PM's speech on aid, trade and democracy

Prime Minister David Cameron has delivered a speech on aid, trade and democracy in Lagos, Nigeria.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon David Cameron

Today the eyes of the world are on another part of this continent. 

In Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia we are now seeing the most catastrophic situation in a generation.

Tens of thousands of Africans may already have died, many of them children under five.

It is right that this seizes our attention and that we respond to this immense suffering urgently.

Britain has taken rapid action.  We are now delivering an extra £52m package of aid.

And we urge all those considering their own response to act decisively and urgently.

But today I’ve come here to Lagos…

…because there’s another story unfolding on this continent…

…something that many in the West are only just waking up to.

Tell me this: which part of the world has seen its number of democracies increase nearly eight-fold in just two decades?

Eastern Europe? No, it’s Africa.

Which continent has six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world?

Asia? No, it’s Africa.
Which country is predicted by some to have the highest average GDP growth in the world over the next 40 years?

You might think Brazil, Russia, India or China.

No. Think Africa. Think Nigeria.

The point I want to make today, is this:

This can be Africa’s moment.

Africa is transforming in a way no-one thought possible 20 years ago…

…and suddenly a whole new future seems within reach.

I have known for a long time about the tremendous energy and ingenuity of the Nigerian people.

From the civil activism of the churches of South London…

…to the contribution of Nigerians to British business, law, medicine, sport and music…

…I have seen the passion and enterprise of Nigerians changing my country for the better.

But what I have seen in London I have seen a hundred-fold here today.

From Eko Atlantic and Balogun Street Market to the biggest port in the most populous country in Africa…

…you are transforming your city.

And your fellow Africans are doing the same all over the continent.

Today there are unprecedented opportunities to trade and grow, raise living standards and lift billions from poverty.

So I urge you: seize these opportunities, grab them, shape them.

Aid, trade, democracy

Today, I want to talk about how, together, we make the most of the opportunities available and really make this the African moment.

The way I see it, there are three things we need to do.

First, we in the West must not just deliver on our aid commitments, but make sure that aid is used in the right way.

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.
So if we want Africa to climb the ladder of prosperity, we have to take urgent action to save lives.

That’s why we are taking action to provide for the starving in the Horn of Africa.

And it’s why Britain will keep its promises to the poorest in the world, increasing spending to 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income from 2013.

I believe that says something about Britain and its people. And it is something we are right to stand up for in the world.

But just as we would fail those Africans facing drought, poverty and conflict if we ignore their plight. 

So too would we fail them if we ignore the dramatic change underway in Africa, and the potential it has to root out these problems forever.

So yes, we must focus on measurable action to save lives, like immunisation.

And yes must focus on preventing conflicts and mending broken states.

But we must also use aid 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.

So getting aid right - that’s the first thing we have to do.

The second thing we must do is together unleash economic growth through private enterprise and trade.

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 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.

And we need change in Britain too, because, frankly, we’re just not doing enough to pursue the possibilities of trading with you

Right now, Britain is in danger of missing out on one of the greatest economic opportunities on the planet.

And we cannot let that happen.

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.

The third thing that must happen is long-term political reform.

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.

For much of this year the eyes of the world have been to the north with the momentous events of the Arab Spring.

But this is a time for the whole of Africa to meet the aspirations of its people.

A time when aid, trade and democracy can come together…

…to offer a new future for Africa and its people.

Proving the sceptics wrong

Aid, trade, democracy.

These are the three things we need.

These are the ways Africa will meet its moment of opportunity.

But progress won’t come automatically.

We have to live up to the moment.

We have to work for change - and let me tell you why.

It’s because there are doubters out there who will say these things aren’t possible.

There are the aid sceptics who say aid is just wasted - so there’s no point.

There are the trade sceptics who say trade can only ever be exploitative.

And there are the democracy sceptics who say political reform in Africa will not and cannot happen.

These sceptics have powerful arguments.

But if they win, Africa will lose.

So we have to take them on and prove them wrong. 

Let me take each in turn.


Let’s start with the aid-sceptics.

I’ll be honest with you.

There are some people back at home who don’t like Britain’s aid commitment.

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.

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.

When money isn’t reaching the people who need it - we need to stop it.

That’s why we’ve cut the money we give to Malawi’s government because we can not trust those in power to spend the money well.

We’re also going to increase our use of direct aid transfers.

Today, mobile banking systems mean we can cut out middlemen and make a direct impact on the lives of small farmers who can produce more food, feed their families, sell more food at the market and in turn buy more seed.

Real aid should move people from dependence to independence.

And without being hard-hearted, we will also be hard-headed, and make sure our aid money is directed at those things which are quantifiable and measureable…

…so we really know we are getting results.

That’s why, for example, last month the UK announced £814 million of new funding for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation.

It’s not just because, in the 21st century, no child should die from a die from a disease that is preventable.
It’s also because when our money is spent, and the medicines are delivered, we know we will have vaccinated over 80 million children and saved 1.4 million lives.

That quantifiable, measurable outcome shows people back in Britain the true value of our aid commitment.

There is another point to make to the aid sceptics: when states are broken, conflicts rife, it’s not just the people of those countries that suffer - we suffer back at home from a surge in illegal immigration, asylum seeking and even terrorism.

That’s why by 2015 we’ll be putting nearly a third of all our aid into conflict states.

So the aid-sceptics are wrong.

Aid is essential.

It can work - and we’re making it work.


What about the trade sceptics?

They argue that trade makes Africans poorer as their resources are exploited by foreigners.

They seem to think that trade has to be some sort of zero sum game.

They talk about it quite literally as if one country’s success is another country’s failure.

The whole point about trade is that everyone can benefit from it.

So I’m proud that British firms are among those showing that trade can lead to huge advances for Africa.

