Chris Mullin – 2004 Speech on Africa

Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Mullin, the then Foreign Office Minister, in New York, USA, on 4th February 2004.

There are a number of reasons why Africa should matter to us. The first, of course, is moral. The war, famine, disease and unspeakable barbarity that have haunted that tragic Continent for much of the twentieth century are simply unacceptable in a civilised world. Some years ago Prime Minister Blair described the condition of Africa as ‘a scar on the conscience of mankind’. And so it is.

There are also, however, sound practical reasons why we cannot afford to ignore the state of Africa. The most immediate of these is terrorism. It is a little known fact that there have been more Al Qaeda attacks in Africa than anywhere else in the world. The fact that in parts of Africa such as Somalia entire societies have imploded makes them a ready breeding ground for terrorism.

It is also not widely realised that there are more Muslims south of the Sahara than in the Middle East, most of them, fortunately, are moderates. If we want them to stay that way, we cannot neglect Africa.

Africa also has oil and gas resources to rival those of the Middle East. We need to work together with Africa to make sure Africans benefit from this resource. This is an important strand of efforts to bring prosperity to the region.

Then there is HIV/AIDS. Of estimated 42 million people living with AIDS about three-quarters are in Africa and the rate of increase is steeper in Africa than anywhere else. Globalisation and travel means that AIDS is exported ever more easily. The USA and Europe are not immune.

These then are sound practical reasons why we should be interested in Africa, but as I said at the outset the primary reason – for decent people of all political persuasions – is moral.


The good news is that for a variety of reasons, some man-made, some fortuitous, a window of opportunity now exists that will enable us – if we demonstrate the necessary political will – to make a difference. To coin a phrase, a wind of change is blowing. A series of venal dictatorships is giving way to elected governments; countries like South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Uganda and even Nigeria, now have governments that care about their people. This year we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the end of Apartheid in South Africa. Who, ten years ago, would have dared predict that the transition to majority rule could have been achieved without a bloodbath? What has happened in South Africa is a great achievement and ought to serve as an inspiration for the rest of the Continent.

Elsewhere – in Angola, the Congo, Sudan – civil wars which have wracked those countries for decades and generated slaughter and barbarity on an unimaginable scale – appear to be coming to an end.

There is also a growing recognition among African leaders that they, too, have a part to play in resolving their Continent’s problems. Witness the South African-led peacekeeping forces in the Congo and Burundi. Witness the role Nigeria and Ghana are playing in helping to resolve the West African conflicts. Witness, also, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in which Africans are taking the lead in spreading sound economic management, democracy and good governance.

So, there is a sound basis for partnership between the G8 and Africa. The United States and Great Britain share common priorities in Africa. Last November in London President Bush and Prime Minister Blair re-affirmed their commitment to Africa. They agreed to strengthen co-operation in a number of key areas and provide support through the G8 Africa Action Plan. Both our countries have key roles to play in our respective G8 Presidencies this year and next to take forward those commitments. Today I want to set our how Britain and the US, together with our other partners, can work together in support of Africa.


With leadership from President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, the G8 responded to NEPAD over two years ago by agreeing a series of commitments under the G8 Africa Action Plan. These included increasing and improving development assistance, tackling debt, liberalising world trade and helping developing economies and developing a new partnership with Africa.

One of the main objectives of the Plan was also to define a new way of working with Africa as well as addressing the main constraints on Africa’s development. The G8/Africa partnership is based on the principle of mutual accountability – that if Africa is to make progress, both the G8 and African governments must live up to their commitments. This represents a fundamental shift in the development relationship between the international community and Africa. It is not a case of quid pro quo, it is a partnership based on the need for both sides to make progress. In the G8, we must live up to our commitments to increase the volume and effectiveness of aid, and improve the coherence of policies – such as on trade – with international development goals.

The partnership between the G8 and Africa has galvanised efforts on both sides to deliver. It also keeps Africa on the agenda. It provides a regular opportunity for leaders from African and major industrialised countries to sustain political efforts and attention needed for change. The fact that President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and other G8 leaders sat down at last year’s G8 Summit with President Mbeki, President Obasanjo and other African leaders was important in itself.

