PAUL WILENIUS: Globetrotting. Saving the
world. It's all part of the job for Tony Blair. Leave the Foreign Secretary
Jack Straw back at home. And those nasty domestic troubles. Clock up some
more Blair-miles. The only worry is making sure to take the right outfits.
Tony Blair is about to fly off on another foreign crusade - this time
to Africa. His mission is to bring an end to poverty, war and bad government
in this troubled continent. But his critics warn that if he's to succeed,
it'll take a lot more money and commitment from Britain and the developed
world than they've so far been willing to give.
TONY BLAIR: The state of Africa is a scar
on the conscience of the world. But if the world as a community focused
on it, we could heal it. And if we don't that scar will become deeper and
WILENIUS: So this African adventure
is personal. Almost a journey into the Prime Minister's own heart of darkness.
He says he really wants to make a difference, to what some call the forgotten
continent. But the question is whether or not his brief visit is the beginning
of a long haul.
DR DALEEP MUKARJI: What Blair said at the Labour
party conference was exciting, it was visionary, it had a moral dimension
to it and we were all excited. But he is going to soon realize there is
no quick fixes it is going to take a long time and this is where we hope
that himself and his government working with others are willing to go the
long journey with partners in Africa.
WILENIUS: Since September 11 and
the attacks on the World Trade Center, Tony Blair has carved out a new
role for himself as a world leader. He's been flying all over the globe
as part of the battle against terrorism. He's visited more than twenty
countries in a few months. But he's been attacked for acting as little
more than President George W Bush's cheerleader and for spending too much
TONY BALDRY MP: If I were the Prime Minister I'd
be concerned about criticism of Blair miles and a sense that he seems to
be happier overseas than he is at home.
WILENIUS: Tony Blair is hoping
to escape the criticism during his stay in West Africa. He's expected to
take in Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal. And he's even poised to fly into Sierra
Leone, to visit British forces there. But there are real worries that he
may find it hard to live up to his own grand ambition.
OONA KING MP: I don't think its possible
to underestimate the difficulty of the problems facing Africa when you
look at the levels of corruption and the levels of conflict, the levels
of poverty, the AIDS pandemic, it's you know, those problems are not going
to be solved by one man in one trip.
WILENIUS: Money must be at the
centre of any crusade to help Africa. The continent's poorest nations should
be able to earn more by trade with the developed world. While Britain and
other richer nations are under increasing pressure to give more aid, to
wipe out debt and also help with sustainable development.
The desperate need for more aid is clear in Sub-Saharan Africa, where
almost half of the population, 301 million people, have to live on less
than seventy pence a day. Together with this abject poverty, people in
this part of Africa are dying younger, with life expectancy declining from
fifty years in 1993 to only forty-seven in 1999. One of the main reasons
for this that at least seventeen-million people in the area have died of
AIDS and a further twenty-five million are living with HIV or AIDS.
HON LT GEN MOMPATI MERAFHE: Sometimes the arrogant display of opulence
that you find in the developed world when you try and compare it with the
situation in which in some parts of the world people find themselves, particularly
in some parts of Africa, you just feel that, you know, we live in this
world and some people live elsewhere and that you know there is so much
unequal distribution of wealth.
WILENIUS: Despite Tony Blair's
promises to reduce that inequality, he's hardly leading by example. Britain
has signed up to the United Nations target to give point seven per cent
of its national income in aid to developing countries. But it's still spending
less than half of that amount. And on the government's current plans it'll
take many years to reach that target.
KING: My target would be
reaching point seven per cent of GDP within the lifetime of this parliament
and then within the next parliament were there to be and I obviously hope
there will be a third term of the Labour government, to increase that to
one per cent because post September 11th we've seen that we don't live
in a divided world and we will reap the consequences unless we prevent
some of these huge inequalities.
WILENIUS: Another huge problem
is the sheer scale of the debt crushing many countries. Every day, sub-Saharan
Africa pays out twenty-seven-point-three-million pounds merely to cover
the cost of debt. Ten countries in Africa spend more on debt than on health
and primary education combined.
BARRY COATES: The big promises of, of,
of debt relief haven't been delivered. So that if you take the, the fifty-two
poorest countries in the world that are heavily indebted and you look at
how much debt they have it's about three hundred-and-fifty billion. How
much has actually been written off in terms of, of debt is about twenty
billion out of that three-hundred-and-fifty.
