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Can Africa make it?

Time (GMT +01) 11:30 13:00


Baroness Amos -  Minister for Africa


Simon Maxwel - Director, ODI

  1. Baroness Amos stated that while she believed that 'Africa can make it', there were enormous challenges.
    • The world, as a whole, is on track to meet the millennium development goals but this is not the case in the continent of Africa
    • If population growth in Africa continues to outstrip economic growth, countries are set to become steadily poorer.
    • Twenty percent of the African population is affected by violent conflict; the victims are normally civilians. The large numbers of displaced peoples and refugees place further burdens on host countries, such as Tanzania. These conflicts have appalling human costs and holds back development. The World Bank estimates that conflict is costing Africa approximately 2% of economic growth each year though the continent needs an average economic growth rate of 7% if it is to meet the millennium growth targets.
    • More than 25 million are living with HIV/AIDS; this represents almost 70% of the global incidence of HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is reversing life expectancy gains. In many sub-Saharan African countries, life expectancy is 20 years shorter than it would have been without the disease. There are severe consequences for education and health. In South Africa, it is estimated that growth will be 17% lower than it could have been by 2010. The delivery of key public services is coming under pressure as workers die.
    • In Zimbabwe, where a state of disaster is now declared, we have a well-publicised reminder of the damage that poor political and economic governance can do, not just to one country, but also to Africa's image as a whole.
  2. The challenges are real and stark. They are often at the forefront of our dealings with Africa, whether we are journalists, academics, politicians or NGOs. There is huge diversity on the continent. Problems in one part can have a major impact on others. For example, the conflict in the DRC has drawn in eight other countries. Some countries are held back by the poor infrastructure within the region, and by barriers to trade with neighbours. Businessmen and investors sometimes fail to distinguish between poor financial and commercial systems in one area and real opportunities in another. Mozambique, for instance, records high growth rates but is suffering from the fallout in Zimbabwe.
  3. Despite the challenges, it is important to move on to what can be done. There are significant signs of hope and progress. There is also a new political will emerging within Africa to take responsibility for challenges, and to spread Africa's best practice. Development partners need to answer Africa's invitation for a genuine partnership by ensuring that policies - bilaterally, as part of G8, EU, and UN - are designed to help Africa make it.
  4. Economic progress: More than 20 African countries achieved growth rates of 4 per cent last year. Uganda is among the 10 fastest growing countries in the world and a number of countries, including Mali, Senegal, Mozambique, Malawi, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania are working hard to strengthen public expenditure management.
  5. There are grounds for encouragement in conflict management:
    • Sierra Leone is holding elections today (May 14), four months after the completion of disarmament and the end of the conflict. This is a sign of real progress towards lasting peace.
    • A year ago, the prospect was bleak in the DRC but there have been a number of positive developments, such as the Inter-Congolese dialogue, which is a key part of the Lusaka process. This dialogue allows all sides in the conflict, and civil society, to come together and discuss the future of the DRC. This is an unprecedented step in Congolese democracy. Since Independence in 1960, the Congolese people have not had the opportunity to decide their own future.
    • There has also been progress in the withdrawal of foreign troops from the DRC; Angola and Uganda are slowly withdrawing.
    • Angola, too, is at a turning point after 30 years of civil war. At the same time, the humanitarian situation in Angola is dire, with over 4 million internally displaced people.
    • In Sudan and, to some extent, Somalia, there is a process underway to tackle conflicts.
  6. With respect to HIV/AIDS, Uganda's determined prevention efforts have been bearing fruit. Political commitment and leadership have helped reduce prevalence among adults from 14% to 8% over the past 8 years. In addition, Senegal, and recently Botswana, has managed to curb the growth in infection rates.
  7. There have also been improvements in the area of governance:
    • In 1999, the OAU adopted a principle that governments who came to power through unconstitutional means would no longer be welcome as members. This principle is reaffirmed in the Constitutive Act of the African Union. The Constitutive Act also recognises right of the Union to intervene in grave circumstances such as war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. This "non-indifference clause" is a significant new departure.
    • There have been no successful military coups for over two years and there are now no military governments in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the same period, there have been peaceful changes of government in Senegal, Mauritius, Ghana, Cape Verde, and Sao Tome and Principe. Mali is likely to join this list.
    • In Ghana, there is evidence of efforts to make democracy work. There is huge potential for change and progress, which is created by a freely elected and accountable government, with a strong commitment to poverty reduction.
  8. There is quiet progress in other areas too. For example, a number of Africa's sub-regional organisations are encouraging trade and economic growth through greater regional integration. The West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) is the most prominent but useful work is also being done in SADC (Southern African Development Community), COMESA (the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) and other organisations. . The West Africa Rice Development Association has been doing excellent work; the group has developed a new high-yield, robust strain of rice. The Africa Rice Initiative, which was launched in March, offers prospects for African self-sufficiency in rice.
  9. Africa has, therefore, made gains. They key is political will and the ability to spread/adapt African best practise throughout the continent. There is a new determination among African leaders to do this, which is best represented in NePAD:
    • NePAD seeks to consolidate and accelerate Africa's gains. It is a continental strategy to achieve sustainable development in Africa. NEPAD recognises the responsibility of African leaders and governments to create the right conditions for development, by ending conflict, improving economic and political governance and strengthening regional integration.
