Put Africa in driving seat of development, says Blair

20 Mar 12
Putting African countries in the ‘driving seat’ of their development could end their dependence on aid within a generation, according to former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

By Nick Mann | 20 March 2012

Putting African countries in the ‘driving seat’ of their development could end their dependence on aid within a generation, according to former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Blair, who founded the Africa Governance Initiative, said yesterday there was a ‘new sense of hope and confidence’ on the continent with ‘optimism and an expectation that is based on evidence not dreams’.

He added: ‘There is a new generation of leaders in politics, business and civic society who don’t simply have a new competence about how they approach their tasks; but a new attitude, a new frame of thinking, a new way of looking at their own situation.’

These leaders have an ‘urgent desire’ to focus on the future, Blair said, and the development community needed to find a ‘new way’ to work for ‘rich and poor’ countries to work together.

‘The old way, where the rich world gives and the poor world passively receives, looks increasingly out of date,’ he said. ‘African countries must be in the driving seat of their own development, setting the priorities and making the decisions.

‘Where aid is needed, it should get behind these priorities and use and strengthen the government’s own systems. I believe, with the right kinds of support and the right policies, Africa can be free of dependence on aid within a generation.’

African leaders must also set out a ‘clear and ambitious’ vision for development of their countries, he said, addressing issues such as infrastructure development and the need for improvements in education.

Blair identified governance as the ‘biggest obstacle’ to Africa’s development, and said countries needed to create the mechanisms that can allow them to deliver on ‘sharply identified and focused’ priorities such as attracting capital investment from overseas.

‘For African leaders, the opportunity is there truly to transform their countries. To get there they must set out a clear and ambitious vision for the development of their countries. And, crucially, build their systems of government to deliver it,’ he said.

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