But the principle value of the G8 lies in its ability to give high level political attention to issues where political weight is essential to progress. It is important that we, in the G8, focus our efforts where they will have most impact. A concerted effort by G8 and African leaders to tackle key issues including conflict, HIV, trade and education is essential if we are to get on track for the Millennium Development Goals. With our support, the G8 engagement with Africa has recently broadened to an extended Africa Partners Forum, which includes 19 African countries. It is important that the Forum maintains the high level political engagement that African Heads of government have emphasised as being key to G8 engagement with Africa. We do not see the Forum as a channel for deciding or bidding on sector projects. The Forum has a strategic role to play, one which should put a political spotlight on issues.

Our objectives for the Forum are for a frank and open dialogue which will maintain high level political commitment; review priorities; promote coordination and policy coherence; and track progress against commitments made on both sides.


Underlying everything we do in Africa is our belief in a relationship with African countries as equal partners. We expect issues affecting Africa to remain on the G8 agenda this year, under the US Presidency. The Prime Minister is committed to making Africa a key part of the UK’s 2005 G8 Presidency. We have made a bilateral commitment to £ 1 billion a year in development assistance to Africa by 2005, an increase of over 50% in the last three years alone. The funds will be used in the countries that need them the most – the poorest. We will focus development assistance on the areas that can best reduce poverty – health, education, and building accountable and effective governments.


I would like to highlight next some areas where I think the international community and African partners need to continue to focus their efforts:


Progress in Africa, and improvement in the lives of its people, has been undermined or destroyed by conflict and insecurity. Scarce resources needed to fight poverty have been wasted. Conflicts in one country have fuelled insecurity and instability in its neighbours. In all, some 200 million people in Sub Saharan Africa have been affected by conflict.

I therefore see peace and security, and tackling the underlying causes of conflict, as top priorities. We must support African efforts to resolve armed conflicts. We need to provide assistance so that African countries and regional and sub-regional organisation are able to engage more effectively to prevent and resolve violent conflicts and to undertake peace support operations.

The new African Union peace and security architecture presents an opportunity for us to engage. The AU is now leading the first African mission in Burundi with Ethiopian, South African and Mozambican troops to which the UK has contributed nearly £4 million. And the AU is developing a plan for an African standby peacekeeping force. We are seeking to support this through the implementation of the joint Africa/G8 plan to enhance African peace and security capabilities in close collaboration particularly with the African Union, ECOWAS, the US, France, Germany and Canada. A peace plan for training and operational support has been developed and agreed between the G8 and African countries.

Our engagement in Sierra Leone is an example of where Britain, working alongside others, can make a difference in Africa. By deploying UK forces, creating a more effective and accountable Sierra Leonean army, and helping to tackle the root causes of the conflict, we have played a part in bringing peace to Sierra Leone. But this would have been nothing without the UN, ECOWAS and Government of Sierra Leone’s commitment to make it work. Much remains to be done, but we have demonstrated that the international community can work together to bring an end to seemingly impossible conflicts.

The support of the international community has been vital in helping to resolve the conflicts in the Great Lakes region – Africa’s equivalent of the first world war in which millions died. We are doing all we can to ensure that peace is established in that region – a region the size of Europe.

In Liberia the partnership between the US and ECOWAS has bought tentative peace to a country ravaged by years of conflict. While the numbers of US troops deployed were small, their effect was great; an example of the importance of international engagement in African conflict resolution. We welcome the leadership role the US has taken in Liberia.

In Southern Sudan, for the first time in more than a generation, there is a prospect of peace. A chance to end Africa’s longest-running civil war in Africa’s largest country. After decades of conflict, the challenges are enormous. Former combatants, amongst them child soldiers, need to be persuaded to give up their weapons and helped to return and re-settle into their communities. The displaced people will want help returning home and rebuilding their lives. Schools and hospitals must be built. And the foundations for democracy have to be laid to give a voice to those who have been marginalised for so long. And of course an international peace-support operation will have to be set up to monitor the peace. The UN is already making plans, but the support of the international community in all these areas will be crucial if peace is to hold.


Terrorism. Africa has a track record of serious terrorism including the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2002 Kenya hotel bombing and attempted shooting down of a holiday jet carrying Israeli passengers. The failed state of Somalia, and undoubtedly other weak states in Africa, present terrorists with space in which to plan and export attacks. These are not anomalous incidents but symptoms of a problem in Africa which poses a serious, direct and continuing security threat to us, and poses a fundamental threat to Africa itself.

