Gordon Brown: Guess who's back?

He's barely been seen since leaving No 10, but yesterday Gordon Brown chose to deliver his first speech as an ex-PM in Africa.
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Indy Politics

He was forced to vacate Downing Street almost three months ago and has hardly been seen since. While the coalition has struggled to establish itself as a viable Government and his own party has descended into the self-regard of a protracted leadership contest, Gordon Brown has kept remarkably silent.

Yesterday he finally emerged, over 4,000 miles away. And after so long away from the hothouse of Westminster, the only thing he wanted to talk about was the future. Of Africa.

The former prime minister's first major speech since leaving office was a return to one of his favourite themes – a warning that the future growth of the world economy would be dependent upon the development of Africa.

On a surprise visit to Kampala, Mr Brown spoke of the "African Century", saying he wanted to see the entire continent achieve its potential.

And, in a signal that he has overcome the shock of losing office after the general election in May, he even managed to crack a joke about his downward career trajectory. Contrasting himself with President Barack Obama, "who spent some time as a community organiser before becoming a politician", Mr Brown said he was someone who "spent some time as a politician before becoming a community organiser".

Outlining his view of Africa's potential over the coming decades, Mr Brown said: "There is an alternative to a decade of low global growth which would fail to meet both the development needs of Africa and the growth needs of Europe and America."

He said nations need to increase access to broadband internet, to which less than 1 per cent of people currently have access – although one in three have mobile phones.

Mr Brown's speech was in line with concerns he had expressed during his time in government – and his long-term interest in developing world issues. It did, however, also raise the possibility that he was preparing himself for a campaigning role, perhaps outside Parliament, as the next stage of his political career.

In a message to nations that plough billions in aid into Africa every year, he added: "The job of aid is to kick-start business-led growth and not to replace it."

Bernard Aryeetey, of Save the Children, said: "Importantly, he talked about inclusive growth – which means a response to poverty that focuses on equity and ensures that the poorest do not miss out on development."