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Africa

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 30th March 2009.

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Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee 7:30 pm, 30th March 2009

As all the hon. Members who have spoken have said, Africa is a big subject. I do not intend to try to give a tour d'horizon. My Committee has just returned from Kenya and Tanzania, so I might most usefully give the House an update on those two countries. There are several reports that look back over the last 20 or 25 years and show that many countries in Africa have received increased aid and enjoyed rising economic growth and the further development of their economies, especially through minerals, but poverty has continued and in many cases increased. That is a huge dilemma and anxiety for all of us, and we need to try to find some explanations and remedies.

Governance and corruption have been a part of that pattern, but as we have discovered over the past couple of years, and indeed in the last few weeks, the exploitation of the mineral resources of Africa has been done in a way that few countries in other areas would tolerate. Many of the mining companies appear to say to African countries, "You have huge resources here, how much will you pay us to take them away?" As a result, countries such as Zambia are getting a minute return, compared with the profits that are being made by the mining companies. The local communities in the area being exploited get virtually no benefit at all, and that clearly needs to change.

Exceptions to the rule have been quoted. Botswana, which the Committee has visited, has managed to secure a deal with De Beers that has ensured that the gains from its diamond resources are shared 50:50. De Beers was not very keen on the idea at the time, but now travels the world calling it a model partnership. To listen to De Beers, people would think that it had pioneered that model, instead of having had to negotiate it.

Mr. George mentioned Ghana and the discovery of oil. Most of us are hopeful that the democratic strength of Ghana will be able to handle that, but the Ghanaians have had the wisdom to invite Norway to advise them on how best to develop their oil and gas reserves. I hope that will be done in ways that will generate revenue for the Government and real wealth for the people, which has to be the ultimate objective.

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