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David Cameron sets out his plan for aid, trade and democracy in Africa

By Matthew Barrett
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CameronSouthAfricaThe Prime Minister gave a speech at the Pan African University in Lagos, Nigeria today, as part of his trip to South Africa and Nigeria. His initial remarks pointed out that Africa "has seen its number of democracies increase nearly eight-fold in just two decades", "has six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world" and "is predicted by some to have the highest average GDP growth in the world over the next 40 years" - so we in the West must wake up to the possible success "story unfolding on this continent". It was a distinctively conservative speech with big emphasises on free trade, political reform and transparency.

The Prime Minister set out his vision on three key themes: aid, trade and democracy. Below are highlights from the speech.

Economic prosperity cannot come about in areas of war and famine: "It goes without saying, there can be no development, economic or otherwise, unless we deal with the disease and war in Africa. Every preventable death on this continent is a human tragedy. But it also leaves communities poorer and countries unable to build and create wealth. It isolates them from the global economy, as businesses understandably question the value of investing in countries ravaged by malaria, drought or conflict."

Aid should be used for medicine and immunisation, but it can also be used differently: "From professionalising cross-border customs services, to investing in projects which will provide roads, the internet, and infrastructure or training the next generation of business leaders, mathematicians and scientists, we can spend aid in a catalytic way to unleash the dynamism of African economies, kickstarting growth and development and ultimately helping Africa move off aid altogether."

Enterprise and trade will be the way to unleash economic growth: "This is what has lifted hundreds of thousands out of poverty in Brazil, China and Indonesia, and it can do the same here in Africa. So it's right that we give the poorest countries the most open access to European markets. And it's right to work for a world trade deal that helps countries develop. But more changes are needed - both here and around the world. Change here because at the moment, just twelve per cent of African trade is with other African nations. In Europe, it’s over two-thirds. Imagine the prize if Africa increased its trade in this way. "

An "African Free Trade Area" should be created: "An African Free Trade Area could increase GDP across the continent by as much as $62 billion a year. That’s nearly $20 billion more than the world gives Sub-Saharan Africa in aid."

Britain's needs to trade more with Africa: "Today, Britain accounts for less than four percent of Africa’s exports. That’s almost three times less than China – and one of the reasons I’m here is to make sure we catch up. It’s why I’ve brought a plane full of business leaders. And it's why we want to do more to extend loan guarantees and trade finance to British companies that are looking to do business in Africa. Because we see Africa in a new way, a different way. Yes, a place to invest our aid.  But above all a place to trade."

Long-term political reform must take place: "That means recognising that one of the best guarantees of economic progress is to put in place the building blocks of democracy, the rule of law, property rights, legal redress, an independent judiciary and more open transparent and accountable government. Here in Nigeria you are putting in place some of these building blocks, from a lively and open media and an active civil society to the recent elections which were widely regarded as the most free and fair in your country’s history. "

Aid sceptics must be proven wrong: "They see us make painful cuts to budgets at home and wonder why we are increasing our spending abroad. And they look at where some of our aid money has gone in recent years, on the wrong priorities and into the wrong hands, and think: this is all being wasted. They have a point – some of our money has been wasted. But that’s not an argument to stop aid – it’s an argument to change the way aid is delivered. And that’s what we’re doing." 

Transparency in aid is being introduced: "We’re introducing real transparency and accountability into how aid money is spent. For the first time ever, we are making sure everyone who receives British aid, both NGOs and ultimately governments themselves, must be fully transparent about how they are spending our money. This means people all over the world can see exactly where the money goes, and can hold governments, NGOs and yes, British Ministers, to account."

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