    • NePAD seeks international support to end Africa's acute economic marginalisation, through such measures as increased resource flows, improved trade access and debt relief. It identifies infrastructure, agricultural diversification and human development (health and education) as priority sectors. However, NePAD's clear emphasis on Africa's responsibility moves the debate forward significantly. There are proposals for collective responsibility, not only on issues such as conflict management but also in political and economic governance.
    • NePAD's five main sponsors - Presidents Mbeki, Obasanjo, Wade, Bouteflika and Mubarak have played a key role in formulating the strategy but ownership is now being widened with the formation of a 15-member implementation Committee last October. Civil society, including the business community, has an essential role if NePAD is to realise its potential. NePAD's leaders are aware of the criticism that NePAD did not emerge from a consultation process. They are encouraging African leaders to launch discussions in their own countries and regions; there are signs that this is now starting. For example, Senegal's Conference on Financing (held in March) was directed to the business community. Approximately 900 business representatives (about 150 from overseas, the rest African) and about 12 African Heads of State took part. This is a good sign that NePAD is ready to hear from private sector, whose input is necessary to shape conditions for the investment that could fuel Africa's economic regeneration.
    • NePAD continues to evolve. Work is being done to ensure that its initiatives in the area of peace and security add value to or complement those of the African Union. NePAD's work on governance is critical: there is an initiative underway to devise an African-owned system of peer review. Though the details of the peer review mechanism are not yet finalised, the intention is to agree to a set of codes and standards, which would govern key economic and political governance issues; to establish a formal review process for assessing compliance; and to make recommendations for reaching these standards. The emphasis is on sharing best practice and supporting improvements rather than on penalising one another. The proposed system should be recognised as an innovative approach to a difficult problem. Results will not be immediate but it has taken considerable political will to get this far. 
  10. How can the international community assist?
    • We need to consider how our domestic and international policies affect Africa's development, particularly in areas such as trade and market access; agriculture and fishing policies; provision of global public goods; corruption, bribery and money laundering; migration and the "brain drain" from Africa; and arms proliferation and control.
    • Industrialised countries need to do more to open up to trade and to encourage investment flows. Current trade rules create serious barriers to the processing and value-added that Africa needs to speed up economic growth.
    • The World Trade Organisation meeting in Doha creates an agenda for change; we must ensure that this agenda is delivered for Africa.
    • There was encouraging progress on aid commitments at Monterrey. In advance of the Monterrey conference, President Bush announced a "Millennium Development Account", which would receive some US $ 10 billion in ODA funding over the next three US Government budget cycles. This means that annual US ODA budget increases from current levels of US$10 billion to US$ 15 billion by 2006. The EU reached agreement whereby member countries now under the average ODA/GNP ratio for EU countries would strive to reach the current average of 0.33% by 2006. It is estimated that this will raise the overall EU level to 0.39%, amounting to an additional US$20 billion of ODA by 2006. In addition, Prime Minister Chretien noted that Canada had increased its development assistance budget by average of 8% in recent years and that the aim was to increase it by at least the same percentage or better in coming years. These commitments are encouraging because we know that aid works. When provided in support of good policies, aid increases growth and reduces poverty. Effective aid complements and encourages private investment.
  11. The Africa Action Plan. The Prime Minister was among the first to see NePAD's potential to 'help Africa make it' and, therefore, decided to bring it to attention of his G8 colleagues. (Prime Minister Chretien, host of this year's G8 Summit in Canada, has also played a vital role.) Ideally, the Africa Action Plan should genuinely set out a framework for new partnership. The Plan should respond to Africa's efforts to spread best practise, with commitments on our side both to support African efforts and to change our own policies, where necessary. However, the G8 Africa Action Plan is only one part of a wider process. The Action Plan will only make a difference if it is part of a wider momentum for change, including the commitments made at Monterrey, the decisions which the NePAD Implementation Committee will take in mid-June; the new direction which African leaders choose at the African Union's inaugural Summit in July; negotiations in the Doha round; and the opportunities which the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg presents this autumn. We need a sustained effort if we are to see the sort of change that is required. It is a long-term venture and there are likely to be setbacks in peace processes; there may be serious questions of governance---such as those raised by Zimbabwe - which cannot be resolved overnight; there will be resistance among industrialised countries to changing some of the current policies. Yet, there is a new political will and momentum, both within Africa and among Africa's partners, to see this new partnership work.
  12. In the discussion several important points were raised: 
    1. Questions were raised about the extent to which the IMF and the World Bank have been undermining Africa's development efforts.
    2. One participant stated that though Ghana had been cited as ' a success case', the current reform agenda has impoverished some groups, such as farmers, which suggests that following the reform agenda may not be good for Africa's development.
    3. There was concern that Africa would not necessarily benefit from more aid. Was there not evidence that too much aid had already been invested?
    4. One participant observed that African governments are nervous about consulting civil society and proposed that UK representatives could bridge the gap between government and civil society.
    5. There were concerns that it is both difficult and excessively risky to invest in Africa. On many occasions, it has proven impossible to secure loans both outside of and within Africa. However, Baroness Amos suggested that this demonstrates the importance of spreading risk.
    6. On the issue of the role of free trade in Africa's development, Baroness Amos argued that people who press for greater protection are actually suggesting that Africa should be left out of the international market. She agreed with the participants who pointed out that trade conditions are not level, and that the US' recent approval of further subsidies for its farmers is likely to be costly for developing countries. However, she maintained that open economies are critical for growth


This meeting outlines Africa's development record, its heterogeneity and its future.
(rescheduled introduction)