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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Can Blair save Africa from poverty?
British Prime Minister, Tony Blair
Blair wants workable solutions for Africa's problems

While other developing countries are growing out of poverty, Africa continues to lag behind: poverty levels have increased and life expectancy is falling.

Several initiatives and promises have attempted to address the continent's problems, but with little success.

This year, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair launched the Commission for Africa.

The Commission's aim is to investigate the root of Africa's problems and come up with real solutions.

On the agenda is how to tackle health matters - including HIV and Aids - poverty, conflict resolution, and bad governance.

Supporters see the Commission as a unique opportunity to save Africa.

But critics argue that Blair is using Africa to restore his tarnished image in the aftermath of the Iraqi war.

The BBC's Africa Live is asking: can Blair's initiative succeed where others have failed?

What are your personal suggestions on how Blair's commission can help Africa?

This debate has now closed. Some listeners comments below.


The only meaningful way to end Africa's misery is for the west to allow Africans a fighting chance by dropping agricultural subsidies. Africans can produce agricultural products at a fraction of what the west can. This act is the only way out of misery. Handouts will not work. It is dehumansing, patronising and an outright perpetuation of the slave-master relationship. Fair trade and open access to global markets is the only solution. Save the taxpayers money. Stop farm subsidies and handouts to the third world. Any other approach is insulting and unworkable.
Waweru, Nairobi, Kenya

In the end poverty reduction comes down to high-ranking people who do or do not pick up their responsibilities. This includes high-ranking black Africans as well as white politicians and businessmen. It is clear that people responsible for poverty reduction in sub Sahara Africa have not met their obligations. This can be solved by putting to light their failures or even their corruption. Blair's Commission for Africa offers a possibility to do just that. Maybe some of the responsible will change their mind now.
Nico van den Berge, Amersfoort, The Netherlands

Of course not. Even if he was, it would be a shame and a pretty sad statement about Africans to expect, some 50 years after independance, that the slavemaster returns to feed you. May God save Africa from such infamy
Mori Diane, Washington, DC, USA

Should the debate not be focused on how much these individuals could do to save Africa from poverty, rather than any one person outside Africa?
Myles McCormick, Northern Ireland

No doubt Tony Blair or any "Western" Prime Minister for that matter could help save Africa from poverty by means of the tax payer in the end. All this while the individual wealth of third world governors and politicians continues to expand. Should the debate not be focused on how much these individuals could do to save Africa from poverty, rather than any one person outside Africa? It is after all their country, continent and their heritage.
Myles McCormick, Richhill, N. Ireland

I think one of the fundamental problems regarding Africa's underdevelopment has to do with governance.There are no term limits for the presidency in almost all African countries and even if there is a term limit, by the time it's up the constitution is again doctored to allow the same president to stay further.No president in Africa loses elections, they are all corrurpt and are all brutal dictators.George Bush knows this, Tony Blair knows this and Kofi Annan likewise.We africans are sick and tired of our dictators and we have no means of removing them from power.
Mass Jobe, Glen Burnie, USA

Yes, I think he can help. Especially since almost all problems in the world are caused by the British, they have to work hard to revert the problem. Otherwise, it will surely back fire. They have to help themselves if they want to stay safe. If the current trend continues and if the gap between the poor nations and the rich expands, then that will be the biggest challenge for the whole world, in a maginitude probably more than terrorism.
Dave, Melbourne, Australia

If our African elites and leaders cared half as much Africa would not be in the state it is in at the moment. Mass unemployment, illiteracy, corruption are the norms on the exception in Africa. Before we can sit perched high on a soap box, and judge Mr. Blair, we have to first come up with our own plan, and effort to end poverty in Africa.
Mohammed, Mali/Nigeria/USA

There have been several commissions and programs set out to help Africa, but most have come to nought. Blair's commission may sound plausible, but it is highly unlikely to solve our problems.
Kwabena Bekoe, Toronto, Canada

If at all Blair is serious with the plight of Africans, let him begin by fishing out corrupt African leaders and their western collaborators who daily siphone African resources to enrich the West
Joe, Loughborough

I still maintain that Africa should tackle the issue of corruption which has eaten deep into the fabric of the continent's life. Once that is dealt with, potentially there are abundant resources which given good leadership can be transformed for the benefits of all in Africans. If at all Blair is serious with the plights of Africans, let him begin by fishing out corrupt African leaders and their western collaborators who daily siphone African resources to enrich the West.
Joe, Loughborough

He simply can't. Poverty in Africa will be eradicated by African people's resolve. The other important thing needed by the continent is African elite that are more than parasites.
Justin Hategekimana, Pittsburgh, USA

Tony Blair can ensure there is always democracy. People don't starve in a democracy!
James, Botswana

