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New Partnership for Africa's Development

11 am

Hugh Bayley (City of York): This is the third debate that we have had in this place about the New Partnership for Africa's Development. I was fortunate to secure a short debate on the subject last July, and the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), who is here today, secured a debate six weeks ago. We have the opportunity for a longer debate today, because many hon. Members requested that we should discuss the new partnership in the run-up to the G8 meeting in Canada in June. It is appropriate that Back Benchers should be able to guide the Government on the issues that we should like them to discuss at the meeting.

This debate was originally supposed to be called "New African Initiative", but may I ask Hansard to retitle it, "New Partnership for Africa's Development", because the new African initiative has been renamed in that way?

There are many reasons to be pessimistic about the development prospects for Africa. The burden of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and the prospects of overcoming the causes of poverty are matters of real concern. Many African countries are poorer in real terms than they were decades ago, and the value of aid has fallen in real terms over the past 10 years, from about $19 billion a year 10 years ago to some $11 billion today. However, I shall not waste time repeating figures, as all the hon. Members in the Chamber are experts on the subject, and the figures are familiar to us all.

There are many reasons to be optimistic, however. Botswana has the world's highest growth rate, for example. Diversification in the economies of sub-Saharan African countries is an important factor. For too long they have been reliant on primary products whose prices have fallen on the world market. Non-traditional exports from Uganda have been growing at some 70 per cent. per year. There has also been strong growth in non-traditional exports from Ghana, Mozambique, Madagascar and other countries. That underlines the point that not all African countries are in the same situation, and that a one-size-fits-all development strategy is simply inappropriate. Development strategies need to be tailored to the needs of each country to capitalise on the natural resources and strengths of individual African states.

There are political as well as economic reasons for optimism. The New Partnership for Africa's Development comes from African leaders, who recognise that they and their countries must change. In an address to the South African National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces in October last year, Thabo Mbeki, the South African President, had this to say about the New Partnership for Africa's Development:

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Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): Does Thabo Mbeki's endorsement of Mugabe's rigged election last week, and the hon. Gentleman's experience of corruption in Nigeria last week, when we both visited that country with the International Development Committee, lead him to greater optimism or less?

Hugh Bayley : The hon. Gentleman raises issues that must be tackled if the partnership is to work. There must be change in Africa, as there must be in the policy response of developed countries. I would have mentioned Zimbabwe in a moment, but as the hon. Gentleman has raised the subject, and as it is clearly in our minds because of today's talks in London, now is a good time to mention it.

The Commonwealth observers' report highlighted serious flaws in that election. However, our response, which the media have emphasised and underlined, is a response that Africans are all too weary of hearing. That is because we have taken up the case of white farmers but have forgotten that the vast majority of Mugabe's victims are black Africans.

Mr. Robathan : Who has forgotten that?

Hugh Bayley : Seventy thousand farm workers have been affected by the evictions and violence in the countryside. The denial of human rights that affected journalists, which we read about in our newspapers, also denied many black Zimbabweans their vote, denied opposition organisations the right to organise and express their views, and denied employees the right to organise trade unions or strike. Those are human rights issues for black Africans, and we must take up the cudgels on their behalf just as much as on behalf of white farmers. We must consider human rights, not only the arguments of kith and kin.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me on another point. For most sub-Saharan African countries, it is 40 years since independence. During that time, Europe's former Asian colonies have thrown off the dependency culture and forged ahead economically, but too many African countries are still ready to blame colonialism for their present difficulties. One of the encouraging things about NEPAD is that it states clearly that Africans are in the driving seat. They are responsible for their countries, and for their countries' policies and development. Yes, they need partnership with people from outside Africa on trade, aid and conflict resolution—but they are the primary movers.

Another reason for optimism is that the leaders of the developed world are now taking a greater interest in Africa. It is decades since a British Prime Minister has made Africa a major foreign policy priority. To find a Prime Minister with an interest in development similar to that of our present Prime Minister, we would need to go back to Harold Wilson, who set up War on Want. It is also a long time since a Chancellor has taken such a lead on such issues as has the present Chancellor, who has made proposals on debt relief, and, in response to the Zedillo report, proposed to the Federal Reserve bank in New York in November 2001 that a global development fund should be created. Indeed, last year our Prime Minister was the key person responsible for persuading the G8 to invite the African authors of the new partnership to come to the G8 summit and explain

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what they were proposing. As a result, the G8 commissioned work to enable it to respond to the NEPAD proposals at this year's summit.

What do I think are the ingredients for the partnership's success? First, Africa must use its own resources to the full. The International Development Committee returned on Saturday from a visit to west Africa, and I give one example of what we did there. In Kintampo, Ghana, we visited a health research centre working in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, John Hopkins university and Harvard in the United States, and other universities around the world, to lead high-quality clinical trials. Those have established that vitamin A supplements for pre-school children aged up to five can reduce deaths and morbidity from infectious diseases by some 30 per cent.

That has now been picked up by the Department for International Development and international aid agencies in their health policies. I pay tribute to Dr. Paul Arthur, the director of that institute, an inspired and talented doctor who, sadly, died just days after we met him. People such as Paul Arthur are absolutely vital to African development, and something that we can do is talk to the vast diaspora of African professionals and intellectuals who live in Europe and other parts of the developed world and encourage them to return home to provide support for their countries' development programmes.

It is important to encourage stronger domestic saving and investment. In Nigeria we met several commercial bankers. The private sector has a role, but African Governments must promote investment and revenue collection. We discovered in Nigeria that 92 per cent. of the state's revenues come from levies on oil extraction. Oil has been a blessing to Nigeria in many ways, but also a curse, because the rest of its revenue collection has all but disappeared since. Nigerian Members of Parliament whom we met asked us to increase aid to Nigeria. In certain circumstances, we should do so. The Department for International Development is spending £22 million this year on development assistance to Nigeria, which will rise to some £35 million next year—and I applaud that. However, we must also ask Nigerians and the Government of Nigeria what they are doing to raise resources themselves.

There are many poor people in Nigeria for whom paying tax is not a possibility, but people in this country start paying tax when they earn about £4,000 a year. I can make the case for people in my constituency to pay slightly more tax to enable our Government to increase the resources going to development, but it is extremely difficult for me to argue that people on £4,000, £5,000 or £6,000 a year in the United Kingdom should pay more tax for development, when people on £40,000, £50,000 or £60,000 a year in Nigeria pay no income tax at all. We must raise such questions directly and clearly with the developing countries in which a proportion of the population are in a position to make contributions through taxation to their own country's development.

