Helping African Countries Recover from War is our Moral Duty, but African Leadership Holds the Key

Centre of Government and Delivery

Helping African Countries Recover from War is our Moral Duty, but African Leadership Holds the Key

Posted on: 6th July 2009
Tony Blair
Former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Executive Chairman of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

We need aid commitments to be delivered. They can save lives and help poor countries. But ultimately the salvation of Africa will come from within. Good governance, the capacity, to take decisions, implement them and see them through, is the only long term sustainable solution. That is the lesson of the past few decades. The image of Africa as a war-torn continent, plagued by conflict is commonly-held, but in truth this is an unfair simplification.

Nevertheless, conflict has been and remains a pitfall for many African countries seeking to grow their way out of poverty. It not only causes immense suffering, but undermines progress and sets nations on a downward spiral from which it can be hard to escape.

Such conflict is also difficult to contain - take Somalia, where conflict creates a breeding-ground for piracy and extremism that threatens not only its neighbours, but the rest of the world. Given the moral and security imperative, in some cases it may be possible and desirable for international forces to intervene with direct military action to end conflict and restore peace. This is what the world should have done to stop the genocide in Rwanda and it is what I did as Prime Minister in sending troops to end violence in Sierra Leone. In other cases however, peace will be best brought about through other interventions.

But ending conflict is only the beginning of the story. It is essential that enormous effort is focused on helping these countries recover and develop long-lasting stability. The good news is that, difficult as it can be, such recovery is possible. I have recently returned from Rwanda, which for most people conjures up an image of genocide and violence but which under the visionary leadership of President Kagame, has been transformed. The country is stable, health and education indicators are rapidly improving and the economy is booming - GDP growth last year was an extraordinary 10%.

What the case of Rwanda shows is not only that recovery is possible, but that central to that recovery is the role of political leadership - President Kagame has shown single-minded determination and must take much of the credit for that country's recovery.

The international community needs to be there with speed and flexibility to provide significant aid and support to rebuild infrastructure and public services, but the key factor is resolute leadership supported by effective systems of government. This was explicitly recognised by the Africa Progress Panel's recent report in which Kofi Annan rightly concluded that: "the responsibility for Africa's progress rests with her political leaders."

That is why I have created the Africa Governance Initiative, an effort to work with visionary African leaders such as President Kagame of Rwanda and President Koroma of Sierra Leone to build the systems of governance and accountability that will allow them to turn their visions for prosperity into reality.

This new initiative is a way of renewing my commitment to Africa and showing that through an innovative partnership with African leaders it is possible to achieve remarkable results that will complement traditional aid efforts and unleash the potential of African leaders to drive development.

Partnerships such as these not only have enormous potential for impact, but recognise that whilst we have a duty to help African countries, especially those affected by conflict, the long-run solutions to Africa's problems will be created and led by Africans themselves.

Tony Blair is a member of the Africa Progress Panel and founder of the Africa Governance Initiative. This article first appeared in a special pre-G8 edition of Italy's La Stampa edited by Bob Geldof.


The work described here was carried out by the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, it is now being continued by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.


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