It’s time to take stock of where we are today as we reach an important milestone on the way to 2015 and, ideally, achievement of our cherished Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Have we lived up to our promises? And what do we need to do over the next five years to 'end extreme poverty in our time'?
Aid is a vital catalyst for development, supporting people to live longer, healthier and more prosperous lives. But ultimately, I think the main objective of aid is to eliminate the future need for aid. To that end, I hope that aid can be better targeted and delivered.
Alongside this 'smarter aid', Africans must demonstrate their commitment to good governance. Development of our infrastructure, agricultural sector and human capital must be at the core of our policies and investments. We must also make every effort to advance the regional economic integration of the continent, which is essential for our success.
In short, we must continuously demonstrate to our partners and friends that we are worthy of their support.
Our Foundation produces an annual index of governance in Africa. It is heartening to see our index demonstrate that rule of law, transparency and democracy are taking a strong hold on our continent. Africans are laying the foundations for progress and development. Dictatorships, abuse of human rights and financial mismanagement are becoming the exception rather than the rule. The rise of African civil society and the revolution in communications are the best guarantors (and signs) of our progress.
On the other hand we hope that our partners in development, and the donor community, will live up to their commitments, especially those relating to better governance, both in the public and private sectors. They must stand firmly against corruption. They must remember that for every corrupt African official there are a few corresponding corrupt international business people, and that the issue can not be addressed in Africa alone.
FOUNDER OF CELTEL INTERNATIONAL
AND THE MO IBRAHIM FOUNDATION
PLEASE LIVE UP TO YOUR COMMITMENTS. WE PROMISE TO LIVE UP TO OURS.
Remember that heady summer of love? Flowers in our hair, grass between our toes, massive crowds of singing, swaying activists, dreaming big about changing the world?
I’m not talking about 1967. I’m talking about 2005, when suddenly it seemed that ‘making poverty history’ was not just a T-shirt slogan but a practical, achievable goal. We believed (and we still do) that a certain level of deprivation and despair was no longer acceptable and could be eliminated with the right investments of aid, trade reform and good bottom-up policy. Back then (not so long ago) the Commission for Africa set out a vision and the leaders of the G8, egged on by an army of activists, laid down in their Gleneagles Communiqué the path to make that vision reality by 2010.
So here we are, five years on. A fine and reasonable time to ask whether that was indeed a vision or a mass hallucination. Not just for the sake of looking backward and assigning credit or blame, but to look forward, and see whether we need to keep marching in this direction, heads down, boots on, or change our course a bit.
We’ve come pretty far, having passed (maybe mostly) through the fog of financial crisis. Over the past five years, wealthy nations have delivered historic increases – if less than promised – in smarter aid to Africa. And Africa, not at all by coincidence, has delivered unprecedented gains in school enrolment and reductions in AIDS, malaria, TB and child death rates, and has seen strong economic growth through the region (though of course Chinese investments and a commodity boom have had a lot to do with the latter). So far, mostly so good.
But activists are and ought to be up in arms at the amount of foot-dragging, excuse-making and backsliding, some of which well predates the global recession. We’ve seen Italy’s leadership not reflect its people's promise; France and Germany’s faltering pace; Canada and Japan’s weak promises; and a general, if not universal, slothfulness in meeting commitments to improve aid effectiveness, boost trade and investment, and help Africa reckon with man-made crises, financial and environmental. The UK’s bipartisan commitment to development, and near fulfilment of its promise, stand out as achievements in these hard times, as does President Obama’s promise to increase aid over and above the levels President Bush promised and delivered.
But ultimately, as President Obama himself has put it, 'Africa’s fate is in the hands of Africans'. Mo Ibrahim hammers home this point wherever he goes, and I don’t know anyone in Africa who would disagree. But before we all get out of the aid business entirely – Africa’s goal as well as ours – they would like us to be better partners on the path to improving governance, spurring growth, achieving the Millennium Development Goals and, ultimately, peace and prosperity for all.
We in the West have it in us to help more and hurt less. To do that, we need to call in new partners (bring on the BRICs) and harness new technologies (mobilise the mobile phone brigade). We need to get this started before September, when the UN meets to measure progress on the MDGs. We need to get behind (not in the way of) the kind of development African people actually want.
Where we succeed, let’s celebrate – and replicate – success. And where we fall short, let’s be our own harshest critics. This report does both. It shows we’ve got some distance left to travel, so keep those boots on – and don’t lose the melody line.
LEAD SINGER OF U2
AND CO-FOUNDER OF ONE AND (RED)
WE NEED TO GET BEHIND (NOT IN THE WAY OF) THE KIND OF DEVELOPMENT AFRICAN PEOPLE ACTUALLY WANT.