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Africa

Volume 294: debated on Wednesday 21 May 1997

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7.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what are her priorities in respect of Africa. [316]

I aim to work in partnership with African Governments—what we need is not donor countries telling other countries what to do, but partnerships—and with international institutions on strategies to eliminate poverty through sustainable economic and social development. That will be underpinned through support for good governance and human rights. Priority will be given to programmes which help the poorest people in Africa. As I have said, we intend to outline our strategy in the promised White Paper.

I add my voice to those welcoming my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to her post and wish her well in that work. She will bring a refreshing change to it.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the resolution of the conflict in southern Africa is a considerable priority and that it is important to support the efforts of the South African Government and, in particular, President Mandela in his current efforts to bring peace and to resolve that conflict? In so doing, we shall lift out of poverty many of the millions of people who have had conflict heaped on them in circumstances of dire poverty, leading to a worsening of the situation almost beyond human comprehension.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: poverty often leads to war, which just worsens the cycle. Africa has suffered gravely, but there are grounds for optimism. The absolute decline in its economy has been turned around. Governments such as Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia and Eritrea are doing well. The change of regime in the Congo could be an enormous opportunity for progress. That would also help to resolve the situation in Angola. There is now a real opportunity for Africa, and we must work in partnership with those Governments to make progress.

I warmly welcome the right hon. Lady to her post. Although there can be optimism at recent developments in Africa, does she agree that one of the major priorities should be a move towards better government among some of the countries to which we give aid? Will she assure the House that she will use the ability as a donor Government to insist on better practice by many Governments in Africa, linked to aid?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The needy people of Africa need good governance so that there can be partnerships with developed countries and real progress can be made. We shall use all our influence to try to achieve that aim. The beauty now is that Africa has its own examples of good governance and success, such as Uganda and Ghana, which means that there is the chance of a home-grown African model spreading to others. So yes—we shall do that and there are real opportunities now.