Africa needs “game-changing leadership” says Tony Blair

Late last year, Tony Blair, who set up the Commission for Africa, published an essay arguing that more attention needs to be given to supporting African leaders and their governments’ ability to deliver change. 

Not Just Aid: How Making Government Work Can Transform Africa reaffirms the argument made by the Commission that development is “not about aid alone and has to be about partnership and governance”.

In the essay, presented in a keynote speech at the Center for Global Development in Washington on 16 December, Mr Blair says he believes that Africa “has the potential to be to the first half of this century what Asia was to the second half of the last: an engine of prosperity capable of lifting millions out of poverty”. He argues that government’s capacity to deliver a vision for change will be a decisive factor in fulfilling that potential and concludes that donors could be doing much more to support improvements in that capacity by:

  • aligning more of their support behind leaders’ own priorities;
  • ensuring their support has the right scope – not to specific, not too broad;
  • helping leaders develop the capacity of their own offices to develop policy and deliver leadership – and not undermining ministers capacity by demanding too much of their time;
  • thinking politically not just technically.

Both the Commission’s 2005 and 2010 reports argued that building African governments’ capacity is essential to growth and development and made a series of recommendations on how donors could support capacity building more effectively. The latest report recommends that African governments draw up “comprehensive capacity-building strategies” and that donors align their support fully behind these and do not pursue competing priorities or procedures.

You can watch the speech and download the essay here.

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