Tony Blair hails African 'determination'

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The Independent Online

Aid to Africa could be brought to an end within a generation, former prime minister Tony Blair claimed today.

He hailed a new sense of "possibility, determination and self-reliance" among African leaders who wanted their countries to fend for themselves.

But they needed practical support in trying to make the first vital steps to improve governance and basic infrastructure, he said.

In a speech to overseas development agencies in London, Mr Blair insisted it was essential to "use aid to end aid".

"For the first time this is possible to foresee. Personally, I think it is a sign of progress," he said.

"There's a new generation of African leaders - in politics, business and civil society who are anxious to take the destiny of their own countries in their own hands."

Mr Blair, patron of the Africa Governance Initiative which works with the governments of Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia, said African leaders needed support to develop the "the capability to get things done" in their countries.

By developing infrastructure in areas like power and electricity the world would "open up to them".

"Their natural resources can then be exploited and there is no sensible reason why they can't then create a tax base, raise revenue and develop services like health and education," he said.

"But without the first step being taken by clear decisions made and implemented, they remain mired in underdevelopment and pretty soon the fine visions of progress are lost in a sea of disillusion and resentment.

"That is why democracy and delivery must go hand-in-hand."

He told the Overseas Development Institute-organised conference: "Ending aid dependency in a generation is not an idle dream; it's an idea whose time has come.

"What stands out for me about Africa today is that when I'm there now I get the same sense I got in India going back maybe 15 years, and that is there is a different spirit of possibility, determination and self-reliance.

"It's a new generation coming in. They are grateful for the help but they know the greater sign of progress will be when they shake hands and say 'thank you very much' and make their way on themselves."

Anti-poverty campaign group One cautioned that it would be "a disaster" to cut aid before "the job is done".

Executive director Jamie Drummond said: "It is inevitable that some will seize on Blair's comments to support the argument that the international development budget should be cut.

"Instead we should celebrate the great British leadership on aid, which began with Blair's years in charge and is continuing with the coalition government's powerful promise on protecting the international development budget.

"This is leadership that all British citizens can be proud of."

Source: PA