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Africa

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:52 pm on 30th March 2009.

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Photo of Keith Simpson Keith Simpson Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 4:52 pm, 30th March 2009

The hon. Lady makes a powerful point, and the same is true for the police. Sometimes a culture develops—and it has happened in Europe, too—in which taking what we would now call bribes is part and parcel of a system in which officers are not paid very much. There is no easy or quick fix for that.

Fourthly, we need to continue to address the peacekeeping deficit in Africa. A worrying pattern has emerged of under-resourced African Union peacekeeping forces, well below their mandated strength. It is crucial for additional AU capacity and expertise to be built, not just in terms of troops on the ground for stabilisation and peacekeeping missions, but in logistics, funding, training and civilian policing operations. The shortage of helicopters has already been mentioned.

Finally, our policy must be underpinned by a clear conception of the UK national interest—not just our narrow national interest, but that which is served by helping the countries of Africa—which will best be served by investment, enhanced trade, cultural exchanges, the sharing of best practice in health, the environment and education, and where appropriate, military-to-military training and assistance. We must also recognise that much of the heavy lifting is being done by a wide variety of NGOs, which succeed often despite the best efforts of donor countries and local Governments.

African countries have gone through turbulent decades over the past 50 years. They will face further desperate challenges ahead, and we have it in our power to help them. At the same time we must have faith in the Governments who can deliver a better future for their people, and at times we must try to encourage them in what we would call best practice. They are not perfect, but the examples of Ghana, Botswana and Liberia remind us of the opportunities that are so often denied to the citizens of the wider continent by their own leaders. We should therefore continue to stand by to help them move away from instability, poverty and coups towards good governance and the rule of law. I welcome the debate and look forward to hearing the contributions of colleagues from all parties.

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