Blair seeks Africa action plan
ADDIS ABABA, Thu 7 October, 2004 04 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tony
Blair is in Ethiopia to chair a summit today he hopes will turn Africa's
problems into a global priority.
attending a meeting of the British-sponsored Commission for Africa, which is
drawing up a policy agenda for London to press when it takes the leadership of
both the Group of Eight (G8) industrial nations and European Union next year.
Africa's great problems -- it is the only continent to have grown poorer in the
last 25 years -- it is a tall order to make that a priority for wealthy
countries gripped by their conflict with militant Islam.
Blair, who has
constantly drawn attention to Africa during his seven years in power, said he
had "high hopes" for his project: "We have made it clear that
Africa should be the dominant theme -- along with the issue of climate change
-- at our G8 presidency next year," he said late on Wednesday.
the Commission would spur real progress: "It is the action in the end that
people need, not the words."
alongside Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, he added: "The purpose
... is not to invent something entirely new in terms of the problems that
know the problems of Africa. But it's to say these problems have got to be
dealt with together -- debt, aid, trade, conflict resolution, governance in
are reserving judgment on the project promoted by the former colonial ruler of
much of the continent.
agencies and analysts are sceptical it will produce results; others point out
that Blair -- and his Chancellor Gordon Brown, who is on the Commission -- have
invested so much personal capital they must be confident it will produce
also includes senior figures from Africa, such as Zenawi, and there is a dash
of celebrity from Irish rocker and Third World campaigner Bob Geldof.
Set up this
year, the Commission is expected early next year to call on rich nations to
provide more aid and debt relief as well as better access to African exports,
while urging Africans to improve their government and sort out their own
"This is a
partnership arrangement in which we need to do certain things, African
countries need to do certain things," said Blair, who has made the trip
days after a heart operation.
Ethiopia exemplifies some of Africa's ills; one of the poorest nations in the
world and associated for many with famine after searing televised images of
mass starvation in the mid-1980s, aid agencies are warning again that many face
renewed food shortages after the failure of rains.
A border dispute
with Eritrea has also drained resources.
delivering a speech on Africa, which he has described in the past as a
"scar on the conscience of the world", Blair is to visit health and
children's projects outside the capital.