2013 – a time to reflect on African progress

The beginning of a new year is a good moment to review the Commission for Africa, which was established in early 2004 to consider the situation in Africa and to make recommendations to the G8, which subsequently met in mid-2005 at the Gleneagles Summit hosted by the United Kingdom.   It found that Africa was in considerably better shape than popular perceptions suggested and provided important underpinning for the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, which focused specifically on aid, trade and debt issues.

The 2010 follow-up Report sets out the extent to which G8 commitments had been followed through – in brief, wholly on debt relief, somewhat on aid, and hardly at all on trade.  It noted that Africa has continued to make significant progress, and three years on, in early 2013, if anything it has accelerated.  The contrast with the economic performance of the G8 countries could hardly be starker; and in spite of recent negative developments in countries like Mali and the Central African Republic, political progress has also been notable.

And how the world has changed over the past 8 years!  In 2013 the UK will – for the first time since Gleneagles – assume the Presidency of the G8 and host a G8 Summit.  But the G8 matters less than it did, as it ceded power to the G20.  Aid, too, has become less significant in the overall scheme of things – it remains important, and those of us in the UK should be very proud that we will become the first G8 country to reach the 0.7% target in 2013.  But better economic policies; a stronger emphasis on social protection; a significant increase in private sector investment – in large part the consequence of greater political stability and a more favourable investment climate – and growing remittances will be what drive African prosperity and continuing progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

At the end of May 2013, the High Level Panel established by the UN Secretary-General (and co-chaired by the British Prime Minister) to provide a Framework document to shape the debate on what should succeed the MDGs, will report.  An inter-governmental panel to look at a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – on issues like the environment, pollution, over-fishing ,climate change etc – is also expected to report by mid-2014.  This provides a massive opportunity to develop a single set of goals and targets which recognise very clearly that is indeed in our common interest that we should recognise that we need not just growth but growth with equity and which protects the natural environment and planetary boundaries within which our common future will be determined.

Where does the Commission for Africa fit into all this?  We are ready to play our part in the lead up to 2015 as and if necessary.  Early in 2012, we developed the idea of a series of ‘Africa Debates’ to ensure that African Voices were fully reflected in these discussions.  You can find our note on the website.  To our great satisfaction, it emerged that a series of consultations – not just in Africa, but more broadly – were envisaged to inform the debate, including ‘My World’ led by the UN Development Programme and funded by DFID.   We will continue to monitor the situation carefully.  If we feel that the Commission can make a continuing contribution to the Debate over the coming 3 years we will certainly do so.

Myles A Wickstead, CBE – Head of Secretariat, Commission for Africa

Claire Hickson – Secretariat, Commission for Africa

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