We also need greater transparency. Before we consider the case that the Nigerians are making for the relief of debt, we should clearly know where their oil revenues are going. We should also know that, were we to relieve some of the debt burden, the resources

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released would be used to help poor people in Nigeria. There is a strong onus on the Nigerian Government to do that.

There is also a large role for private investment. In Enugu we saw vast investments by the brewery companies Heineken and Guinness. Such investment can be encouraged by the rule of law, so that outside investors know that if they invest, their assets will be safe and respected.

Our half of the partnership requires substantial change in the rules on trade by the Governments of rich countries. Had Africa maintained its share of trade from the late 1960s, its income would be about $70 billion a year more than it is today. NEPAD identifies a resource gap of some $64 billion, which would not exist if Africa had the same share of world trade that it had 35 years ago.

At the World Economic Forum in New York last month, Niall Fitzgerald, the chairman of Unilever, called on G8 Governments to respond immediately and open their markets to African products. When we were in Ghana, we learnt that raw cocoa beans could be imported to this country with no tariff, but that manufactured chocolate imported from Ghana to the EU carries a 70 per cent. tariff. It is not surprising that it is extremely difficult for Africa to sell its products in Europe.

The Quad countries, comprising the EU member states, Canada, the United States and Japan, have food and agriculture subsidies worth more than the gross national product of every country in sub-Saharan African put together, so the commodities that Africa could most easily export—agricultural produce—are locked out of the developed world. That must change, and I hope that the G8 meeting will address the matter.

Alone among G8 countries, the United Kingdom is increasing the proportion of its gross domestic product that is given to aid, albeit from the low base that was inherited from our predecessors. For NEPAD to work, there must be greater aid resources. The United States announced an intention to increase aid by $5 billion a year. It is important that we talk to their Government about how much of that will go to Africa, and how much will be used for the alleviation of poverty and the achievement of the millennium development goals.

During the first Africa-Europe ministerial meeting in Brussels last October, the ministerial communiqué said:

If the European Union wants that to happen, it must reallocate aid from the near abroad, particularly central and eastern Europe, to sub-Saharan Africa.

Tony Baldry (Banbury): Hear, hear.

Hugh Bayley : Indeed; just six weeks ago in the Chamber the hon. Gentleman made a case about the 10 largest recipients of EU aid. If I remember his figures rightly, seven are in eastern and central Europe, and only one—Uganda—is a sub-Saharan African country.

The EU also needs to focus more on using aid to achieve the millennium development goals of targeting aid on poverty alleviation and it must improve the

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efficiency with which EU aid is applied in the field. For example, we were not impressed by the efficiency with which the EU office in Nigeria operated.

It is important that EU aid is used efficiently, and is targeted on places in which it will have the greatest impact on poverty alleviation. Aid donors must therefore make choices. In Nigeria, the Department for International Development made choices about which four Nigerian states would be partner states for UK aid. That was done to prevent our aid from being spread too thinly. We looked for partners that were seriously committed to reform, and we organised a competition in which different states made proposals to us. Four states were successful at the end of the competition. I would like the Government to consider the merits of allocating more aid on the basis of competition, because the method emphasises to the recipients of aid their responsibilities to use it to achieve agreed poverty alleviation goals.

11.19 am

Tony Baldry (Banbury): I understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that self-discipline means five minutes.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Nicholas Winterton) : Or less.

Tony Baldry : Very briefly, the debate is timely, against the backdrop of Monterrey, and I congratulate the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) on securing it. I entirely agree with everything that he said and particularly endorse his final comments about competition. There is a lot to be said for a structure in which people do not think that development aid is a right but something that they must demonstrate can be put to the best possible use. I do not intend to repeat all that I said on 6 February but just wish quickly to share some impressions from the Select Committee's visit to west Africa.

Partnership involves both sides meeting obligations. We have had much discussion in the Chamber about the obligations of the rich north, the rich west and the developed countries. We had some good news last week when the Chancellor announced that increased development aid will be forthcoming in the Budget. We look forward to learning whether the increase will be in real terms or just cash terms. It was also good news that the Council of Ministers announced in Barcelona that the EU states would seek to achieve 0.39 per cent. of gross domestic product for development aid as soon as possible. Those are steps in the right direction.

However, our African colleagues also have obligations under the partnership: they must be realistic about debt, encourage democracy, bear down on corruption and promote enterprise economies. From a meeting with members of the Nigerian National Assembly, we learned that there is not a realistic attitude about mutuality on debt relief. Debt relief, which we all encourage, does not remove the need for countries to follow sensible fiscal policies and recognise their obligations. As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, much Nigerian debt is guaranteed by the Export Credits Guarantee Department. People have borrowed money on commercial contracts for commercial purposes, but there seems to be no acknowledgment that our

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taxpayers will have to pick up the tab for contracts that fail. We must ensure that colleagues in Africa understand that debt relief involves obligations on them as well.

On encouraging democracy—setting aside countries such as Zimbabwe, where the facts speak for themselves—it seemed to us that in Ghana and Nigeria the democratic system was very much one of patronage, with money coming down, and petitioning, without the accountability that we have. There is a role for us as Members of Parliament to play. We must remember that Nigeria has been ruled by a military dictatorship for much of the past 40 years. Many members of its National Assembly have been in office for only two years.

When the Berlin wall fell, we in this place did an enormous amount through the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to help colleagues in eastern Europe acquire skills to become effective parliamentarians. We may need to do more through organisations such as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to help Commonwealth colleagues in Africa to develop skills as parliamentarians so that they can hold governments to account, work out their relationships with their constituents and participate in functioning democracies. All six of us who participated in the Select Committee visit have indicated that we would be willing to support individual members of the Nigerian National Assembly who come here, to help them in the way in which the Westminster Foundation for Democracy helped parliamentarians from eastern Europe.

On bearing down on corruption, we met the Nigerian commission that has been set up to tackle corruption. It is well intentioned but very slow, having been affected by two years of constitutional wrangling as to whether legislation is consistent with the Nigerian constitution. We must continue to send the message to colleagues in Africa that corruption is not only insidious in its own right but frightens off inward investment. The continent of Africa receives a tiny amount of direct inward investment; I suspect that part of the reason for that is concern about corruption.

On encouraging enterprise economies, we were all struck by the fact that in Nigeria, apart from oil, and in Ghana, apart from cocoa and gold, there seemed to be little new enterprise. We came across factories that had closed down because, people said, of a combination of Government interference and management incompetence. Most of the companies that made money in Nigeria were parastatals.

