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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006, 21:55 GMT 22:55 UK
'Let business lift Africa out of poverty'
By Jon Cronin
Business reporter, BBC News

Anglo American chairman Sir Mark Moody-Stuart
Companies and countries need to work together, Sir Mark says

Big business has something of a poor reputation when it comes to Africa.

Critics accuse multinational oil and mining companies in particular of exploiting local people, damaging the environment and helping to prop-up some of Africa's more odious regimes.

It's an unfair charge and one that's all too familiar, argues the former boss of an oil giant who now heads one of the world's biggest mining firms.

"There is in society at large a considerable mistrust of large businesses," says Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, the affable chairman of Anglo American and ex-chairman of Shell.

"The only way you can overcome that mistrust is to try and be open."

At a special gathering of business leaders ahead of last year's historic G8 summit in Gleneagles, Sir Mark led calls for an improvement in the approach of companies - and governments - in Africa.

A year on from the pledges made by the G8 to cut debt and boost aid in Africa, the view from the UK headquarters of Anglo American is that some progress is being made.

Mega corruption

"What we need is to see co-operation between companies and countries," says Sir Mark, who has been at the helm of the diamonds-to-coal miner for almost four years.

Mining truck
Despite a shortage of truck tyres, Anglo American is speeding ahead

"Something like HIV/Aids is a national problem, but companies can also do something," he says, pointing to Anglo American's strong record on Aids prevention and testing programmes among its workforce.

However, he stresses that poverty in Africa cannot be addressed "simply by aid".

"The long term solution has to be to grow business, and I think people are now recognising that," he says.

He supports efforts by regional organisations such as the African Union and New Partnership for African Development (Nepad) to tackle the growing problem of corruption.

"It's a huge job to reverse mega corruption, but there is a strong drive by governments collectively to do something about it," he says.

"Some countries had high standards anyway, in other countries - Nigeria for example - they've put a huge effort into it."

However, he rejects charges from critics that multinational businesses such as his take out more from Africa than they put in.

"We employ very large numbers of people in Africa. We pay those people in total something in the region of $3bn, that's more than we pay our shareholders.

"Of course, as a business you have to make money. But it doesn't mean there aren't benefits for other people involved, for government, for employees, for suppliers and so on."

'Slightly sinful'

Sir Mark does not at first appear to be the sort of man you might expect to see running a global industry which specialises in tearing precious metals and minerals from the earth.

You can't extract resources without having some impact on the environment
Sir Mark Moody Stuart, chairman Anglo American

Born into a wealthy land-owning family in Antigua, his London office - although it affords a rooftop view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament - is a small and rather unostentatious affair.

He avoids the big desks, leather chairs and other traditional trappings of his position, and is the sort of business baron who pours the tea for his guests.

He also drives an environmentally friendly Toyota Prius, a car which he admits allows the driver to "enjoy a slightly sinful feeling of superiority".

But Sir Mark's gentlemanly reserve does not conceal a man out of touch with the business he runs.

He is as aware of the current shortage of huge tyres used by the company's giant trucks as Anglo American's broader plans to compete with global rivals Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

Heading east

While Anglo American has its origins in southern Africa, the company is currently expanding in China, a country's whose rapacious demand for energy and raw materials has helped push up world commodity prices to record levels in recent months.

Worker at an Anglo American mine in South Africa
Anglo American is a major employer in southern Africa

Elsewhere, the company is exploring in the Arctic, Latin America, and Indonesia. "We go where the geology is," says Sir Mark.

It is also considering a move into the war-torn, but mineral rich, Democratic Republic of Congo.

"That's an area were we would like to do more business but we have to ensure that the conditions are right," says Sir Mark.

However, as Anglo American looks to promote itself as a company that can, along with government, play a role in the battle against poverty and disease in Africa, it is aware that other image problems remain.

Mining has a poor legacy when it comes to environmental damage, although Sir Mark says Anglo American is cleaning up its act.

"You can't extract resources without having some impact on the environment. What you can do is reduce the impact," he says.

"We are both a big energy user and energy producer, and we need to think long-term about what the implications are."

Anglo-American's Prius-driving chairman hopes he can convince a sceptical public that, on both Africa and the environment, his company means business.

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