Paul Vallely: $25bn is not the end of extreme poverty in Africa - but it is the beginning of the end

Polio will be eradicated, 20 million children will go to school, 5 million orphans will be cared for
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Never before have so many people stood in solidarity with the world's power, said Kumi Naidoo, who chairs the Global Call to Action, the umbrella group for all the campaigns across the world, of which Make Poverty History is the British arm. He was referring to not just the 3.8 billion television audience for Live8 last week, but also the months of campaigning by activists. When Bono and Geldof went to see Bush and Blair on Thursday, they took with them a box containing the signatures of 38 million people in the biggest petition ever assembled.

The people have roared, said Kumi, and the G8 had only whispered in reply. Instead of 50,000 people dying needlessly every day from what Bono calls stupid poverty, the G8 had only reduced that figure to 37,000. Doubling aid by 2010 was too slow; it was like waiting five years to respond to the tsunami. The debt deal was a small, belated step in the right direction, which applied to too few countries, and had too many conditions attached. And on trade there was nothing.

The shift in ground was signalled by Bono, clad in violet rather than rose-tinted spectacles. A mountain had been climbed, he said. Of course, from the top, higher peaks were revealed. But look back down the valley and see how far we have come. Consider malaria alone. Some 600,000 African children would remember what this G8 Summit had achieved because they would be around to remember it, whereas before this aid package they would have died from Africa's No 1 killer disease.

The deal to achieve virtually universal access to anti-Aids drugs would save more than six million lives. "We jumped up and down when Live Aid raised a total of $200m in 1985. Now Live8 and its call for justice has raised $25bn in new money. It's not the end of extreme poverty, but it is the beginning of the end."

But it was Geldof who exposed the extent of the chasm. This was the most important summit there had ever been for Africa. The plan set out in the Commission for Africa, which Tony Blair set up at Geldof's behest, had been largely fulfilled.

The commission said double aid by 2010, and that had been done. Marks: 10 out of 10. It said cancel 100 per cent of multilateral debt. That had been done for 14 countries at once, with another 18 on the way. Marks: 8 out of 10. On trade, no one expected a result, because the detailed discussions have to happen at the world trade talks in Hong Kong in December. Marks: 6 out of 10, said Geldof's fellow commission member, Fola Adeola.

There were increasingly audible levels of tut-tutting throughout all that from the representatives of Oxfam and ActionAid at the side of the hall, ready to hand out their pre-prepared media crib sheets on what a flop it all was. Geldof was unmoved. Saying that the G8 had whispered, he fulminated - when 10 million lives would be saved by the package - was a disgrace.

Steady on, Bob. Even Tony Blair had kicked off by admitting he had failed in his attempt to get a date set for an end to the subsidies the EU and US give to agricultural exports that drive African farmers out of business. (He said he was optimistic a date of 2010 could be fixed in Hong Kong.)

Two things are at work in this widening rift. The first is that the aid agency lobbyists want action on world poverty, whereas Geldof and Bono are looking only at Africa, which was the focus of Live 8. And since it was Africa that Blair had put on the agenda, it seems fair to judge the result against what it does for Africans.

Compare the G8 communiqué with the Commission for Africa report, and almost 50 of the things the report called for have been delivered. That seems a pretty good score to me. (I have to declare an interest here, since The Independent gave me more than six months' leave to co-author the commission's report - available in all good bookshops).

It's not just the big stuff on aid and debt. It's loads of detail on training 20,000 more African peacekeepers, on imposing controls on the trade in small arms, and on working with the African Union's New Partnership for Africa (Nepad) programme. It's measures to make African governments more accountable to their people, getting the rich nations to ratify the UN Convention on Corruption, returning cash looted by dictators from Western banks to the legitimate owners, and using export credits to clamp down on Western companies who pay bribes.

But there is something more interesting at work. It is something to do with the oppositional dynamic that drives professional lobbyists. Of course, more could have been done. It always can. But there is something rather contrarian about the inability to say "thank you and well done" before moving on to make your next request.

Polio will be eradicated as a result of yesterday's agreement, providing the activists hold their politicians' feet to the fire to make sure they do what they pledged at Gleneagles. Twenty million more children will go to school. Five million more orphans will be cared for.

Each one of them could grow up to be like the luminous young Ethiopian woman, Berhan Woldu, who almost died on camera at the Live Aid concert in 1985 and who walked on to the stage a beautiful, confident, dignified 24-year-old agricultural student at Live8 just last Saturday. It would be very churlish if we could not give two-and-a-half cheers for that.

p.vallely@independent.co.uk

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