Lynne Featherstone: Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards

Speech by the International Development minister Lynne Featherstone at the 10th Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Lynne Featherstone

Good evening.

I’d like to start by thanking Diageo for inviting me to speak at the 10th Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards.

I would also like to congratulate Diageo for recognising the vital link between media reporting and investment and for having the foresight, almost a decade ago, to start these awards.

As Paul Walsh mentioned, this awards ceremony has been taking place since 2004, during which time it has grown in size and prominence.

This demonstrates the growing appetite to report on Africa and provide businesses with the information they need to make informed investment decisions on the continent.

And it is not only this awards ceremony that has grown since 2004, but so too have African economies. I know it won’t be news to any of you here that Africa is booming.

Since 2004, Foreign Direct Investment to Africa has tripled; a clear sign that investor confidence in Africa has increased.

There are still major challenges to overcome, but the story is changing for the better. At long last the global perception of Africa as a continent beset by crises and a place too risky for investment is being replaced by an era of “Afro-enthusiasm”.

And the media is a crucial driver of this change.

During my recent visit to Nigeria I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the important work of journalists and reporters. In Nigeria I spoke on Freedom Radio, an independent media house in Kano which reports on current affairs and monitors human rights abuses.

UK aid supports Freedom Radio through the ENABLE programme. ENABLE works with businesses and the media to improve the environment for business advocacy in Nigeria. It was a real privilege to meet the individuals involved and to see the real changes that media reporting can make.

Therefore I am delighted to be here today to acknowledge the central role the media has played – and continues to play – in promoting Africa’s success and encouraging the business activity that Africa needs to continue on the path towards sustainable development.

What I’d like to talk about today is what the UK government is doing to make it easier for businesses to invest in Africa, and the important role of the media in promoting and reporting on progress.

The agenda the Prime Minister set for this year’s UK G8 presidency is about boosting economic growth through the development of open economies, open governments and open societies; the kind of environment in which businesses and media organisations thrive.

A month ago, G8 leaders met at Lough Erne, to discuss the ways in which the G8 can support this agenda by advancing trade, ensuring fairer taxes and promoting greater transparency.

The focus was on what the G8 can do in partnership with developing countries, business and civil society to make progress on these global issues. And in doing so, help developing countries to establish a thriving private sector, create jobs and raise the revenues required to control their own futures.

One of the factors behind Africa’s recent growth is the continent’s natural resource wealth, including oil, gas, minerals and land. According to 1 estimate, the extractives industries account for around one third of African growth in the past decade.

Yet despite Africa’s resource riches, Africa’s growth to date has been largely jobless, which means that millions are being left behind. In fact, 12 of the 25 countries with the highest mortality rates are resource-rich African countries; countries that should be rich enough not to need aid.

The truth is that having a wealth of resources doesn’t lead to less poverty unless the revenues they generate are captured by governments and invested in services that help everyone.

Likewise, investments in land don’t benefit communities or businesses in developing countries if they lead to disputes because poor people lose the land they have worked on for years.

Part of the solution to these problems lies in promoting greater transparency around how natural resources are managed and used. And that’s what our G8 agenda seeks to do.

Greater transparency is in everyone’s interests. It enables citizens to see how much their government receives from selling the resources that rightfully belong to them, and to have a say in how that money is spent.

But what did putting transparency on the G8 agenda achieve?

Ahead of the G8 Summit, the G8 and developing countries agreed to work together with business and civil society on fifteen partnerships. These partnerships will help improve transparency around the use of land and extractives. They will also help developing countries build the skills they need to manage their resources well.

At the Summit itself, the G8 committed to taking action to raise global standards for extractives transparency. Each G8 country committed to taking specific action – for example, the UK pledged to implement the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the official UK EITI launch took place last week. Working hand in hand with business on this agenda will be critical to making progress.

The media and civil society also have a key role to play in using the data that is published to inform citizens and hold governments and companies to account for how natural resources are used.

The UK government is helping journalists acquire the skills they need in order to do just this. For example, in Ghana we are supporting training to help journalists play a joint watchdog role over the country’s oil and gas revenues.

Equally important is ensuring that developing countries have the capacity to collect, manage and increase their tax revenues. And that African countries increase trade of their goods and services, not only internationally, but particularly with each other.

So it was crucial that at the G8 this year, G8 leaders and the international business community committed to continue to help build the capacity of tax authorities in developing countries, and to support African efforts to double intra-African trade and halve the time it takes to cross key border posts by 2022.

In particular, the international and African business community has announced it will step up its participation in public-private dialogues with African governments to resolve barriers to trade.

Diageo, I know, is at the forefront of this agenda with their work on tax harmonisation in East Africa.

The DFID–funded programme, Trade Mark East Africa, is also working hard to promote regional trade. For example, one scheme in Uganda allows pre-approved companies to travel through the Ugandan border all the way to the importer’s premises without being stopped anywhere for customs checks.

Jennifer Mwijukye, whose cargo company is part of the scheme, can now clear merchandise and pay taxes electronically, which will save her over $30,000 a year.

I firmly believe, as the Prime Minister does, that the agenda we set for the G8 this year is both pro-business and pro-development. It will help the developed and developing worlds to grow together.

But it cannot be delivered by governments alone.

And so we look forward to the continued engagement of business, civil society and journalists as we turn our attention to implementing the commitments that were made at this year’s G8 Summit.

You never know – reporting on the progress we make and holding us to account on our commitments might even win you a future Diageo award!

I’d like to finish by congratulating all of this year’s finalists (I understand the competition was tough!) and commend all of you for the good work you are doing.

Enjoy the rest of your evening and best of luck to all nominees.

Published 17 July 2013