In March 2005, the ‘Commission for Africa’ will
unveil its ‘Action Plan for a Strong and Prosperous
Africa.’ Under the chairmanship of UK Prime Minister
Tony Blair, the 17 Commissioners, half of them from
outside Africa, will outline their plans for African
development. Blair, who will also chair the G8
and the European Union this year, hopes that the
Commission report will generate the political
will to deliver a new deal for Africa in 2005.
The African Commission for Britain, an all-
African panel of ActionAid International staff, has
developed its own set of recommendations. We believe
that for Britain, the first step in supporting
African development must be to do no harm. The
UK has yet to take this step. Dumped exports from
British farmers still depress farm prices in Africa,
putting poor farmers out of business. UK carbon
emissions contribute to climate change, causing
natural disasters across the region. UK companies
continue to violate basic rights and the environment,
while arms exports from British companies still fuel
As Africans working with poor people across
the continent, we know that change in Africa is
urgently needed. Governments must become more
accountable and less corrupt. Conflicts must end.
Education, health and other basic services must
improve, and be made more widely available.
While we know that real change in Africa
must be led by Africans, we also know that some
of the greatest obstacles to change lie outside the
region. Africa has been the supposed beneficiary of
no fewer than 10 ambitious development plans in the
past three decades, many of them written outside
the continent. But grand plans and grand statements rarely work. Too many of the ‘African initiatives’
have started from the assumption that the ‘West
knows best.’ Donors apply conditions to force
African governments into following ‘sound’ policies.
Trade negotiations lock African countries into a
free trade model that rich countries didn’t follow
Ultimately, people must be free to choose
their own path to development. History tells us
that all too often the West does not know best,
particularly about what works in Africa. Africa does
need external support, including funding, but this
must enable implementation of its own development
strategies, both nationally and through regional
bodies such as the African Union (AU).
The UK government is right to stress that
the rich world must take action for Africa in 2005.
It is right to show leadership in ensuring that
African issues are top of the political agenda. But
just as charity begins at home, so does justice.
This report sets out 10 things that we believe
that the UK must do in order to support, rather
than undermine, Africa’s development. All 10 are
achievable; all 10 could be delivered in 2005. And
all 10 are things that we, the African Commission
for Britain, believe are essential if we are to
deliver justice for Africa in 2005.
Country Director, ActionAid Ghana,
On behalf of the African Commission for Britain.