Through our aid policies and so forth, we must find ways of encouraging greater enterprise in such countries if they are not simply to become aid dependent. Partnership involves both sides meeting obligations. We must encourage our colleagues in Africa to see that the New Partnership for Africa's Development involves meeting their obligations on debt, democracy, bearing down on corruption and encouraging enterprise.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Again, I make a plea for very short speeches.

Tony Baldry : It was short, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Robathan : Only five minutes.

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11.26 am

Mr. Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith): I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) on securing this debate on a subject that has concerned him for many years. I join him in congratulating the Government, especially the Prime Minister, on showing such a strong commitment to the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

The significance of the new partnership should not be underestimated and although the importance of the initiative for African countries is clear, it also has wider significance. The principle underpinning the partnership is that only through enhanced forms of co-operation and mutual dependence between states can sustainable and secure development be achieved. That principle has a global resonance, so it is essential that G8 countries give the initiative the type of practical backing necessary to make it a reality.

I should like the Minister's response on two issues that trouble some non-governmental organisations about the new partnership. First, I understand—and hope that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that the G8 timetable for the continuing implementation of the new partnership is in advance of that currently taking place in Africa. The G8 discussions are due to be finalised by the end of April, whereas discussions within African states will in no sense be complete by then. The danger is that the processes in G8 and African states could be decoupled, which would not be in the interests of a successful partnership.

Secondly, the NGOs are concerned about the apparent lack of involvement of African civil society in the process. At the recent African development forum in Addis Ababa, a fear was expressed that the new partnership was too donor driven. If it is to stay true to its original aim of improving the lot of ordinary Africans, we should quickly formalise the participation of civil societies within Africa and G8 countries. There has been little opportunity for such consultation to date; I hope that the position will be remedied before the G8 formulates its official position next month.

The need for the new partnership to mean something to wider African civil society is illustrated by recent developments in Zimbabwe. As hon. Members are aware, some people suggest that events in Zimbabwe undermine the case for a new partnership. I argue that we should reach a different conclusion. We should not let the actions of an increasingly isolated despot such as Mugabe undermine what has ambitiously but rightly been described as the relaunch of Africa. Zimbabwe shows us precisely the need to achieve reforms in governance if potential for growth and development in Africa are to be achieved.

We are right to call for Africa's leaders to demonstrate in their approach to Zimbabwe the seriousness of their intention to change Africa for the better. I was pleased to see reports in today's papers about the tougher line that the South African and Nigerian Governments appear to be taking. Let us put pressure on those Governments and support opposition movements and civil society in Zimbabwe, but let us not write off what is meant to be a long-term initiative just because of the current and, let us hope, short-term difficulties in Zimbabwe.

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Africa faces a huge development challenge but, as my hon. Friend the Member for City of York said, it has enormous potential for growth and development. There are countries in Africa with growth rates that are well above the world average. G8 countries have a common interest in the peoples in Africa and in promoting development and stability in that continent. I welcome the Government's support for the process to date, and I urge them to make further advances in the ways that I have described.

11.30 am

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): I would like to bring everybody back to the first of the four core elements of the new African initiative, which is:

I applaud that, and I am sure that we all would. However, are the Presidents of Algeria, South Africa and Nigeria serious? They put the initiative together and are the leaders of it.

We have heard about Zimbabwe. Was there peace in Zimbabwe? Was democracy exercised in Zimbabwe? I do not think so, and nor does the SADC observer mission that said:

That is pretty clear. Unfortunately, President Mbeki would rather placate the tyrant Mugabe than stand up for the poor Africans who are being oppressed, intimidated and killed in Zimbabwe. That leaves aside the question of peace and what on earth the Zimbabwean army is doing in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mbeki has ignored that, and unless he is willing to stand up on it, I do not put much store by the great words that he put into the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

As we have heard, the International Development Committee was in Nigeria last week. That was the most depressing African country that I have visited; I was deeply depressed when I returned. Today, President Obasanjo is seeing whether he can get reconciliation in Zimbabwe.

According to Transparency International, Nigeria is the second most corrupt country in the world. We saw that—God, did we see it. Allegedly, $100 billion has been looted from oil revenues. The country is largely run by a kleptocracy. President Babangida, as he then was, who led the military dictatorship for eight years, is still living in tremendous comfort and enjoys enormous wealth that was looted from his country of Nigeria. No action is being taken against him. President, or General, Abacha, who died famously four years ago, was condemned out of hand as a corrupt dictator—even the Commonwealth condemned him. However, his portrait still hangs at Abuja airport. That also speaks reams.

The hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley), with whom I agree largely about what we saw in Nigeria, put the case for tax extremely well. Nigeria's external debt is about $28 billion. No tax is levied on the rich, although $100 billion has been looted. Its annual oil revenue is something like $18 billion, but the people to

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whom we spoke had no concept that they, rather than the international community, should do something about that.

I echo the hon. Member for City of York—I should call him my friend—by asking why poorish people in the United Kingdom should pay tax to allow bigger rip-offs by that klepocracy, where members of the National Assembly recently voted themselves a tax-free pay increase of up to about £50,000 or £60,000, in addition to a free car and a house in Abuja.

I give an example. A large new stadium is being built in Abuja. The cost of that is spiralling out of control in a way that makes the dome look well organised. It is absolutely astonishing. There is no transparency and nobody knows where the money is going. However, everyone talks about it because they can make a pretty good guess.

There is a stench of corruption around that and everything else. Will the Minister write to me, rather than responding in the debate, about the position of Julius Berger, which is a German company? Germany is our ally and partner in Europe. According to everyone whom I met in Nigeria, the company is closely associated with infrastructure contracts in a way that gives cause for concern—I shall say no more than that.

Corruption—the stench of which is everywhere—is institutionalised throughout Nigeria. If Obasanjo is to be serious, he must tackle it. I applaud the fact that he has set up a commission, but I am not left with any optimism that it will take on such serious issues.

I thought that the Department for International Development was doing well in aid. Its two focuses on AIDS and governance are good. I have already stated my position on governance in Nigeria and, candidly, it is probably the Government's position, too, although I would not necessarily expect them to say so. Everyone knows that AIDS is the terrifying black death that is stalking Africa. Nigeria has a HIV infection rate of more than 5 per cent., yet 95 per cent. of people use no contraception. That will seriously hit Nigeria. We all wish the New Partnership for Africa's Development well. It is the only game in town. I want Africans to take control of, and responsibility for, their own destiny. However, last week left me with the belief that I should like to see positive action in order to justify optimism.

