Uganda Peoples Congress

UPC External Bureau Victoria, British Columbia

Hope in Blair's ideas on African Development.

The Honorable Tony Blair's Ideas on African Development A small ray of light?

03 Apr 2006

The most optimistic development on poverty reduction in Africa was the Honorable Tony Blair's (the Prime Minister of Great Britain) commitment to increase awareness of the issue and to seek ways of addressing it. The timing of the commitment was unprecedented. It is not that other leaders in the west had not pondered the issue before. They had. However, Blair put an interesting spin on it. First, he was strategically positioned to create significant change. First, he is the Prime Minister of Great Britain, a country with colonial connections to the continent. Secondly, was at the time of initiation of his effort poised to become the President of the European Union, and president of the G8 nations, whose members also have considerable connections to the continent.

The initiative was well orchestrated by involved rock stars such Geldof and encouraging citizen groups such as the "Make Poverty History" group. The orchestration climaxed when a world-wide concert (Live 8) was staged by Geldof. To top-off things, our very own Madiba - Nelson Mandela was called upon to join the movement (we not talking NRM here). He rallied the entire world in a few powerful words: "sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation".

The initiation of the African assistance initiative was done right. Mr. Blair consulted extensively on the issue. He set up a commission to investigate the reasons why all that aid that was provided to Africa in the past has had no effect. The commission was facilitated to gather opinions from Africans, relief aid experts and African sympathizers all over the world. Despotic leaders were left out of some activities, because it was realized that they had nothing new to contribute. There were plenty of reasons for optimism and hope. At last, something positive about Africa was happening.

The (British) Economic Commission on Africa did its job and reported its finding and made recommendations for the future. Among the many recommendations, the following are the most outstanding:

  1. That the wealthier countries should forgive the debt of the most desperate countries.
  2. That the wealthier countries should increase trade with the poor nation.
  3. That trade barriers should be reduced or eliminated.
  4. That the wealthier countries should double their budget commitments to aid assistance.
  5. That more money should be spent on developing infrastructure to allow trade among African countries.
  6. That there should be efforts to fight corruption
  7. That donor countries should consider good governance as a major criterion for providing aid.
  8. etc.

In our opinion, the first 4 recommendation in the list above may not occur for a few years. A considerable amount of bureaucratic and legislative work is required to re-orient the thinking in the various donor countries and even when the re-orientation occurs, infrastructures required to deliver programs may take some time to develop. The British who are the champions of this initiative are already admitting that they failed to complete their ambitious development agenda in 2005.

Recommendation number 5 in our opinion is perhaps the best hope for producing change in income for the larger majority of poor people. With better transportation infrastructure, between neighboring African countries, even rural people can participate in inter-country trade instead of limiting such trade to the elites in urban areas. It would allow income levels to improve more rapidly in rural areas.

Recommendations #6 & #7 are perhaps the areas where the quickest results can be obtained. These are justified in order to avoid wasting western countries tax-payer money on bullies who cling to power even when it is apparent a change is necessary for a country to move ahead on poverty reduction. In this regard, the recent announcement that "Prime Minister Tony Blair has shown real moral courage with his decision... to end bilateral aid to the Meles Zenawi Ethiopian regime (Leaders, January 20) because of the human rights record of the Meles government" is welcome news. It is really that simple. The response to all despotic governments should be; move aside or face consequences. To do otherwise is morally repugnant.

Long live the people of Uganda. Long Live UPC. Long live Mama Miria Kalule Obote.