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The Interview


telecommunications too – you know, across the spectrum.


“Our challenge


is to wave goodbye to the donor community – I mean, that’s what we want.”


who are saying, well look we can actually do things differently – and that’s got to be good.


You have mentioned a shift away from aid, which is what you’re trying to achieve in the three countries especially. It’s been argued that aid takes away account- ability – that the ruling classes are less accountable to their people because they are less dependent on their people. What’s your view? I think where aid meets a specific problem, for example, healthcare or HIV/Aids and so on, and where aid is helping support a government programme like, say, support for smallholders in agriculture, then aid plays a really useful role. I do think though that there are two problems that we have got to be honest about with aid. Te first is that it can become a very bu-


reaucratic interaction between government and donor community, which sometimes doesn’t always mean that the donor com- munity is meeting the objectives of the government, [or] that the government is meeting the objectives of the donor com- munity. So that’s one issue. And the second issue is that it’s a bit like


being on welfare in the West. Te welfare system is necessary, but your objective is to get independence. Tat’s why I always say that a country may be dependent on aid for a moment but for sure, the objective – never mind the objective of the donor community – is to get on its own feet. Tat is why the private sector is so important be- cause in the end that will generate income and as people become more prosperous, then they are going to be paying taxes and then the state is not going to be dependent on foreign aid in the same way.


40 | March 2011 New African


Following recent revelations by Wiki- Leaks, we’ve seen that with certain, if we might say so, darlings of the West in Africa, the ruling elite have misappropri- ated or been involved in certain dealings which they should not be in their posi- tion. Will your association be involved in building stronger institutions within those countries? You are not going to get corruption out of the system either easily or within a short time-span but there is a way of building strong institutions and those strong insti- tutions can start to carry the country to a different level of doing things. Te point about corruption is very simple – it’s not just that it’s wrong, it’s also the least ef- ficient way of running a country because what happens is that decisions get taken on the wrong basis. So if you’ve got two potential partners,


say in inward investment, and you give the deal on a corrupt basis, you’re going to be getting a worse investment, that’s for sure. What I always say to people is that, if you create a bigger cake everyone can get a fair share and do it in a fair way. Te trouble with corruption is it creates a little cake and everyone fights over it. It’s a kind of obvious thing to say that


corruption is wrong, but what is some- times less obvious is that corruption also stunts the growth of a country. So with AGI, one of the things that we


do is always try to bring in high quality investment. Te great thing about Af- rica today is that for the first time you are getting a broad spectrum of western com- panies who would come and invest in Africa on proper and transparent terms and that’s not just in agriculture and resources, but in financial services and


You support Liberia and President Johnson -Sirleaf as one of the success stories. Would you say the future of Africa prob- ably belongs in the hands of women like this? Yes, she’s a fabulous leader obviously but the point about Africa is that we need to develop the full potential of women and that is not just about what they do socially, but what they do economically. And, you know, my wife actually has a project which is about women’s empowerment in relation to business and it’s really important. One lesson of the world today is that technol- ogy and capital are mobile but the great advantage you have is in human capital. Any system or society that doesn’t develop its total human capital, which includes the female as well as the male population, is just squandering its future. So the case for this is absolutely over-


whelming and I think it’s great Johnson- Sirleaf is the first female president in Africa. Yes, let’s have many more great Johnson-Sirleafs, that’s what I say.


While you were Prime Minister there were two big African issues, among many that you dealt with, one was Sierra Leone, the other one which is still bubbling away is Zimbabwe. Have you got any regrets or would you have done things differ- ently with regards to the situation in Zimbabwe? Te trouble with Zimbabwe is [pauses], I mean, did we want change? Yes. Do we still want change? Yes. Can we as Britain bring it about? No. I’m afraid in the end that the solution to that will come from within Zimbabwe. One of the myths that [President Robert] Mugabe used was this thing that we wouldn’t provide money for land reform. I set aside the amount of money they needed for land reform, but one important thing was that the money had to go through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and not through his govern- ment machine, because if it went through his government machine it wasn’t going to be used for the purposes for which it was directed. Terefore, that was the issue; not that we wouldn’t fund the land reform, we were happy to do that. And still are, by the way!


Ê PHOTO:Ê JASONÊ VENKATASAMY


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