore hope for Africa as a "noble cause worth
fighting for" in an era of cynicism and disengagement from the political
"People can be cynical about it or get on board," he challenged. "I think
they should get on board. It is clear the spotlight of the whole of the
international community should be focused on Africa. The purpose of next
year has got to be international attention on Africa. The time for excuses
will be over." (Source: IRIN)