You've got to be kidding me! Why do we need another so called developed country investigating the root of Africa's problems? We know the root of Africa's problems! How much money will Blair waste in this investigation that will end up revealing what we already know? I think the only hope for Africa will come with a radical reformation in hearts of the leaders and populace.
Luul, USA

Africa has been systematically raped by the "developed" countries through the IMF and the World Bank. If Tony Blair can help make us as self sufficient as we were before they stepped in, then he will succeed. I strongly believe in his sincerity
Frederick Pratt-Davies, Piscataway, New Jersey USA

Africa's poverty has been a result of poor governance and especially in those countries plagued by severe corruption. I think Blair will not be triumphant in solving this critical problem in Africa but all is left for the African leaders to think of better means to help alleviate the crisis there.
L. Onekon, Washington, USA

On whose terms can he end Africa's poverty? Is this another plan to beat Africans into submission through economics? Without mutual respect and fair trade I do not see poverty reductions for Africa. What is in this effort for him? If his intentions are genuine, then I wish him well.
Cos Munya, St Louis, Zimbabwe/USA

Slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism were all meant to help Africa, were they not?
Titi Woki, USA

Blair's initiative is another ploy to try and mend his image after endorsing a war that has left him unpopular. Slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism were all meant to help Africa, were they not? I think Africa has had all the the help it ever needed from Blair's type.
Titi Woki, Spring Arbor, USA

Right now, anything and everything to save Africa has to be applied with full force. I commend Mr. Blair for taking the initiative and for sticking his neck out for Africa during the G8 summit. I just hope that other developed countries will follow his lead and also put their money where their mouth is. If the real purpose behind the Commission is just a publicity act, then Mr. Blair would have to answer to no one but to God.
Abiye, Ethiopian In US

No man can solve a continents problems, however Mr Blair has brought more attention to the continents plight. Even if he has a hidden agenda if his actions help to give millions of vunerable people a better future should he not be commended?
Jonathan Chatterton, Cape Coast, Ghana

I think Tony Blair is dreaming in technicolour by believing he can save Africa from itself. The whole world combined might not be up to the task. Corruption, war and poverty are so much a part of the African way of life. Africans need to become more than aid recipients in some refugee camp. I look at Zimbabwe and wonder how could a prosperous conntry end up in such a pathetic mess. How can Tony Blair make a difference there? Or anywhere in Africa for that matter?
Charles , Montreal, Canada

I don't care why Tony Blair has launched a commission on Africa; I just hope that this is really an effort to understand, and there is real ambition to help address the problems that exist there. How can a continent the size of Africa, with the natural wealth of Africa and the manpower of Africa have such severe economic and social problems? In order to respond to these fundamental questions that needs to be raised, the commission must be honest. Africans of the Diaspora and Europeans worldwide, need to overcome the enormous emotional scar that is the legacy of their joint history. And if we don't have the courage to be honest, I don't thing much will change.
Kay Porter Whyte, London

This initiative by Blair, though well meaning, will not achieve anything new.The key to empowering Africa lies, not in ploughing money and aid in - which is looted anyway- but through investment in education and income generating activities. I can immediately think of dozens of approaches which would yield considerable results.
Bernard Watsulu, Farnborough, Hampshire

We live in a world where people are too quick to criticise and very slow to take intiatives which help others come out of their problems. Tony Blair is a great leader who puts his ideas to work. His current intiatives on African problems might not be a quick fix, but they will set the foundation for long term recovery. Tony needs our support in these intiatives, not endless critisim.
Kennedy Muturi Nelson, Scotland

Blair is already compromised in any desire he might have to save Africa from poverty
Neil Alldred, Ballymena

Blair can go some way towards helping push Africa a little higher up the agenda of the major decision-makers, but he is already compromised in any desire he might have to 'save Africa from poverty'. First, he has aligned himself with the worst aspects of anglo-american capitalism, pushing so-called free trade, encouraging the privatisation of public goods and services in Africa and elsewhere, and urging British companies to pursue their self-interest right across the globe. Secondly, he has allied himself with President Bush who has single-handedly done more to harm African and Third World interests than anyone in the last 60 years or so. Whatever Blair's declared interest in Africa, it can only play second fiddle to his main interest which is keeping Britain prosperous and at the right hand of the US - both of which positions are inimical to Africa's best interests.
Neil Alldred, Ballymena, Co. Antrim

If Tony Blair wants to help Africa as he says, then here are a few things that he should consider. The root of Africa's problem is simple. It is the West! They're hypocritical, have too many negative propaganda about Africa, do not see Africans as real people with real issues, making Africans dependent on charity from the West is destructive. Will the west help Africa without exploiting them? We all know that the west does not do anything unless they are benefiting. Even to keep Africa poor, is a benefit to the West.
Scully-Mensah

