Bob Geldof's Op-Ed in Libération following the APP's meeting with President Sarkozy
Six years ago, prompted by the massed global ranks of the Make Poverty History movement, the G8 signed up to a series of historic commitments to tackle poverty in Africa. In the full glare of the world’s media, the eight most powerful men on the planet made a solemn pledge to the weakest. The resultant debt cancellation and additional aid resources have contributed to five solid years of progress in Africa. Across the continent, we can see the living proof of this progress. Millions vaccinated, millions receiving access to life-saving AIDS treatment, millions protected from malaria and millions more in school. There has also been strong economic growth across Africa. Arguably, debt cancellation has allowed African countries some of the fiscal space needed to ride the storm of the economic crisis better than was feared. Thanks to the entrepreneurialism of African citizens and the generosity of the G8, the continent is on the move.
However, not all is rosy. It is a sad fact that the G8 is nowhere near fulfilling the majority of its commitments. Last year, its members did not even deliver one third of the promised increase in aid. Reasons range from the lack of political leadership and a credible and effective accountability mechanism, to the global economic crisis and the diminishing importance of the G8 and corresponding rise of the G20. The big question is now whether the latter will be a more effective body.
This year’s G20 meeting in Cannes is President Sarkozy’s opportunity to rehabilitate some of France’s lost reputation on Africa, and to show the kind of leadership the UK demonstrated in 2005. Indeed, will this be when France takes the lead where others have failed? Two topics deserve particular attention, and the first of these is governance. Africa has vast mineral wealth, much of it undiscovered, but little of the revenues generated are shared with the people of the continent. Instead, as so often in the past, profits are siphoned off by discreet and illegal partnerships with foreign companies in opaque and secret deals. The G20 must move the odds in the citizen’s favour by insisting on transparency in deal-making, and adopting legally binding measures at least as good as the legislation recently agreed in the US at the behest of senators Cardin and Lugar. As chair of the G20 anti-corruption working group, France can lead on this issue as well as in the fight against kleptocracy and in work to repatriate assets looted from African state banks by corrupt officials.
The second issue the G20 needs to address is the challenge of supporting sustainable and equitable growth in Africa. A package of trade support and investment can build on the continent’s great potential and give some rocket fuel to its legion of skilled managers and entrepreneurs. It should focus on regional integration in Africa, and the disastrous reality that only 10 per cent of the average African country’s trade is with other African countries. It should also harness the continent’s vast agricultural and renewable-energy potential. Africa has the means not just to lift itself out of need, but to help deal with some of the rest of the world’s needs for food and fuel. The agreement on food security reached at L’Aquila must not be forgotten. Food crises have the potential to affect our world radically, by accelerating inflation and so impeding a return to growth, while increasing social unrest in developing regions. The G20 in Seoul started a decent process on this issue, but France is better placed to deliver on those plans.
The partnership most exciting for some, and threatening for others, is the evolving South–South relationship between the emerging powers of China, Brazil and India, and the developing power of Africa. Europe and America will grow only in irrelevance if we do not harness ourselves to these engines, and as we do so, we must impart values of transparency and accountability, rather than narrow interests and parochial concerns. The best way to share our values is to demonstrate them in our actions. Competition with China today should not mean that we copy their worst practices, but that we share the best of ours. We also need to improve African representation at the G20. Excluding one billion men, women, children, producers and consumers from global decision-making is ridiculous, self-defeating and wrong.
If President Sarkozy can begin to deliver on these concerns, then his G20 presidency will be judged a success.
By Bob Geldof, Musician, Co-founder of ONE/DATA, Chair of Band Aid Trust, and UN MDG Advocate