11.35 am

Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale, East): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) on securing the debate and on setting such an optimistic tone for our discussions. It is easy to become depressed when we hear such evidence and statistics.

I wish to make four points. First, what has been happening in Zimbabwe, however depressing it may be, must not be allowed to derail the New Partnership for Africa's Development. Its progress depends on good governance and the behaviour of Mugabe is the exact opposite of that. It would be wrong if a mood of pessimism among the G8 countries or a difference of opinion between African and non-African members of the Commonwealth were to reduce support for the new partnership. My strong message to the Minister is that, whatever has happened in Zimbabwe, support for the new partnership must continue if we are to deal with the

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half of Africa's people, who still live on less than $1 a day. The nub of the issue is that, if Mugabe's re-election was a defeat for democracy, it must not be allowed to become a further defeat for the poor people of Africa.

Secondly, if good governance is an essential aspect of the new partnership so, too, is the need for more generous development assistance. In 1994, that assistance formed 11 per cent. of Africa's gross national product and, by 1997, it had fallen to 5 per cent. I welcome President Bush's announcement of an extra $5 billion for the United States aid budget. It is not an uncritical welcome, however, because we have yet to see that strings are attached to it and the United States starts from an appallingly low level of just 0.1 per cent. of gross national product. None the less, the announcement is an encouraging sign of a new understanding of the need to tackle not only terror, but global poverty.

I was also pleased, as were other hon. Members, to hear of the agreement in Barcelona with the new commitment for all European Union countries to reach an average of 0.39 per cent. by 2006. As a signatory to early-day motion 386, I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will confirm that the United Kingdom's contribution to that effort will be at least 0.4 per cent. of GNP by 2006 on the way to 0.7 per cent. by 2012. As the Chancellor has confirmed, unless we take such action, we will not meet the millennium development goals by 2015.

My third point is that aid alone is not enough. We need deeper debt relief. Thirty-four of the 42 highly indebted poor countries are African. Although considerable progress has been made over the past four or five years, lower growth rates and the fall in the value of exports have clearly hit some African countries hard. There is a need to review the HIPC initiative constantly in the light of that. Of course, debt relief should not be unconditional, but far too much is still repaid in interest that should be going into the development of education and health in the poorest countries.

My fourth point relates to that made strongly by the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan). The United Nations estimates that 16.3 million people have died from AIDS in Africa, and that more than 3 million of them were children. It also estimates that 28 million people in Africa are living with the disease, and that in some southern African states the infection rate is perhaps as high as 25 per cent. I am appalled by that figure, and I often wonder what our constituencies would be like if we were faced with such an infection rate for HIV.

It is clear that something must be done. The time, energy and resources that poor people in Africa are spending on combating AIDS are time, energy and resources that are not being spent on combating poverty. Therefore, I hope that the G8 will support better preventative and care programmes, particularly for children who have been orphaned as a result of AIDS. I also want to see an increase in the global health fund to improve the health infrastructure.

Many other issues have been touched on, such as conflict resolution, the need for trade reform and the need to reform the arms trade. However, my final point

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is that—whatever the G8 decides with regard to aid, debt, peacekeeping or trade—the most important aspect of the new partnership is the shift that it is effecting in the balance of power and responsibility. The situation is no longer about what the rich countries can do for the poor countries; it is now about what we can do together. That new situation is based on a plan that has been owned and shaped by a new generation of African leaders, and I believe that it will be their leadership—as much as the resources of the rich world—that will determine the outcome of the ambitious partnership project.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : I make a further plea for speeches to be as brief as possible.

11.41 am

Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale): This has been a useful debate, and I congratulate the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) on securing it and on making such a thoughtful contribution. He was right to point out that the New Partnership for Africa's Development has lots of positive aspects, and we hope that they will be developed.

None of the Labour Members who are present has quoted from the Prime Minister's speech at the Labour party conference of autumn 2001, but I will not apologise for quoting from it. He said:

That is true, and all the statistics, trends and arguments that we have heard this morning reinforce the points that the Prime Minister was making.

Many hon. Members who are present have personally witnessed the state of the economy and the politics in different African countries. I recently visited South Africa with my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), where I saw the sharp contrast between the wealth of Cape Town and the poverty of surrounding areas, and when I visited Kenya with the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), we saw the wealth of parts of Nairobi sitting cheek by jowl with the horrors of the slums of Kebira.

The entire situation is grim. For generations, things have tended to be done to Africa, rather than with it, and that has happened with regard to a variety of subjects, such as humanitarian aid, development assistance and international capitalism in the raw.

As many hon. Members have said, recently there has been a welcome shift of emphasis in politics in southern Africa—and that change has been especially marked in South Africa. That has been a key development; it has led to a growing self-confidence and a recognition that Africa's future should be about self-determination and taking charge of the agenda. The clearest manifestation of that is the new partnership, and it is welcome that the Government have been supportive of it.

The Prime Minister backed up his conference speech with his tour of Africa in February, but how such enthusiasm sits with arms exports and support for Tanzanian air traffic control is unclear. Perhaps the Minister can square that circle, when he responds?

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Since the meeting in Genoa in 2001, the G8 has also been enthusiastic. Just a couple of months ago, at the world economic forum, half a billion US dollars were committed to a fund to support the new partnership.

There is such enthusiasm that one might think that some kind of backpackers' convention for world leaders could be organised in Africa. The continent is certainly receiving a lot of attention. The need is there and the international will is clear, and, therefore, the circumstances should be right for a major push. However, at this very moment, the political conditions in Africa are crumbling. As the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) pointed out, NEPAD depends on key conditions—peace, security, democracy and good political governance. The situation in Zimbabwe is surely crucial, and the reaction to it perhaps more so. As Walter Kansteiner, the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, memorably said:

Like the voters before them, the evangelists for NEPAD now find that the road is blocked. The international community is either dazzled by the blinding activities of the election process or deliberately turning its back.

The judgment on Zimbabwe will surely be key to the success of NEPAD, but we are getting confused signals. Observers witnessing the same events somehow saw different things. The European Union talks about tightening smart sanctions, and the Commonwealth—well, what exactly is it doing? The timeliness of the debate is uncanny and perhaps rare for an event in this place. The troika of Nigeria, Australia and South Africa meets in London today. Those countries have a huge responsibility to themselves and the wider African community. Not that Commonwealth suspension is the worst threat on earth; it is unlikely to topple Mugabe. Surely what is more important is the signal that it will send out.

