Southern Africa

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:39 pm on 19th February 2003.

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Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour 6:39 pm, 19th February 2003

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, on introducing this very important debate, even though I do not accept some of his key arguments. I shall come to that in a moment.

The main thrust of my remarks will be on the theme that G8 conditionality is now inescapable if the crisis in Africa is not to become chronic. The World Bank millennium development goals document refers to the problem of slow growth in the past decade, as the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, pointed out; hence these dreadful figures, which are growing, of the number of people living in poverty. To halve poverty by 2015, African economies will need to grow at a rate of 7 per cent per annum.

I am an economist of sorts. One has to be reasonably numerate about these matters, and I challenge anyone to say that they disagree with that kind of figure. But how do we get from where we are now to that point—which is a necessary condition, and certainly not a sufficient condition, for solving the problem?

I wear a new hat these days as vice-chair of the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Africa, which I helped to set up, together with Hugh Bayley, MP. Its terms of reference are to promote Africa—and, in particular, issues relating to NePAD—in Parliament. I wish to emphasise with all the power at my command that we have to put a very big number of eggs into the NePAD project. It is home grown in Africa. It is, to coin a phrase, the new agenda for the new Africa. It is relevant to the kind of challenges identified by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths.

NePAD is in my view the most hopeful thing to have come out of Africa since the release of Nelson Mandela. I congratulate the British Government on their document, G8 Africa Action Plan: UK Implementation up to G8 Summit 2003—the Evian meeting at Lake Geneva this summer. Given that the meeting will take place in France, I hope that we shall have close relations with France in seeing what we can do to push the action plan forward. There are major problems—not so much between Britain and France, which it need hardly be said is the case, but in the peer review process.

The eight chapters of the NePAD document are important. I shall not list them all. The first deals with peace and security, and includes governance. All the chapters interconnect. We cannot cherry pick between them.

Perhaps I may quote some of the GDP figures for the period 1990–2000. There were falls in the figures as follows: for Sudan, the figure of 1,355 dollars per head was down to 315; Liberia—614 down to 258; Angola—1,076 down to 588; Zimbabwe—8,767 down to 5,408. No one can doubt the major connection in those countries with conflict and poor governance.

I accept all the points made about the finance facility, and I congratulate all those involved. I agree substantially with the points made about the WTO and shall return to a couple of them in a moment. But it will not do to propose all those billions of euros in terms of trade liberalisation—which is true—as if they somehow represent more than half the agenda. Can we seriously think that all the other matters in the NePAD document are not essential; and is that not the agenda which is now reaching a crisis point before, we hope, it goes substantially forward?

Perhaps I may add a further comment on our relations with France, as the major ex-colonial powers in Africa in this regard. I have always had a special interest in Anglo-French relations and I congratulate the two governments on the joint projects since St Malo. I shall attend a conference in Paris in March on making the trade union role in NePAD work from the ground up. I shall take the opportunity to hold discussions with French parliamentarians—wearing my Anglo-French parliamentary hat as well as the Africa one—on what we can do together to promote breakthroughs in NePAD.

I draw attention to the fact that the communique at Le Touquet last week contained a substantial section on Franco-British relations and co-operation in Africa. Ranging from the French Diplomatic Office being part of the British High Commission in Freetown through to joint visits to the Great Lakes and so on, there is a substantial and hopeful new opportunity. From reading the front page of the document, you would not think so; but on reading the inside pages one sees that there is now a creative opportunity for the British and the French to work together on African questions. I did not realise until I read the document in detail how committed France is to NePAD.