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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 May 2007, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
In full: Tony Blair's Africa speech
Prime Minister Tony  Blair
Nelson Mandela thanked Mr Blair for his support

The full text of a speech given by Tony Blair on his week-long tour of Africa.

I am delighted to be here in South Africa. I am particularly delighted to be here at UNISA through which many of the ANC leaders were educated and today plans to launch a new centre for genocide and holocaust studies.

And to have the opportunity to speak to such a distinguished audience. Africa is close to my heart. I have made friends right across this amazing and inspiring continent.

Africa has been at the top of my foreign policy for the last ten 10 years. From the very beginning I wanted to forge a new partnership with African leaders and countries. Not based on rich and poor or donor and recipient but based on common values of justice, democracy and human rights; a partnership of trust and equality.

Above all, and most controversially, Africa has been a prime example of a foreign policy that has been thoroughly interventionist. I believe in the power of political action to make the world better and the moral obligation to use it.

I do not believe that in this time - the early 21st Century - international politics can be just about nations' interests, narrowly and traditionally defined.

I believe that now, today, our self interest is in substantial part defined by the well-being of others; that the consequence of globalisation is that our best chance of security and prosperity lies in advancing freedom, opportunity and justice for all.

It follows that where oppression, poverty and injustice exist, it is not only our duty but also in our self-interest to do what we can to bring about change for the better.

Nowhere is that clearer than Africa. African conflict creates millions of refugees in search of a better life. African poverty deprives this continent - and millions of people - of the chance to succeed, and deprives us of successful and stable partners for economic growth and the benign exploitation of commodities and natural resources.

Failed or struggling African states are breeding grounds for the very extremism that threatens us everywhere. African peaceful co-existence between Muslim and Christian shows how different and better the world can be.

It is easy for people to mock the pretensions of an interventionist policy; and intervention never fares as well as we would like. But consider the alternative and then make the choice.

Suppose we did nothing. Actually we do not need to hypothesise. We did do nothing or little as Rwanda slid into genocide; as HIV/AIDS grew; as Liberia and Sierra Leone descended into gangsterism; as governments in the 1980s and 1990s faltered or strayed from a proper path.

The international action of the past few years hasn't transformed Africa; but as I shall say later, it has undoubtedly made it better.

And there is the possibility now in a different and more strategic approach, based on partnership rather than aid alone, of real transformational change in the years to come.

For that to happen, the wealthy nations must hold to the path set out in the MDGs and the Gleneagles G8; and Africa must take its responsibilities seriously and develop in the way NEPAD and the G8 partnership provides.

We have to stay with it for the long haul; commit and re-commit; never let it be said we are not trying, even if it cannot always be said we are succeeding.

We now have a broad political consensus for Africa in the UK. Excellent. We need the same in the EU. We need each G8 to be bolder than the last.

If we do this, and Africa responds as an equal partner, we will have set a strategic goal that in time we will achieve; and in a continent in which the power of China is rising dramatically, we can work with China to serve the development of Africa in a way which benefits us all.

But if we give up, we will lose the chance in this continent - rich as it is - though its people are poor - for our values to take root. It would be a calamitous misjudgement.

So, to what ends should our intervention and support be fashioned? First, we must address more urgently the issue of conflict resolution and peace-keeping.

I have come here today from Sierra Leone. When I last visited five years ago, Sierra Leone was a failed state. Emerging from a horrific conflict which saw 60,000 killed. 10,000 child soldiers. 1/4 million women and girls raped. Others brutally maimed, hands cut off.

A war fuelled by the fight for diamonds and other commodities. We all felt despair at the wickedness that a small group of people could inflict on their compatriots.

But I also felt proud that Africa and the international community responded, with ECOWAS and UN troops, and ultimately the UK's own troops.

We now must build on this window of opportunity and work with the elected government of Sierra Leone to help them build a better country for the people of Sierra Leone. Not easy. War destroyed the fabric of Sierra Leone. And state building is the hardest of challenges.

Visiting again, I was again struck by the beauty of Sierra Leone and also its enormous potential of human, mineral and agricultural resources, among the richest in Africa.

70 per cent of people are below the poverty line. One quarter in extreme poverty. Sierra Leone is still 176 out of 177 countries on the UN's Human Development Indicator scale.