President Mbeki is in a particularly tight spot. The African National Congress may have supported the election result, but the President has so far been silent—judiciously so. He knows that the crisis has already laid waste to the South African economy. If a wrong decision is made now, the situation will be exacerbated. The intensity of his diplomatic initiatives in the past 24 hours is to be welcomed and shows how seriously he is taking the issue. Beyond this crisis, the future of NEPAD could be at stake. Its credibility is on the line, and although the G8 is unlikely to withdraw support as a result of what is happening in Zimbabwe, it will send out very damaging signals.

The reaction of private investors is surely of more significance. It is most alarming. No big-bang sanctions are contemplated; that is not at issue. It would be damaging if investors and traders in Africa starved the country of funds. That would undermine the initiative before it got much further. If southern Africa fails the test, what of the east? In Kenya, which has elections this year, the economy is in tatters and the prospects are grim. If Zimbabwe is tolerated, what message would it send to the leadership in Kenya?

We can—and, rightly, do—agonise over our role in all this. However, even in the short debate on the issue this morning, it has become clear where the focus must lie. The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth can make their points of view clear and can protest

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vigorously, but it is southern Africa that counts. Mbeki is key. NEPAD is rightly about Africa taking the lead. Never has that been more necessary than now.

11.47 am

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West): As we meet, the G8 conference on financing for development is taking place in Monterrey. It is vital that the G8 increases the resources provided. Otherwise, the millennium declaration—under which the rich countries pledged themselves to halving poverty, providing primary education for all children everywhere and reducing infant mortality by two thirds by 2015—will be unattainable and more than 50 million children, mainly in Africa, will die of hunger and preventable diseases by 2015.

I welcome the American President's extra $5 billion announced this week, but it is worth noting that that is less than a tenth of the latest annual increase in America's defence spending. Egypt and Israel receive three times the aid that America gives to all sub-Saharan Africa. I do not wish to mention only America; I want our country and all the G8 countries to do more. However, I want to focus not on the G8 and resources from the top, but on what can be done to build strategies from the base, rethinking the process of development and what the word "partnership" might mean.

Take the example of Ghana. Some 40 per cent. of the population are poor, a third are in extreme poverty and more than half of those living in northern Ghana are classed as the rural poor. The scale of poverty in northern Nigeria, too, is shocking, and the standard of living in that increasingly semi-arid desert land is pre-biblical. People are trying to scratch a living on the face of the earth in areas where streams have dried up. I mention that because the Department for International Development strategy papers on those countries are encouraging in their radical analysis. Disempowerment, of the poor in particular, is a key focus, and other issues include lack of knowledge, skills and resources and unfair global trading policies.

I shall focus on the disempowerment of poor people. The DFID country strategies for Nigeria and elsewhere refer to tackling extreme poverty in rural areas. In such places, agricultural policies have fluctuated or been variably implemented so that there is policy confusion, as DFID puts it. There are multiple, overlapping institutions with conflicting mandates. Environmental and common property resources—pastoral lands, water and forests—have been squandered. How does one get a grip on all that? There will be a political accountability gap where new Governments make the transition from military rule to democracy, but elected Assembly Members are not the only ones who do not know their real democratic powers. The people themselves do not know their role in the process.

What shift can we see from primary capital development projects to the development of participatory techniques that engage the poor? We cannot simply build capital projects; I have seen clinics in Africa standing empty because there are no revenue resources to keep them running. We must, of course, face the challenge of what to do about countries that do not have enough staff because those people have come to Britain, and that is particularly true of Ghana. That

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aside, however, clinics are useless if villages do not have the resources to keep them running, even if the governor thinks that building a clinic is the best option for the area.

In other words, economic growth alone will not help, and we must introduce local administration, distribution and control systems that engage the people. We should target action for change at the local level, where there is still a strong tendency towards self-help. Some people build their own villages, and the tiny Birni Gwiri village in the Kaduna national park in Nigeria built its own clinic without any outside resources whatever.

I should briefly mention how DFID can do more—not by helping as such, but by using the radical and far-sighted process that it is developing. How can the voices of the poor be included to a greater extent so that the poverty reduction process is theirs? The challenge is to develop a vibrant civil society in which the poor can properly engage in poverty reduction, and the key is to involve them in a structured way in developing the strategy so that they own it at local level. There are signs of hope in Rwanda, for example. The Ubudehe process, which takes its name from a local word, builds on the local devolution of power, engagement and resources to the micro level of 100 families. That radical strategy has been built from the base.

DFID has worked with the World Bank on community involvement strategies in Nigeria, and it has also worked on such strategies in Ghana. The way forward is to build from the base—the development of local participation and local governance is the key to the future. Why? We are developing a real partnership and a real sense of mutuality. We are not helping the poor so much as finding out how they can work on their own circumstances.

The DFID officials whom I have met around the world are superb and have a far-sighted, radical outlook. They are doing pioneering work on pro-poor civil organisations and on developing participation strategies to enable the voices of the poor to be heard. In that, they are perhaps building on the work of the university of Bath centre for development economics.

All that work can help to illuminate what we need to do on basic community development in our inner cities. In other words, it is not one-way traffic and not simply a question of us helping Africa. Community development initiatives and the participation of the poor in rural villages in Africa can show us how to engage people here so that, even in my city of Leeds, they do not see the single regeneration budget as a middle management project that is being imposed on them. Good, well-intentioned officials come along to help, but the people do not own the process.

We can learn from Africa. That will help us to make sense of the expression "new partnership for development", because I am not convinced that we are all that developed in Britain.

11.54 am

Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury): First, I congratulate the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) on securing the debate; I endorse much of what

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he said. It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), whose contribution is particularly important with regard to support for local initiative rather than the imposition of top-down solutions that might not be received in the way in which the donors patronisingly expect them to be.

I, too, welcome the New Partnership for Africa's Development. The choice that faces the Secretary of State and the Department—the Minister might allude to it—is whether to give good governance the incentive and encouragement that it needs to be rewarded. The hon. Member for City of York touched on the point when he talked about aid competition. Good governance is patently an essential element of trust for those who wish to help the heavily indebted poor countries, and examples of it should be preferred pour encourager les autres. Many such countries do not have perfect systems; many are as poor as the countries under tyrannical regimes.

That is a hard choice for the Department and one that I have raised with the Secretary of State on the Floor of the House. In considering it, we must accept that it involves a complex series of issues—aid, trade, good governance, health and debt relief must ride together in a package. I couple my remarks with those of the hon. Member for Leeds, West. Pump priming for education and health programmes, particularly in relation to AIDS, must concentrate on people at ground level. The importance of training and skills has been mentioned, but I urge hon. Members to focus on malaria, because it is killing off both old and young, leaving a sterile and static "middle" population, often blighted by AIDS. That is one of the most difficult economic challenges that such countries face.

