Southern Africa

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

Alert me about debates like this

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

My Lords, let me give the noble Lord a figure. France remains the leading donor of bilateral aid to the African continent, having provided it with more than more than 4.5 billion euros in 2001. That is a great deal more than we provide. Unless someone can say that I have got the figure wrong, I think that it is about time we recognised that we are not going to be able to improve our joint commitment to delivery in terms of assistance in the new NePAD programme unless we work very closely with the French in NePAD and give a lead in the European Union. After all, it is about time that we and the French gave a lead on something in the European Union and I think that this is it. Britain and France have a great deal in common in this area.

The countries which are the ringleaders in NePAD—I refer to Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa—have all experienced a long history of deep-rooted conflict inherited from or in association with colonialism and have been at the forefront of liberation struggles. It cannot be said that we do not have that kind of history in common. There is also the need work together to push forward the review process at Evian.

I take up a point made by my noble friend Lord Desai about why Asia has done better than Africa, and I relate it to the success story of Mauritius. Mauritius is the only country in the world which is part of the African Union and the Association of South-East Asian Nations. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, will be interested in this point. A group of senior UK economists—not necessarily from the Treasury, but not a million miles away—visited Mauritius 30 years ago and stated in their report that the country had no prospects. They said that arrangements should be made for a substantial part of the population to emigrate; that there would be no substantial prospect of raising living standards—indeed, the prospect was one of mass poverty. These were the best of the British economists at the time—and they got it about as wrong as it is possible to get it. I have written such reports myself, but one can get some of them wrong. Today, when we remind ourselves of that anecdote and ask what their secret was, they say that every African leader asks them that question when they go to Mauritius. The answer is not just hard work and adaptability—that is apple pie. It is ethnic peace, recognising the contributions of the Indians—whether Hindus, Muslims or Buddhists—the Creoles—the term used in Mauritius for people with a black African background—the Chinese, the French and the British. They speak both French and English in Mauritius. That rang a bell with me because of the brief period that I spent working in Uganda before Amin. All those ethnic groups were there, they worked well together, and the economy was successful at the time of the transition from the colonial era to independence.

I have one point of disagreement with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. We must have conditionality. We will not get right into the African societies on these points unless we recognise that our insistence will not be easy for African leaders. It will get through to African leaders only if it is conditional.

We are used to conditionality in Britain, in Europe and in the Balkans. It is about anti-corruption; it is forced on people initially and then they succeed. That is the case for conditionality. Peer review will work in Africa only if we can press some conditionality on it from the outside. It is a delicate balance, but that is the challenge we have to face.