Nevertheless, I visited a school, met children determined to get an education and get on, benefiting from the decision of the Sierra Leone government to abolish user fees.

School attendance has doubled since the end of the war. And older children and adults who have missed out are seizing the opportunity to go back to school.

I met a group of entrepreneurs benefiting from funds from a new private sector Venture Capital Fund. And technical assistance provided by the UK.

However hard the current challenges, and however little the people of Sierra Leone have to build on, if conflict had continued, even these gains would not have been possible.

That is why the UNAMSIL deployment between 1999 and 2005 was so critical. It literally pulled a country back from the brink.

There is a new determination across this continent to tackle conflict. Thanks to this determination the number of violent conflicts in Africa has reduced from 14 in 1997 to two major conflicts today.

In 10 years, Africa has strengthened the tools it has to tackle conflict. And developed plans for improving Africa's capacity to deploy peacekeepers. We now need to strengthen African peacekeeping further. This is the next phase of the partnership.

The UK has trained 11,000 peacekeeping troops in the last three years, most from Africa. We will continue to ensure that we and our G8 partners hold to the commitment of training 75,000 peacekeeping troops by 2010. It's why the UK is supporting the AU to develop a Stand-by Force.

And it's why yesterday, President Kabbah, President Johnson-Sirleaf and I, together announced our determination to ensure the money is in place to support AU operations. It is unacceptable that the AU operation in Darfur limps from month to month, from financial crisis to financial crisis.

It is unacceptable that brave men and women, in AU operations, do not have the equipment they need to do the job. It is unacceptable that they do not receive the pay or per diems they deserve because African countries lack the money.

So we will work together for a mechanism at the UN which secures UN funding for AU operations. We will propose to our EU partners a mechanism for funding rapid deployment, to ensure African Union troops can move quickly when required.

No conflict demonstrates the need for action more than Darfur. 200,000 dead. 4 million dependent on food aid. 2.1 million displaced persons within Sudan. But also over 230,000 refugees have fled into Chad, joining 140,000 internally displaced Chadians, and almost 50,000 refugees from CAR fleeing the fighting in their own country.

It is wrong that President Bashir, intent on bombing his way to a solution, is determined to obstruct any effort made to reinforce the AU's ability to improve security and stability.

We must offer President Bashir a choice. Engage with us on a solution. Or, if you reject responsibility for the people of Darfur, then we will table and put to a vote sanctions against the regime.

I believe we have a responsibility to protect. Along with the MDGs, these are two of the most important decisions the modern UN has ever made.

We also need to redouble our partnership on the fight against poverty and, most important, to fight the causes of poverty and disease, poor education, bad governance.

2005 was a landmark year for commitments for Africa:

  • $50 billion extra aid per year by 2010, of which half would go to Africa,
  • 100 per cent debt cancellation,
  • Universal access to AIDS treatment,
  • Free basic health and education,
  • Supporting the Africa Peer Review Mechanism and ratifying the Convention Against Corruption
  • Training of AU forces - to name but a few.

    A comprehensive package.

    It marked another step in the transition in the way we do development. Now we advocate a compact, or partnership, between donors and developing countries, a partnership based on NEPAD, in respect of which Thabo Mbeki played such a crucial role.

    But the most challenging part is implementing what was agreed. Getting rich countries - and African governments - to keep their promises.

    Almost two years on there is progress:

    Aid is up, but not enough to fulfil the promises made.

    $38 billion of debt relief. 18 countries in Africa have benefited. Zambia used its debt relief to abolish health user fees, giving tens of thousands of people access to free healthcare.

    New, innovative ways of financing development, frontloading assistance so poor countries get the benefit now. The International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) has already raised $1 billion out of a target of $4 billion over ten years for new and basic vaccines - which should vaccinate more than 500 million people, and save 10 million lives.

    Progress toward universal access to Aids drugs. Ten-fold increase in people on ARVs in Sub-Saharan Africa, now totalling more than 1 million, 23 per cent of those needing treatment. In 2005, this saved more than 250,000 lives.

    On education UK has committed 8.5 billion over next ten years. Donors have pledged $1.1 billion to the Fast Track Initiative, of which almost 1 billion is for 2006-08, which will put over 3 million more children into school.