If we focus only on education, health and poverty eradication, all of which are important and necessary, we risk losing what is, ultimately, the greatest asset in boosting poverty eradication—trade. Aid can do much, but trade is the ultimate solution. Getting those countries to participate in the global economy in a way that is real for them is one of the biggest challenges. We must be able to trust each other on peace and security and the eradication of international terrorism, which allow good governance and democratic traditions to flourish.

As chairman of the all-party Tanzania group, and having been involved in third world debt relief, not least because I was born in Tanzania, it is fair to say that no hon. Member or party has a monopoly on compassion, concern or interest in those matters. While we can debate the precise percentages of aid given by this and previous Governments—I do not make the point pejoratively—having a realistic and sustainable commitment that is supported across the House is what matters.

Like everybody, I am disturbed by the endorsement given by the leaders of South Africa, Nigeria and Tanzania to the so-called deserved victory in Zimbabwe. That is disappointing, but it could be said that there was not perfect good governance in the United Kingdom given the problems in Northern Ireland over many years, so we must be careful not to be purist.

I shall take Tanzania as an example; it does not have perfect good governance, as there are problems in Zanzibar. The serious issue of the air traffic control

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system has been raised on the Floor of the House. I have tried to look into it in detail, because it seems to generate a lot more heat than light. There are tensions, which I can understand, and, quite properly, there have been discussions in the Government. I welcome that, because it is proper to have the debate.

The Tanzanian Government went through what they consider to be a perfectly good due diligence process. They put out to international tender, obtained a preliminary export licence from the Ministry of Defence for the preferred bidders and consulted the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on a dual civil and security system. I could have used the word "military", but in Tanzania the military aspect is irrelevant, because it does not have the military capability to respond to a threat. The greatest difficulty is smuggling, because smugglers export 15 tonnes of gold from Tanzania each year.

It would have been better if Tanzania had paid for the civilian aspect of the air traffic control project, costing £9 million, and the international community had paid the other £18 million. Such a dual approach would have offered a solution, but I was happy to see jobs secured for this country's manufacturing industry.

I apologise for having gone over my time by a minute. I urge support for the package approach of looking carefully at aid and we must consider the organic initiatives on health and the threats to it that were mentioned earlier. We must continue debt relief and, above all, in celebrating good governance, we should take an organic-plus approach to developing countries and poverty relief, rather than adopt a patronising approach of granting aid downwards, which is counter-productive.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : If the hon. Member for South Swindon (Ms Drown) gives me an unofficial assurance that she will not speak for more than three minutes, I am happy for her to contribute before I call the Liberal Democrat spokesman to wind up.

12.1 pm

Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As chair of the all-party group on third-world debt, I was recently invited to the Netherlands to meet parliamentarians and representatives of non-governmental organisations from Africa and elsewhere. We debated debt relief and the new partnership for Africa. I may need to declare an interest, because I have not yet refunded the cost of my accommodation, although I am in the process of doing so.

I welcome the new partnership for Africa, but, like other speakers, I believe that the civil society issue must be recognised. The partnership document was not translated from English into other languages until last month, four months after publication of the original. Furthermore, it is important that we do not raise expectations. The document refers to one voice for Africa, but Britain and France cannot agree on the great lakes, so it is unrealistic to expect African countries to agree on everything.

I hope that the Minister will answer a few questions about debt relief. There is increasing recognition that the heavily indebted poor countries initiative is not good

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enough and will not by itself achieve the millennium goals on debt. If that is the case, why does the new partnership document refer to going through the HIPC and Paris Club process first? It may be appropriate to pursue that process concurrently, but much more needs to be done if we are to achieve those important goals.

How are we to get help to Ethiopia, which needs to spend $2.5 billion on health to achieve its goals, but is currently spending less than $100 million? How will we deal with the situation in Malawi? The HIPC programme sets a growth rate of 6 per cent., but Malawi's growth rate is about 3 per cent. and getting worse. There is a massive famine there and people are dying right now, but deaths could be avoided if we got more help to such countries.

Will the Minister confirm that the reference in the partnership to a long-term objective, linking debt reduction to costed poverty reduction outcomes, is the same as linking debt reduction to the millennium development goals? If so, why can that not be confirmed at Monterrey to eradicate current concerns about the goal being watered down?

There has been much talk about Nigeria and recognition that we could and should do more, but something needs to happen on both sides. Although we should not underestimate the power of civil society and parliamentarians, we need information. I have been pressing for specific answers for some time. My hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) has given us some of the most useful information about taxing people. Nigeria is talked of as oil rich, but it receives less than 27 cents a day per person—less than a dollar a day—and about 90 per cent. of the population have no access to essential drugs. Nigeria is still owed ecological debts, although many debts were paid under military rule.

The hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) referred to loans being given for bad projects. There is responsibility on both sides, however, as people here should have known that we were giving loans for bad projects. We must play our part.

The stadium in Nigeria was mentioned. Senators in that country oppose building it and we must support them if they are to be able to talk out loud. Unquestionably, much more needs to be done and we must continue to consider the matter closely. We should also tackle the problem of money that is stashed away in western banks and do more on money laundering so that we can return the money that is owed to Nigeria and other countries.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Edward O'Hara): I trust that the three Front Benchers will divide the remaining time equally.

12.5 pm

Norman Lamb (North Norfolk): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) on securing the debate. The timing could not be more fortuitous, with President Obasanjo of Nigeria, John Howard of Australia and Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, meeting today in London to decide the Commonwealth response to the fraudulent election in Zimbabwe.

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I note the comments of the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Paul Goggins) about not allowing what happened in that country to derail the process, but the judgment that those leaders reach will have profound implications for the achievement of goals by the New Partnership for Africa's Development. The two issues are inextricably linked, which presents President Mbeki with an enormous dilemma, as he has championed the concept of an Africa-led recovery programme. Failure to show leadership now, when the principles underlying NEPAD face such a stark challenge, could leave the process stillborn and destroy the credibility of a necessary element of securing inward investment.

Of course, Zimbabwe is not alone on the continent in failing to follow the principles of democracy and indulging in corruption. There is a danger of the west striking a hypocritical note if we do not challenge other countries, which are regarded as our friends, where democracy has been woefully lacking.

