"A Prosperous and Exciting Africa in Our Lifetime" Tony Blair talks to African Investor magazine
Source: "A Prosperous and Exciting Africa in Our Lifetime" Tony Blair talks to African Investor magazine
The Office of Tony Blair, Wednesday, Jan 20, 2010:
The following interview appeared in the January-February 2010 edition of African Investor magazine
"Africa has been at the top of my foreign policy for the last ten years," says Tony Blair, former UK prime minister. "From the very beginning I wanted to forge a new partnership with African leaders and countries. I really believe that Africa is the next big opportunity for investors, it would not only be good for business but could transform the lives of Africans."
Blair is now involved in supporting the continent through The Office of Tony Blair. He has established several other foundations, including The Africa Governance Initiative, to encourage governments across the continent to develop strong regulation to encourage investment in a clutch of African countries - Sierra Leone, Rwanda and now Liberia - and drive development.
"I firmly believe that, in the long-term, good governance and sustained economic growth are the key to poverty eradication. This is the basis of the African Governance Initiative that I set up 18 months ago," says Blair.
"We work with African countries who are serious about standing on their own two feet by growing their private sector and making government work more effectively," says Blair, with the aim of motivating African governments to be independent thinkers.
Blair has been developing his interest in Africa for a long time. He drew criticism for his emotive turn of phrase in calling Africa "a scar on the conscience of the world", accused of shoring up a negative image that Africa was unable to act for itself. At the time of the Commission for Africa, an organisation established to bring to light the core issues affecting the continent, Blair said: "I fear my own conscience on Africa. I fear the judgement of future generations, where history properly calculates the gravity of the suffering. I fear them asking: but how could wealthy people, so aware of such suffering, so capable of acting, simply turn away to busy themselves with other things?"
Now he supports countries he believes are getting on and up for themselves.
Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, says his government has taken great steps towards driving economic growth in the country. "The IMF has predicted that we will grow at twice the African average by the end of this year (2009)," he said. "But this is only the beginning; our country has a wealth of untapped potential. We are building a legislative framework that provides the right incentives for investors while ensuring that all feel the benefits of economic growth," says Koroma.
The Sierra Leone Trade and Investment Forum held in late November 2009 was attended by Blair and roused great enthusiasm for investing in the country.
"Sierra Leone has significant, unrealised potential and is open for business and investment," said George Soros, international business mogul, in a televised address. "If you look carefully at the real Sierra Leone, it is clear that the country has the genuine potential to become a leading African economy."
Although Blair gives money freely, he says "all African countries should aim to be in a place where they do not need development assistance.
"President Kagame of Rwanda and President Koroma in Sierra Leone, who I work closely with, are just two examples of a new generation of pro-business, pro-reform leaders from Africa who are serious about rooting out corruption, providing protection for investors and leading more stable, better-governed countries," he says.
"I have been through similar challenges to the presidents I work with, albeit in a very different national and regional context. You sometimes need the experience of someone who has sat on ‘the other side of the desk'."
Blair has the utmost faith that Africa will succeed, something the continent needs from investors and advisors. His ultimate vision for Africa is to see the continent achieve its own goals. "It's up to Africa and its leaders. I believe that we will see a prosperous and exciting Africa in our lifetime and we are approaching a point where the business community is waking up to the opportunities of Africa at a time when Africa has this new generation of leaders."