    Africa has had successes. 13 democratic elections in last 2 years (though 11 which weren't).

    26 countries participating in APRM. 3 countries reviewed, and two more were reviewed this year, including South Africa.

    But much more to do.

    G8 and EU leaders must reaffirm their commitment to increase aid, and set out a path showing how they will do this.

    On education, we are not yet on-track to reach Universal Primary Education; we need African governments to develop sustainable funding plans, and donors to meet financing needs by making long-term commitments.

    On HIV/Aids, we need fully to fund national plans to achieve universal access to Aids treatment and Global Fund replenishment.

    We need to tackle the increasing feminisation of the disease in Africa. Over the past two years, the number of women and girls infected with HIV has increased in every region of the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, 60 per cent of adults living with HIV are women; worse, 3 out of 4 young people living with HIV are women and girls.

    African governments should deliver their promises to consolidate democracy, build the capacity of government institutions to deliver essential services, redouble efforts to stamp out corruption, and encourage the private sector to grow.

    African governments should also hold other African governments to account. In Zimbabwe, decades of repression have forced up to one third of the country to flee. Life expectancy has dropped from 60 in 1990, to 37. And South Africa's economy loses 3 per cent of GDP thanks to Zimbabwe's economic melt down.

    I welcome the determination of the countries of Southern Africa to tackle Zimbabwe's problems through SADC, and President Mbeki's leadership bringing the two parties together.

    The world is waiting, wanting to re-engage with a reforming Zimbabwe government. We support SADC's efforts to develop a clear plan.

    But for the people of Zimbabwe, this is urgent: and change before the 2008 elections, essential. The international community must be prepared to help rebuild the shattered country.

    It will be important we look at what institutions and global arrangements we need to deliver the promises we made; Africa should be permanently represented at the UNSC; we need to further strengthen the AU and NEPAD. In particular, I believe the EU and AU should build a stronger partnership.

    As well as delivering on what we have committed, we also need to face up to new challenges.

    One of the most important is the private sector and trade. We need to challenge the global perception that Africa means aid. Countries like South Africa show a different side of Africa; or Ghana, setting a path to middle-income status within 10 years.

    As everywhere, trade and a thriving private sector are the essential components of prosperity and stable economies. We need to open up opportunities for business in Africa.

    In 2005, the Commission for Africa Report recommended that more needed to be done to harness the private sector's resources and skills to promote innovation and access to markets. At the Gleneagles summit, the G8 made a commitment to do this.

    So in June, the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) will be launched at the Cape Town Africa regional World Economic Forum, to provide matched funding through an open competitive process, to businesses for innovative commercially sustainable projects. The UK will be the first contributor to this fund, with $20 million over the first 3 years.

    The Investment Climate Facility, launched in June 2006 will bring the public and private sectors together to tackle the constraints on the business environment. The UK was the first to commit funds: $30 million over 3 years. The facility now stands at $120 million.

    By opening our markets to African goods, and by removing the trade-distorting subsidies that make it so hard for African countries to compete, we can do much more.

    The WTO talks were launched in shadow of 9/11. There was a new determination to make the world a fairer place. But almost 6 years on, our trade negotiators are still talking.

    I believe this round of talks must urgently be concluded. We must reach a breakthrough before the end of June. We are only a few per cent and few billion from a deal that would lift millions out of poverty.

    I will talk about this with President Mbeki tomorrow. The coming weeks are crucial.

    But the WTO deal won't be enough by itself. We need to do more to build Africa's capacity to trade - through roads, marketing and storage.

    It takes 116 days to move an export container from a factory in the Central African Republic to the nearest port and fulfil all the administrative requirements to load the cargo on a ship. The same task in Denmark takes just 5 days.

    At Gleneagles, G8 countries committed to providing 4 billion in aid for trade, and they must now keep that commitment. The UK is on track to increase aid for trade spending to $750 million by 2010.

    We must help African countries by allowing 100 per cent duty and quota free access to our markets.

    The EU and G8 must review our rules of origin to encourage developing countries to cooperate with each other on trade, by recognising the value added at each stage in a product's development, so that, for example, Tanzania can sell canned vegetables to Europe, even if the can comes from its non-LDC neighbour, Kenya, without paying tariffs.

