Tony Blair ignored his Godson, Meles Zenawi, on his parade to Africa

After Washington, it is Africa's turn to bid farewell to Tony Blair. His parade started in Libya yesterday, will gather steam in Sierra Leone and will finish in South Africa. Libya's abandonment of its nuclear programme must count as a coup for British intelligence and diplomacy, and the military intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000 was equally decisive. Mr Blair can safely bask in the reflected glow of both success stories.
But a look at the countries that Mr Blair is not visiting on his final tour is instructive. Ethiopia, the country where Mr Blair launched his campaign against poverty, is off the itinerary. The shine has worn off its prime minister, Meles Zenawi, a member of Mr Blair's Commission for Africa, after elections two years ago ended in mass arrests and Ethiopian tanks rumbled into Somalia to oust the Islamic Courts, opening fire on civilians in Mogadishu. There will be no visit to Uganda either, after its president Yoweri Museveni, another Africa commission member, changed the constitution to remain in power indefinitely. Both leaders found it easier to talk about the principles of good governance for other countries than actually applying them to their own.
By making his tour, Mr Blair is inviting the question that all G8 leaders gathering next week in Heiligendamm on the Baltic coast will be challenged with: what did the commitments made to Africa at the G8 conference in Gleneagles actually achieve? The legacy is mixed: 18 countries in Africa have benefited from debt cancellation, and in Ghana and Malawi it has made a real difference. The money saved has respectively made education free and trained 4,000 extra teachers. Oxfam has no hesitation in calling this a significant victory. But 17 of the world's 41 poorest countries are still struggling to meet the G8's conditions, and other countries with crippling debts, such as Kenya, remain excluded. Even now the world's poorest countries still pay the richest $100m a day in debt repayments.
The gap between promise and delivery remains wide in the field of aid. Oxfam calculated that the G8 will miss its target of increasing annual aid levels by $50bn by 2010, with a shortfall of $30bn. This is not Mr Blair's fault. Since 1997 British expenditure on aid has more than doubled and, with 0.47% of GDP now spent on aid, Britain is moving credibly towards the UN-agreed target of 0.7% by 2015. But aid from Italy and France is falling, and aid from Germany, the US and Japan far short of what was promised. If G8 countries were like priests, most would have to retake their vows.
Aid works where it is properly delivered, but giving the cotton farmers of Mali access to world markets would be even better. Hot on the heels of the G8 meeting comes a critical decision by trade ministers - the last chance to conclude WTO talks by the summer and to agree cuts in agriculture subsidies and tariffs. This round of talks risks being hijacked by a familiar row between Europe and the US about whose subsidies should be cut first. On his first visit to Brussels as French president, Nicolas Sarkozy signalled that he would protect the interests of French farmers and resist attempts to cut supports while US farmers benefited from the same policies. Mr Sarkozy said it was "goodbye to naivety". It could also be goodbye to a good deal on trade for Africa.
There are other areas of the Gleneagles agenda where the outcome has fallen short of expectation. Both Darfur and Zimbabwe remain woeful, questioning Africa's ability, either military or diplomatic, to sort out its problems. That should not be a reason for the G8 to walk away from its commitments, or to move on to other agendas. Mr Blair, along with Gordon Brown, has put African poverty on the international agenda and kept it there. That does not mean that he is leaving with the task of solving it anything like finished.

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at10:17 PM


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