If funds were diverted away from greedy dictators like Mr Mugabe and went to people who needed them there might be some point to the whole endeavour otherwise why are we bothering? Couldn't the money be used instead to fix some of our domestic problems - the NHS, Public Transport, Higher Education funding??
Chris Trantham, Bristol UK

Independent policies alone cannot solve the problem. Other global actors must be broughton board Blair's campaign. Direct intervention in issues of conflict, bad governance and the now HIV/AIDS can only be meaningful and sustainable if other major actors who may also have a stake in Africa could think or act with the good intentions of Blair. Africa cannot be isolated if the world as a hole should move forward.
Momo F. Turay, Edinburgh, Scotland

It is absolutely impractical and totally unreasonable to even imagine that Blair can save Africa from poverty.
Nyayiemi Bayonne, New Jersey

It is absolutely impractical and totally unreasonable to even imagine that Blair can save Africa from poverty. It solely remains the biggest responsility for we the Africans more to develop our own countries.The most we can expect from the British is incessant underdevelopment.We have all the resources but majority of the population do not want to be productive and the ruling cliques always want to eat like gluttons without care.So this Commission Mr.Blair has launched is just a waste of time.We dont need the British to develop.They are the ones behind Africa's problems today because of the previous imperialistic motives.TWe have to wake up and put ourselves in order.
Nyayiemi Bayonne, New Jersey

Africa does not need Blair to stop her poverty. Africa needs her own indigenious citizens called leaders but that who are actually looters to stop the poverty. Nigeria, for example is one of the richest countries in the world because of her oil, and yet the majority live in poverty. The way Blair and other western worlds can help is to stop imposing and encouraging leaders that will dance to their music, rather than help their people.
Ade, USA

Africa's poverty has been brought in by dictators supported by many European countries. Pull down these dictators and that will be the first step towards African development.
Mubuifor Linus, Magnolia/Akansas

The answer is Africans abroad investing in small and medium scale enterprises in Africa to kick start an entrpreneurial culture and wealth creation
Adams Dauda, London UK

Let these people stop using Africa as a stepping stone to fame. Blair needs a good image again after the Iraq war like Bush does. Africa has been a continent everyone uses for that purpose from time immemorial.
Daikku, Finland

Blair's intiatives will encourage many Africans to pursue and embrace biotechnology derived solutions in Africa; this will enhance food security, reduce poverty and bring lasting peace to the continent.
Sylvester Anami, Gent , Belgium

The problems of Africa are so simple, we don't need an outsider to solve them.
Eli Ruchongwe, Harare, Zimbabwe

The problems of Africa are so simple, we don't need an outsider to solve them. We have war and bad governance as the two main causes. The others are consequneces of these two. Everything is cyclic and can be resolved by a simple change in attitudes. No! Mr Blair will not be able to change anything. It would be a waste of effort and possibly money.
Eli Ruchongwe, Harare, Zimbabwe

No amount of African initiatives from Blair or whoever will succeed if the continents debt are not forgiven or reduced to the barest minimum. African nations commit a chunk of their scarce foreign exchange to debt servicing, than they for education, healthcare etc.So until the draconian debt problem is dealt with, we are going nowhere.
Adekunle Ayanlaja, Alicante, Spain

Given that Africa has its own African Union Commission, I think there was no need to duplication. Although Tony Blair may have good intentions to help Africa rid itself of poverty and other problems, he needs to work with the African Union to achieve his aim.
Morita wa Makangachi, Congo

Forget about Tony Blair's ulterior motives! Surely if in the end it produces some successes in Africa, then it is a good thing.
Hellen Kerali, Uganda/USA

The most influential country in Africa is Britain. If Blair can use this influence positively, it would be a great relief for Africa.
Adigun Olosun, Germany

The poverty in Africa is not one man's job. The west world should join hands to support Africa.
Anyadiegwu Cosmas, Ancona, Italy

How can Tony Blair Justify going to war over the so called "evil regime " in Iraq when former British colonies are experiencing far worse repression and human rights abuses at the hands of corrupt dictators . All ignored, presumeably because intervening in non oil rich or diamond rich countries is not worth while ? Examples abound in Rwanda, Angola, Sierra Leonne and the DRC. The hipocricy is nauseating!
Al, Maidstone UK

Unless African politicians and traditional leaders come on board, it will just become yet another 'out there in the West' talking shop! Surely, it needs to be part of a broader responsibility, integrating with the recent Mauritius AU summit on good governance, for example.
Richard Flynn, Huntingdon, UK

Blair can save Africa very well. British colonised nearly all the African continent and its people and till today, the most influential country in Africa is Britain. If Blair can use this influence positively, it would be a great relief for Africa. Blair, best of luck.
Adigun Olosun, Ostbevern, Germany(Nigerian)