Companies like Unilever, Diageo, Waitrose, GSK and Vodafone.

Creating millions of jobs all over Africa and all along the supply chain.

Adding both economic and social value.

For example, Unilever selling margarine with added vitamins to address vitamin deficiency, and special washing powder to avoid polluting the rivers.

In many African countries, GSK reinvest a fifth of their profits back into the country where they work, helping to build healthcare infrastructure and deliver primary healthcare to hard to reach communities.

Coca-Cola working with TechnoServe, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to enable over 50,000 mango and passion fruit farmers to participate in the Company’s supply chain for the first time, aiming to double their incomes by 2014.

And some of the markets being developed aren’t just creating jobs, they are revolutionising African business too.

Not just big busineses - small ones too.

Just look at the incredible array of African technology entrepreneurs showcased in this month’s edition of Wired Magazine, who are creating jobs and wealth across the continent.

Look at the development of the mobile phone.

Fifteen years ago a trader in Kano market would have no way of communicating directly with an importer at the docks in Lagos.

There was no reliable phone connection, no reliable railway, the journey by road was too far and plane too expensive.

So he would need middlemen adding layer upon layer of cost.

Today all it takes is a few calls to get the best deal.

But of course, when it comes to trade, we must always guard against exploitation - we must make sure it is fair as well as free.

It is not enough to import labour, extract Africa’s resources and move on.

It’s vital that when foreign companies invest in a country, the benefits of that investment reach the African people, so they can become less reliant on aid.

And I believe, with a new generation of political and business leaders not just in Africa but around the world, we have a real opportunity to make that happen.

In March this year Nigeria secured the global standard for transparency in oil, gas and mining.

It means companies publish what they pay and governments publish what they receive.

And this is a vital step in making the oil, gas and mining sectors accountable and transparent and ensuring that Nigerians secure the full benefit of their mineral wealth.

Because mineral wealth should be a blessing, not a curse.

Alongside this the US has gone a step further, introducing legally binding measures to require oil, gas and mining companies to publish key financial information for each country and project they work on.

And I’m calling on Europe to do the same.
We want to disclose the payments our companies make to your governments so you can hold your governments to account for the money they receive.

And when we find corruption robbing the people of their rights, we need to act.

That’s why we’ve brought in a new Bribery Act to put beyond doubt that bribery is unacceptable while not imposing unnecessary cost and uncertainty on legitimate business and trade.

And it’s why we are making sure that complaints about the activities of British citizens and British companies are investigated.

So I say to the trade sceptics, yes we have to do trade right…

…but if we do, trade has the power to transform lives in African like nothing before it.


Finally there are the sceptics of political reform.
Their argument is two-fold.
One: Africa doesn’t need democracy.

Countries like China and Russia point to a different route to prosperity, where free and open markets are combined with closed political systems.

And two: even if it did need democracy, Africa couldn’t do it anyway.

Both these views are wrong.
I believe the model of authoritarian capitalism we are seeing will fall short in the long term.

When people get economically richer they make legitimate demands for political freedoms to match their economic freedoms.

This model is unable to respond.

Neither can it offer the confidence and stability needed for investment.

If you are going to set up in business, you need to know that you can go to a court confident that a contract will be enforced objectively - including against the government.

And you need to know that your assets won’t suddenly be seized by the government. 

Free societies can provide this stability and confidence.

And - I would argue - they are naturally more creative and innovative too.

So I passionately believe in liberal democracy…

…and I believe Africa can do it too.

Let me be clear: this isn’t about imposing Western beliefs on Africa or neo-colonialism.

I’m from the generation free of this shadow.

I wasn’t even born when Harold MacMillan made his winds of change speech.

And I’ll be the first to say, we have our own work to do keeping democracy strong back at home.

This is about what will work for Africa - and what we are seeing work.

Look here in Nigeria at the elections for President Goodluck Jonathan.

Look at Ghana, flourishing since it moved from military leadership to democracy, with 14 per cent growth this year. 

Look at the Ivory Coast. When Laurent Gbagbo tried to overturn an election result, ordinary Ivorians and the African and international community as a whole refused to allow him to make the Ivory Coast his own personal fiefdom.

Look at the National Transitional Council in Libya who believe in democracy and a country free from tribalism and extremism.
And just this month we have seen a new nation, South Sudan, born from a broadly peaceful referendum that few believed could happen.

Of course there are challenges in Africa’s politics.
But it is up to all of us to live up to this moment of promise, and overcome these doubts.

African leaders must serve their people.

They must overcome factional conflicts.

They must insist on the effective, meritocratic and transparent public institutions which enable people to flourish.

Here in Lagos Governor Fashola has shown what strong and accountable governance can achieve.

To people like Governor Fashola, President Goodluck Jonathan, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Ian Khama and John Atta Mills falls the task of leading the charge in creating stronger governance.

But the most important task falls to you, the African people.

The future of Africa is yours to determine.
The responsibility is for you to stand up and hold your governments to account.

Across Africa we can already see the powerful things that happen when the African people rise up and decide to shape their own future.
From tackling election abuse in Zimbabwe to the political violence in Kenya, it’s not just about donors, governments, NGOS and the private sector.
  It’s about you.

What you do.


So let me end by saying something to you, the African people.

You can hold your government to account.
You can insist on a bigger say in how your country is run.

You can stand up and say, in this generation my child should be vaccinated and go to school.

And you can demand more participation in the economy - or simply a job. 

These are the demands the people have made in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

These are the demands that have propelled the Arab Spring.

And these are the demands, which supported by a revolution in trade and enterprise mean Africa can seize its own moment of opportunity.

At stake is quite simply the chance to change millions of lives across the continent.

The future of Africa is yours.

But you have to seize it.

Published 19 July 2011