Why should we regard the continent's reaction to this election as so important? First, change is so badly needed in Zimbabwe. So many people in Africa are offended not only by the flawed election, but by the hopelessly corrupt economic mismanagement and the vicious crushing of dissent over so many years, which have brought that country to its knees. Once a proud exporter of food, it now relies on food aid to feed hundreds of thousands of its citizens, with 500,000 in danger of starvation.

Secondly, we regard the election as important because of its timing. As NEPAD struggles to take off, Mbeki and others simply must meet the challenge to give the project credibility. This is its first big test. There is no doubt that Mbeki recognises that challenge; the only question is, has he the will and ability to act?

As the hon. Member for City of York said, Mbeki's speech last October was impressively clear on NEPAD's potential value as the best and, indeed, only available framework for development in Africa. He stressed that the essential precondition of any renaissance in Africa is that the programme be led by Africa. I shall not repeat the quotes used by the hon. Gentleman, but Mbeki also said:

Mbeki recognises the essential link between democracy and good governance as well as the creation of positive conditions for investment. If the wrong message is sent out now, those conditions will simply not exist.

It is suggested that Mbeki is pursuing a policy of engagement and softly-softly diplomacy because he fears a collapse in Zimbabwe that might tumble over the borders of South Africa, bringing in tens of thousands of refugees, and the impact of that on the South African economy. However, it is plain for all to see that prevarication and lack of leadership might themselves destroy the South African economy.

Africa getting its act together will not be enough for NEPAD to succeed, because it involves partnership with the developed world. The G8 is already engaged in

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the process, but a massive challenge faces the developed world as well as Africa. Too often, our approach to Africa has been characterised by cynicism and hypocrisy. We must take a more transparent, more honest and more intelligent approach to fulfil our side of the bargain.

The level and purpose of aid for Africa have too often damaged development rather than helped it. It has been tied to trade, and it has been paid to our friends rather than given where it was most needed. Aid for low-income countries with policies that are better than average according to World Bank criteria fell from 1.9 per cent. of recipients' gross domestic product in 1991-95 to 1.2 per cent. in 1996-99. The role of the United States and the European Union in payment of aid moneys to Africa has been lamentable.

Arms sales feed conflict in Africa, which in turn makes escape from poverty impossible. Simon Jenkins recently wrote a powerful article in The Times, pointing out that UK arms exports to Africa increased from £52 million in 1999 to £125 million in 2000, and are likely to rise to more than £200 million next year. How is that paid for? By increasing those countries' debts. The shocking case of Tanzania, and the sale of the £28 million air traffic control system, is the latest shameful example. I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for International Development and the Chancellor for making a stand against that.

The combination of US and EU tariffs and subsidies is effectively a massive barrier to Africa selling its goods on the world market. So much needs to change on our side for NEPAD to be given a fair wind, but why should we bother? We have to bother because of the moral case for engaging in Africa, but a case can also be made that is based on intelligent self-interest. A massive challenge lies ahead and it is essential that the G8 remains engaged, but both sides must recognise what is needed for this important initiative to have any chance of success.

12.12 pm

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): It has been an interesting debate. Like other hon. Members, I congratulate the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley), who has always taken a great interest in these matters. Fortunately, many hon. Members have been able to contribute to the debate. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), who does a distinguished job as Chairman of the Select Committee on International Development. I pay tribute also to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Lazarowicz), my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan), whose powerful remarks I shall return to in a moment, the hon. Members for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Paul Goggins), for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) and for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) and the hon. Members for South Swindon (Ms Drown) and for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb). In a short debate, we have managed to pack in a variety of speakers and a wide range of views.

When we look at the way in which the New Partnership for Africa's Development is supposed to work, we are bound to consider the first test of it. Sadly,

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I agree with the pessimism expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby; those of us who have been watching the sad but all too predictable events in Zimbabwe are bound to say that the aspirations for NEPAD have not been borne out. My hon. Friend spoke about his experiences when he and the hon. Member for City of York visited Africa as members of the International Development Committee a week or so ago. He said that he came back more depressed than he had ever been about the prospects for the development of good governance.

One concern shared by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby and the hon. Member for City of York was the view of the British taxpayer. The hon. Gentleman said that he was quite happy to make a case for his constituents to pay more tax in order to have more money for overseas aid, but that the case would be more difficult to make if his constituents knew that some people in Nigeria earned £40,000, £50,000 or £60,000 and paid no tax at all. My hon. Friend the Member for Blaby suggested that there was no real understanding among the elected politicians that he met in Nigeria of a need to tackle that problem and move to a system of democratic accountability and proper taxation. That is not only depressing, but all too familiar to those of us who have seen how so many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have descended into virtual countries, as a constituent of mine who has great experience in Kenya described them.

Although Her Majesty's Opposition want to see the underlying aspirations of NEPAD succeed—who could not wish something with genuine good intentions well?—we worry that the concerns that we have expressed about NEPAD's emphasis on Government-to-Government aid, rather than support for reputable non-governmental organisations, have not been listened to. As we have said, when the Department for International Development considers its future contribution to initiatives such as NEPAD, there should be much more clear support for NGOs and charities. Those are more accountable and cost-effective, and less corrupt, and they often have greater experience of working on the ground. Almost every speaker in the debate has talked about the extent of corruption. We know that when aid is given Government-to-Government, what happens to it when it reaches the recipient Government is, sadly, the problem.

There must be a much greater commitment from African countries to good governance if any of the targets or aspirations that underlie NEPAD are to be met. I have spent some time in South Africa, and have seen the contrasts that the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale rightly mentioned between grinding poverty in some areas and wealth in others. If we are to tackle those contrasts, we must wish the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, well. Also, it would be reassuring if the leadership of sub-Saharan African countries were prepared to condemn the appalling recent abuses of democracy in Zimbabwe. I share the pessimism of my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby, who said that one cannot take aspirational statements seriously if, faced with that first test, all we see are expressions of support for the rigged Zimbabwe election.

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The Foreign Secretary said that

Sadly, it appears that many African countries pretend, at least publicly, that they do not agree with that assessment. There is great concern that the Government of South Africa have been reluctant to criticise the tyrant of Zimbabwe, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby rightly called him. That Government are thought to have put pressure on their official election observers to declare the election free and fair. The South African Minister with responsibility for the police, Steve Tshwete, tried to persuade observers that the elections in Zimbabwe were "credible" and "legitimate". A South African observer was quoted in our national press on 11 March as saying:

Aziz Pahad, the deputy Foreign Minister, has called on South Africa's press to stop "demonising" President Mugabe. One member of the South African election observation team said that the media had exaggerated the violence, and that the notion of a free and fair election was

What hope for a move towards good governance if real democracy is traduced in that way?