How can Blair expect to solve Africa's problems in partnership with leaders such as Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia who are the root of the continent's problems? It is just like asking a fox to look after the hens' house.
Daniel Abraham, London

The only solution to African problems is Africans
Alex, Nigeria/Italy

The only solution to African problems is Africans. When Africans realise themselves as a people then the problem is half-solved.
Alex, Nigeria/Italy

The first thing to do would be to impose real democracy, not what suits the west! Ending poverty means developing African countries. Stop giving away weapons to dictators! Accept Africa's choices! Stop killing our heroes! Stop creating "rebellions" and stop "loving" the dictators you helped put and keep in power. Only then, will Africans will be able to rebuild the contitnent and progess.
Jack, London, U.K.

I believe Tony Blair's policy can eradicate poverty in Africa if all governments on the continent support his programme. Britain has played a major role in Africa's technological advancement in the past and I believe Blair's programme can be successful.
Dr Olusegun Ajayi, Luton,England

The UK and its European allies should take responsbility for Africa's problems. After colonialism, which saw all our resources and wealth taken to western countries, no plan was devised for succession. I ask myself, why cant the E.U and the U.S come up with a marshall plan for Africa like that for Europe after WW II. This is a question that only Mr Bush and the EU leaders can answer.
Anthony Casey, Mitcham

We admire the great initiative of Prime Minister Tony Blair. A long-term solution to Africa's financial crisis requires an understanding of the root causes. I am sure that the commission will discover two fundamental distinctions: The African leaders and their swiss bank account versus the African people and their graves. Africans' leader must be honest with themselves, and to the people.
Niamien Kophi Ambroise, San Jose, California ,USA

I think the question should have been how can Tony Blair and the West help African to save themselves. I have no doubt in my mind that African will grow out of poverty, just as American grew out of depression of 1930's, and Europe grew out of poverty and warfare. We must eliminate sources of armed conflict and set up a conflict resolution mechanism to defuse tension in order to attract the investment needed for prosperity.
Adams Dauda, London UK

Poverty in Africa will end when all the resources looted by the colonisers are returned or full compansation is paid. The UK, as the chief coloniser and looter of these resources must lead the way. The Germans have compensated for their misdeeds against Jews. Britain must pay it's due to Africa.
Muchaneta Zvavamwe, Birmingham, UK

I am sure that the commission will discover two fundamental distinctions: The African leaders and their swiss bank account versus the African people and their graves
Niamien Kophi Ambroise, USA

When Blair gained power, the Africans thought good of him, but when he joined forces with President Bush, I knew the guy had lost it. Blair, relax! Poverty can be seen in the streets of Britain, if you can't help Africans, help the poor Brits, rather than go to war.
Michael Pokawa, Sierra Leone/USA

My vision of Blair is that of a man of God who pursues policies good for humanity. A great leader who if he retires life may never be the same again. He takes a sane approach to issues and is fast shaping Africa for the better. He actually has a better vision than Bill Clinton. In case you're wondering, I'm African.
Caz Ulanda, UK

One man cannot save a continent! Unless we can all effectively fight EU & US subsidies, rampant crime, fraud and corruption. After all, the road to hell is still paved with good intentions.
Rachel Longster, Johannesburg

Ethiopia needs co-operation and billions of pounds of loan to develop the Nile river but I doubt Tony Blair will do that because it will mean denouncing the so-called colonial treaty of 1929 between Egypt and Britain. Who do you think Blair will take a photo with when he visits Ethiopia? A street kid, or a graduate? The image of a smiling Tony Blair hunkered down with his arm around a shoe-shine boy would almost certainly win him a lot more votes back home. This is just a gimmick to make Blair popular!
Markos Lemma, Finland

Great idea by prime minister Tony Blair. Poverty, ill health and shortage of food are the most serious problems facing Africa now. If the solution will be grants or aid, the commission should make sure the aid goes into the right hands. African countries are well known for diverting resources.
Sarah, Mzuzu, Malawi

Nice try Mr. Blair. But first Africans and their leaders must change their way of thinking to suite the situation they face. Secondly the developed world must play a fair game in international trade.
Kojo, Toronto, Canada

Is it in the interest of the so called developed world to actually save us in Africa?
Ino Djiwonou Djogbessi, London, UK

We salute Prime Minister Blair's initiative with the launch of the Commission for Africa. However, we must ask ourselves why Blair seems to be so preoccupied with our fate. Is it in the interest of the so called developed world to actually save us in Africa? As long as we rely on those western technologies and ideas which are usually inapplicable to our realities in Africa we will continue the struggle to find a way out of poverty.
Ino Djiwonou Djogbessi, London, UK




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