Blair's parting drive to aid Africa
The British prime minister wraps up his farewell tour to Africa this week, ahead of next week's G-8 summit in Germany.
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"[Britain] has performed well ahead of other G-8 countries, delivering large increases in aid," Oxfam director Barbara Stocking said in a statement. "But despite a significant increase in aid last year, even the UK is still not definitively on target to meet its promises from two years ago. Other countries are way off track, and if Blair does not push them at the G-8 meeting in Germany, then his legacy in Africa will be at risk. Before Blair leaves office he must persuade the other G-8 countries to fulfill the promises they made in 2005."Skip to next paragraph
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Pushing Africans on reforms
Blair has also been instrumental in pushing African governments for political and economic reform in return for debt forgiveness and aid. It was Blair's Africa Commission that popularized the concept of the "grand bargain": That in return for aid and debt relief, African governments will commit to anticorruption measures and good governance – as determined by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. This might mean cutting public spending, for instance, or privatizing services such as water or electricity, or liberalizing trade.
Some analysts have pointed out where Blair didn't stop on his tour. He didn't go to Ethiopia, for instance, whose government was an outspoken Blair ally but is now tarnished by accusations of human rights violations. Nor did he go to Uganda, once considered a Western darling but whose president two years ago changed the Constitution in a way that let him stay in power for a third term.
Even in Sierra Leone, where Blair received a hero's welcome this week, there is no clear success story. Although British troops are credited with helping end the West African nation's civil war in 2000, the country is still crippled by corruption and poverty: It is No. 142 out of 163 countries ranked by Transparency International's corruption perception index and is one of the poorest countries in the world.
South Africa presents a rosier picture: A country that, in the 13 years since the end of apartheid, has boomed economically and now has more than $50 billion in bilateral trade relations with Britain.
But even here there are tensions. President Thabo Mbeki has bristled at what he sees as Blair's and Europe's lasting colonial attitude.
Earlier this year, Mr. Mbeki accused Blair of double standards on corruption.
"I don't think Blair is simply going to come to say a goodbye and tell Mbeki about what a great friend he's been," says Ebrahim Fakir, an analyst with the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg. "They're going to talk about Zimbabwe."
The issue of Zimbabwe has been a point of contention between G-8 nations and African leaders, with many human rights advocates criticizing Mbeki for not taking a stronger stance against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. Mr. Mugabe, they believe, is guilty of an increase in human rights violations there.
• Tristan McConnell contributed to this report from Freetown, Sierra Leone.