The British Prime Minister Tony Blair has established a new Commission for Africa comprising 17 internationally known figures who will report to the Group of Eight summit of industrialised nations in July next year in a fresh bid for change.“There is a sense of desolation about Africa. I have said on many occasions that I believe Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world and I think it is right that we continue to treat this as an absolute priority over the coming years,” said Mr. Blair. “This is why the commission has to be a powerful agitator for change.”
Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, has been invited to be a member of the new commission, along with world leaders like President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, and the former rock star, Sir Bob Geldof, who was behind the 1985 Live Aid concert for Africa.
In her opening statement at the inaugural meeting held at 10 Downing Street on 4th May 2004, Mrs. Tibaijuka thanked Prime Minister Blair for the privilege and honour of serving on the Commission."I look forward to working with the commissioners on finding ways for Africans themselves to overcome the problems within our continent," said Mrs. Tibaijuka. "At the same time, I hope that the commission will find ways for the international community to overcome the financial and structural constraints holding back development in Africa."
Mr. Blair launched the Commission for Africa to generate increased support for the G8 Africa Action plan, during next year’s British Presidency of the G8 Group of industrialised nations. The aim of the commission is to build on the current efforts and processes contributing to poverty reduction in Africa such as the New African Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). The commission also hopes that its report will be an important contribution to the assessment of the Millennium Development Goals which is to be held by the United Nations in the autumn of 2005.
“This commission will give us the opportunity to review what has worked and not worked, with a view to coming up with better alternatives. It is a commission composed of Africans and non-Africans and therefore it is better placed to come up with a package that takes into consideration views of all the partners of development in Africa,” said Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia.
Sir Bob Geldof admitted to a sense of initiative fatigue over Africa and felt that it was time to stop piecemeal efforts and to concentrate on a more comprehensive strategy that would break with tradition and offer hope to the people of the continent. He thought it was particularly auspicious that the commission was being launched on the 20th Anniversary of Live Aid and the 25th Anniversary of the Brandt Commission for Africa.
Mr. Gordon Brown, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, hoped its recommendations would influence G8 decisions next year. In particular, he hoped that there would be progress on debt relief and on establishing a new International Financial Facility which has yet to win support of key industrialised countries.
As part of the launch of the Commission, Mrs. Tibaijuka participated in a Chatham House debate which was chaired by the TV presenter Jonathan Dimbleby.
The commissioners are: Mr. Fola Adeola who is chairman of FATE Foundation in Nigeria; Mr. K.Y. Amoako, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa; former US Senator Nancy Ladon Kassebaum Baker who previously chaired the US Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs; Mr. Hilary Benn, the British Secretary of State for International Development; Mr. Blair; Mr Brown; Mr. Michele Camdessus, President Jacques Chirac’s Personal Representative on Africa and former Chairman of the IMF; Sir Bob Geldof; Canadian Finance Minister Mr. Ralph Goodale; Dr. William Kalema, Chairman of the Uganda Manufacturers Association and Chairman of the Board of the Uganda Investment Authority; Mr. Manuel; Prime Minister Meles; President Mkapa; Ms. Linah Mohonlo, Governor of the Bank of Botswana; Mrs. Tibaijuka, and Mr. Tidjane Thaim, Group Strategy and Development Director of AVIVA in Cote D’Ivoire.