WILENIUS: Gordon Brown and Clare
Short have been leading the efforts to try to cut Africa's debt, but there
are criticisms that this has been undermined by British exports which don't
help sustainable development.
JENNY TONGE MP: We've had a very good example
recently of Gordon Brown relieving the debt last year of Tanzania which
was a very good thing to do, wiped it our completely. Less than a year
later the Department of Trade and Industry sells this air traffic control
system to the same country for twenty-eight million pounds, huge cost,
throws them back into debt again and that amount of money would actually
pay for basic health care for the whole of the population of that country.
Now what is the prime minister doing if he approves something like that?
It is totally hypocritical.
WILENIUS: Indeed trade is at the
heart of the problem. Tony Blair will be banging the drum for British industry
during his trip to West Africa. But there are accusations that Britain
and other rich countries are restricting fairer trade rules which would
give developing countries access to their markets and stop exploitation
by multi-national companies.
DR MUKARJI: It's very important for the
west and the EU countries in particular but also working through the G8
that we open up our markets and we allow a much fairer trade system. Now
this is going to give African leaders and African governments a sense of
dignity and independence because aid alone is not going to make a difference.
WILENIUS: Britain's jet setting
Prime Minister has promised to heal the scars of Africa. But bloody conflicts
and wars, which have claimed the lives of millions, are still raging across
the continent. And so Tony Blair will find it difficult to get rid of those
scars, while the killing and maiming goes on.
Britain played a significant role in bringing to an end the terrible
slaughter caused by this civil war in Sierra Leone. But it's not clear
if Tony Blair is prepared to expand Britain's armed forces to help solve
other conflicts. In Somalia direct American intervention was a disaster,
and on Zimbabwe British policy is failing. And many African leaders are
no longer willing to take lectures from their old colonial masters.
DR MUKARJI: When Tony Blair goes to Africa
he must be prepared to go and listen to the Africans, rather than tell
the Africans what is good and what is bad for them.
BADRY: The idea that the West,
Europe, can simply march in and resolve conflicts for everyone in Africa
I think, you know, the evidence of what happened in Somalia and elsewhere
doesn't bode particularly well for that.
WILENIUS: In the Democratic Republic
of Congo a staggering three million people have lost their lives through
war or famine, with rival African states joining the battle for diamonds,
money and influence. It's left the country in ruins. But rather than tackling
Africa's bloody conflicts the west has been feeding them, sending millions
of pounds worth of military hardware and expertise into the continent every
KING: I think nowhere is
the contradiction more clear in development and trade policy than in the
arm, in the area of arms, and you can see it when British soldiers have
British arms turned against them in wars.
TONGE: We really have got to tighten
up where we sell our arms to, because in the end its not in our interests
even because we have to go and clean up the mess, we have to spend money
on redeveloping a country as we're doing in Afghanistan now. So conflict
prevention before anything starts is a much more sensible policy to pursue
and that includes controlling the arms trade.
WILENIUS: Tony Blair's beginning
to realise that he can't change things in Africa on his own. Last week's
attempt to force the Commonwealth to take tougher action against Zimbabwe's
President Mugabe was rebuffed. Now he's coming under mounting pressure
to use his special relationship with President Bush to try to force the
Americans to put far more aid and commitment into Africa.
COATES: There's a, a, I think a
pivotal opportunity now where if Blair does use his influence then, then
the US policy can shift on many of these areas. But first it would be very
good if the UK itself showed leadership through its own policies.
WILENIUS: After his West African
trip Tony Blair will be hurled straight back into difficult domestic issues.
But he'll have to have more than a nice suntan to show for his overseas
efforts. There need to be real improvements to aid, trade and peace in
Africa, otherwise he'll continue to be dogged by the grand promises of
his conference speech.
TONGE: Well I hope it comes back
to haunt him, I'm going to make jolly sure it comes back to haunt him on
a very regular basis because he's said these things very, very publicly,
I accept and hope very much that he was sincere about it and I think we
should remind him of those words very, very often indeed during the course
of this parliament.
BALDRY: What we're going to see
is a number of photo opportunities in Africa, a few sound bytes, a statement
back in the House of Commons when he gets back but actually in terms of
real proposals or real achievements, very little being done.
WILENIUS: Back from his travels
and returning to rain-swept Westminster Tony Blair could once again run
into criticism for raising expectations which he can't then deliver. Because
a few good holiday snaps may not be enough to persuade his critics that
he is starting to pull Africa out of the darkness.