    It is one of the world's greatest injustices that the vulnerable suffer most from new threats.

    From HIV to conflict, Africa has been hardest hit. The same is true of climate change.

    This is no surprise to the tens of millions of subsistence farmers across Africa. A good crop is always a gamble on the rains.

    In the late 1990s, the floods and droughts in Kenya cost some 16 per cent of GDP each year. Mozambique floods, Malawi droughts and the Horn of Africa crisis underline this.

    But it is not just about agriculture and food. It is also about disease. More than 110 million people in Africa live in regions prone to malaria epidemics.

    Slight changes in rainfall and temperature could increase this figure by up to 80 million by the end of this century.

    Reports show that the areas of Africa at greatest risk, where vulnerability overlaps with climate hazard, are the Sahel, the Great Lakes in the drylands in eastern Africa and southern Africa, and around Lake Chad.

    So it is imperative that the world acts.

    The UK revitalised this agenda in 2005 during our presidencies of the G8 and EU with our focus on climate change and Africa.

    The Stern report last November set out the economic arguments, proving it will be cheaper to act now than wait.

    Chancellor Merkel's decision to put this on the agenda of her G8 Summit next week gives us an opportunity to inject new momentum into the search for a global solution.

    There is a real chance the G8 +5 could agree the elements of a post-Kyoto framework, that includes the US, India and China. South Africa is an important player in these talks.

    We must seize this opportunity and then build towards the important talks in Bali. The coming year must be a turning point.

    The final challenge I wanted to mention is about the battle of values. And this is where our partnership must be strongest. It is the foundation for everything else.

    I have learnt, over the last 10 years: that if we don't act together on poverty, on climate, to stop conflict, we concede the space to others with another world view and values; and that unless we apply our values evenly we will never win the bigger battle for a democratic, more just and tolerant world.

    We are not yet doing this. The world doesn't fight as hard for a child's life in Africa as it does in Europe.

    The danger is: we lose the wider struggle, also familiar to Africa. 9/11 marked a shift in global awareness of Islamic extremism.

    7/7 brought this tragically to the UK's shores. But Africa felt the impact earlier: the horrific bombings in Tanzania and Kenya; extremists benefiting from the ungoverned space in Somalia to hide.

    There are nearly 250 million Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa - a quarter of the world's Muslim population. The numbers have grown rapidly over the last decade. They should be part of our progressive coalition for change. We need to work together across faiths and races to win the wider battle for values.

    In conclusion, wealthy nations and Africa both face a choice: us, as to how far we help Africa to take the right path.

    Africa as to which path to take: one is chosen by countries like South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Botswana and many others, reinforcing economic growth with good governance and the stamping out of violence and corruption; the other, the path of Zimbabwe or Sudan where bad government and violent oppression send the country's economy spiralling down.

    Our challenge is to support the good. Africa's challenge is to eliminate the bad.

    Today, South Africa stands as a beacon, across Africa, of democracy, and the triumph of what is right.

    Later today, I will visit President Mandela, who so impressively embodied the struggle against injustice, set the direction of South Africa today, and had the courage to forgive.

    I remember the anti-apartheid struggle so well. In the 1980s my party, the Labour Party, struggled purposefully in Britain to put the case for sanctions.

    But I remember also how far we were from much conventional wisdom which told us: we didn't understand, South Africa would collapse if apartheid ended, we were meddling. We know now these arguments are misplaced, even ludicrous. But not then.

    There is a lesson here. Progress does not come from the cautious. It isn't born of the status quo. It tends to challenge conventional wisdom. It rarely is the product of refraining; nearly always a consequence of sustained action against the odds. It accepts the pain of transition. It never yields to the notion of "the way things are".

    Think of how little action in Africa really costs us, and by us I mean the wealthy nations. 0.7% of GDP is hardly a heavy burden to carry. Opening up trade actually helps us.

    Training and equipping African forces is not the toughest thing our armed forces have to do. The Gleneagles G8 agreement was a breakthrough, but it won't cost the earth to do it. What might cost it, is not doing it.

    Next week at the G8 Summit, leaders will show whether, having put Africa at the top of the global agenda, we have the perseverance and vision to see it through. I hope we have.

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