President Obasanjo of Nigeria is, as many hon. Members have said, closely linked to NEPAD as one of its chief backers. Before the close of voting, the head of the Nigerian observer team of the Zimbabwean elections, Ernest Shonekan, said that he was "particularly impressed" by the conduct of the election, despite some "skirmishes". He said:

Senior aides to President Obasanjo were quoted by the press as saying that the Nigerian leader was unlikely to back the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth.

Nigeria exhibits the difficulties inherent in NEPAD. President Obasanjo is the first civilian head of state in more than 15 years, but has struggled to implement even the basic tenets of NEPAD in his country. Nigerians are still caught up in the worst cycle of ethnic, tribal and religious violence since the civil war in the 1960s. Thousands have died. At the start of last month, at least 100 people were killed in the commercial capital, Lagos, after three days of ethnic clashes.

Although we recognise the aspirations underlying NEPAD, as I have said, and should like it to succeed, in the light of the failure of its first test in Zimbabwe we are bound to be very pessimistic. I hope that the Minister will say at least that he is prepared to put much more effort into supporting the work of NGOs and charities on the ground in Africa, which might be a better way of causing NEPAD's real underlying concepts to succeed in future.

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12.21 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn) : May I join other hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) on having secured the debate and on the clarity with which he analysed the challenge? I genuinely welcome the fact that I have a short time in which to respond to the debate, because that is a product of so many hon. Members' wishing to participate. All contributions have added something to our understanding of the challenge that Africa faces.

We know that half those living in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than a dollar a day and that one in five have their lives blighted by conflict. Conflict is the scar on the back of the continent. We know that 25 million people live with AIDS, a disaster for Africa. My hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Paul Goggins) was absolutely right about that. It is a disaster not least because, in some countries, it is causing the wiping out of almost all that was gained in life expectancy during the past generation.

Economically, Africa is the only continent that has gone backwards. Its share of world trade has halved in the past generation. Some 40 per cent. of the savings generated within the continent of Africa leave it every year, and it is not the case that Africa has been over-exploited by trade and foreign investment. The truth is that it has had too little of either. The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) rightly and forcefully made that point.

As if all that was not enough, there is also corruption, poor governance and unfinished, or in many cases unstarted, reform. The hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan), reflecting on the recent visit to Nigeria, spoke with enormous passion about the sheer scale of corruption. I can add to what he said only by pointing out that during the period of General Abacha's regime, the international community put $1.1 billion of aid into Nigeria, while he and his family looted $6 billion from that country.

I think that we are all agreed that Africa is, quite simply, the greatest regeneration challenge that we currently face in the world. It is all too easy to be transfixed by the headlights of the statistics on the state of Africa. I am glad that several hon. Members have referred as well to the beacons of hope in the continent, including the progress made on reducing poverty in Uganda. We could also mention the growth rates in Botswana and Mozambique, which offer us hope. The New Partnership for Africa's Development offers us a chance to build on those successes for the future.

The most important things about NEPAD, an initiative made in Africa for Africa, are: first, as hon. Members have said, that it represents a commitment to solve the continent's problems; secondly, that it recognises the need to take a regional approach to poverty reduction and greater equality; and thirdly, that it is an approach that works with the international community in forming what is, in essence, a deal. The hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) was absolutely right in saying that it is a deal with obligations on both sides. The deal is that Africa will seek to resolve its problems, particularly in areas of conflict and governance, and in return the international

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community will respond with support for NEPAD's priorities, with increased resources that are better targeted and with trade reform.

NEPAD is a long-term initiative. I understand completely the impatience that several hon. Members expressed in their contributions and their concerns that early tests may indicate a cause for pessimism. However, if we are to respond to the challenges that Africa faces we cannot afford pessimism. We must put it to one side, renew our optimism—even in the face of adversity—and recognise that we will have to give the partnership time to fulfil its potential.

The UK's development aid to Africa is rising; it has nearly doubled since 1997. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is in Monterrey at the G8 conference on financing for development, which is a real test of the world's response to poverty alleviation in general, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) said. Aware that aid to Africa has actually declined in recent years, we have worked hard to encourage other donors to increase the aid that they give.

We have seen some progress. Under pressure of the advent of the Monterrey conference, the EU recently agreed to raise its average overseas development assistance gross national income figure from the current 0.32 per cent. to 0.39 per cent. by 2006, which represents an increase of about $7 billion a year. The United States has announced an increase in its aid budget of $5 billion during the next three years although, as my hon. Friend and others pointed out, that is still a very small share of its national wealth.

On debt relief, I assure my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Ms Drown) that it is delivering progress: 25 countries have benefited—Ghana is the latest—from $50 billion worth of debt relief. The biggest single obstacle to the remaining countries in Africa accessing the relief for highly indebted poor countries is conflict.

I reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Lazarowicz) about the timetable. The G8 plan for Africa will be launched at the summit in June and will be followed by the African Union summit in July. Much effort is being made to ensure that the two processes work in parallel, because each must support the other.

Money is part of what is needed, but it is not everything. We must try to build peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Angola. The news from Angola over the weekend gives some cause for hope. We must open up trade opportunities, as the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) said, particularly by giving the African countries access to G8 markets.

Governance has dominated the debate, and the issue of Zimbabwe has been raised. All of us are deeply worried by what has occurred but, in truth, the outcome is unlikely to reverse the desperate economic and social decline in that country, which is greatly affecting the poor. However, I share the view of those who have said that, although Zimbabwe is an important test for Africa, it is not the sole test against which we should judge the success of the New Partnership for Africa's Development, because the issue of governance will remain important.

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Several issues have been raised. On patronage, the hon. Member for Banbury was absolutely right about the culture that exists in some countries. However, let us be honest: it was part of our culture not all that many years ago, and we should try to remember how we moved to where we are today. The hon. Gentleman spoke forcefully about the need to support elected representatives in making the transition from one way of doing business to another.

The hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) mentioned tax. I can only say "hear, hear" to his suggestion that the well-off should pay more tax. His comments were a particularly pleasant feature of the debate.

I am not sure that I would go as far as agreeing with the suggestion about bidding that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for City of York. However, we should take account of those who are committed to reform in deciding where to put our money and our priorities.

I heartily endorse the passionate comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West about regeneration. If we want to regenerate successfully—be it in an inner-city ward, a country or a continent—ownership must come from the bottom up. We need a long-term commitment. NEPAD represents a commitment on the part of Africa, but we need action rather than words.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.

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