We are of course pursuing terrorists in Africa in collaboration with our partners there, and are doing so with great vigour. But that is only part of the solution. Irrespective of operational success, the factors which sustain and feed terrorist networks and activity also need tackling. These factors stem from a complex relationship between geography, institutional weakness, corruption, poor borders, economic and social issues, radicalisation and alienation, and simple opportunity. So to that extent the problems of terrorism are inextricably connected to Africa’s other problems, and the solutions are likewise interconnected. And we cannot wish the problem away: on the contrary the signs are that, if unchecked, the terrorist problem in Africa could grow.


The current trade system doesn’t work for Africa. Africa’s share of world trade is declining. In 2002 it produced only 2% of global exports compared to 6% in 1980. We need to reverse this trend and facilitate Africa’s integration into the global economy by making our markets more accessible to African exports.

We therefore welcome the moves here to extend the coverage and duration of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act to 2015 which has opened up new markets for African exports in the US. In Lesotho for instance, the Act has attracted significant foreign direct investment and increased garment exports to the US by an average of 24% a year, creating almost 30,000 new jobs.

The UK Government is determined to do all it can, working with the US and other international partners, to get the Doha Development Round back on track and deliver real benefits for African countries and their poorest citizens.

We should pay special attention to critical areas such as agricultural market access and reducing trade distorting subsidies particularly for key commodities for Africa such as cotton.


Supporting African partners to fight HIV/AIDS is a high priority for both the US and the UK. Indeed we are the two largest bilateral donors of HIV/AIDS assistance. Both our countries have substantial bilateral country-based programmes and are major contributors to a number of relevant global initiatives, including the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and malaria.

Last November when they met in London, President Bush and my Prime Minister agreed to enhance our collaboration on the ground in five African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia) in order to better support their national HIV/AIDS plans.

This enhanced collaboration, when harnessed to the efforts of all other contributors, should help improve overall donor harmonization, an aim both our governments are keen to pursue. Better coordinated and better funded support is clearly an important means to reach the key international targets of: three million people – two million in Africa – receiving treatment by the end of 2005; 25% fewer young people infected by 2005; and slowing the progress of HIV/AIDS by 2015.


We must work to strengthen governance in African states. Effective institutions, representative democracy and accountable government are essential conditions for growth, development and poverty reduction. African governments are increasingly taking poverty reduction seriously, improving governance, economic and political performance. We are supporting them through our engagement with and support to NEPAD and country owned poverty reduction strategies.

The African Review Mechanism, developing under NEPAD, is a bold commitment, establishing a process for monitoring good governance. We support it as well as the work currently in progress in the OECD to develop a mutual review of donor performance in Africa.


There is an urgent need to increase the quality and quantity of development aid. We are taking a lead role in working with our international partners and with international organisations to do this. Improving aid quality means making sure that donors adopt common practices for the disbursement of aid and that country programmes reflect the recipient’s priorities.

We also need to maintain momentum on meeting our commitments for substantial new development assistance. This includes ensuring that 50% of new commitments go to Sub-Saharan Africa, providing predictable levels of resources to those countries who can best use it.

We are exploring with partners how best to do this, for example, through the UK’s proposal for an International Finance Facility (IFF) which aims to double resources for development assistance up to 2015 by leveraging in additional resources from the private sector. The IMF and World Bank are carrying out detailed work ahead of reports to the Spring and Annual Meetings of the Fund and Bank. We welcome the potential of the US Government’s Millennium Challenge Account to make more resources available for development in Africa. It is important that this initiative succeeds, both in terms of the volume of funding delivered through the mechanism, but also as a new approach to deliver aid. We look forward to seeing the Millennium Challenge Account up and running and to working with it in any way we can.


Africans are increasingly recognising their responsibility to tackle the problems on their Continent. Our role is to help Africa help itself.

The UK is strongly committed to the G8 Africa Action Plan and the Africa partnership. They offer a new framework for long-term, constructive engagement with African people and their leaders to ensure that a stable, democratic and successful Africa takes it rightful place in the global economy.

We look forward to continuing to work with our American friends to realise that goal.