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Mrs. Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): I know parts of Africa very well. I lived in Zambia, and I taught and was married there. I had many African friends, and some friendships were so close that one family named their daughter after my family. Her name was Cleopatra Dorries Chisoko. Her christening was a great family celebration in the traditional African manner, but unfortunately Cleo, her parents and her siblings are all dead now. I want to concentrate my speech on the blight of AIDS in Africa.

I was last in Zambia in 1985, when the country was populated by a healthy community of 6 million people, who were expected to live to about the age of 60. Now, the population is 34 million, with a life expectancy of 34, and the WHO projects that it will be 24 by 2010. Today, George Bush promised a three-pronged attack on Africa's problems, including funding for malaria, schools and empowering African women. But what is the point of education and empowering women if they are expected to live to an average age of 24?

Africa is beautiful, and has the added advantages of immense agricultural potential and vast mineral wealth. It has locusts on one side and drought on the other, but down the middle to the south coast it has a bread basket capable of feeding the whole of the African continent. Africa has failed not because of the African citizen, but because of a failed civil society that has allowed widespread corruption, excessive urbanisation and a near total collapse of any kind of service designed to ameliorate the condition of the common African man. It is a real crime that we have let that happen.

Do African states with populations the size of two or three UK counties really need international scale airports, state of the art radar systems, helicopter gunships, Mercedes and all the trappings of a grand state? I think not, but that is what aid has been spent on.

I congratulate the Prime Minister on his Commission for Africa and the report "Our Common Interest". It is a worthy document and obviously compiled in good faith. However, the important section is 9.3.2, entitled "Aid:   the scope of enhanced effectiveness", which recommends:

Such future vision is well enough, but does not satisfy the need for immediate action. Do we want thousands of people to die while thousands of others meet to discuss the problem? Minutes of meetings cannot be eaten and they have no effect on viruses.
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Without doubt, it is the moral duty of this country to provide all the aid and assistance that we can to Africa. Certain issues can and must be addressed immediately, such as the transmission of the HIV virus from mother to child. Some 2.2 million children are born with HIV and less than 1 per cent. receive treatment. The agony of that fact is that the mother to child transmission can be prevented by the use of antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy. Those drugs should be made available with immediate effect. That is the only way that we can combat AIDS in the future generation. How can a country elevate itself out of poverty when its children are dying? Africa must have the drugs that it needs.

Two medium-sized Indian drug manufacturers recently made an offer to Médecins sans Frontières to provide antiretroviral drugs for Africa at $350 per person a year. In this country, they cost $12,000 to $15,000 a year. On the admission of the Indian drug companies, that would still lead to a healthy profit. Some 28 million people in Africa need drugs, which at that price would cost $9 billion. How much is a life worth?

One of the people who runs those Indian drug companies says:

If the Indian continent, which is as poor as Africa, can produce drugs at cost price for its people, why cannot that happen in Africa? Why could not Africa operate outside the drugs patent and produce drugs for its people? The operation could be controlled and administered by NGOs.

I do not have much time left, so I shall cut my remarks short. We have all received the report by the Commission for Africa, which talks of power partnerships, comprehensive strategies and professional leadership incentives. What do the people who wrote that report think those words mean to someone lying in hospital under a blanket? Are those words an epitaph for the Chisoko family? We have all heard the words "Hakuna matata" from the Disney film. Where I lived in Zambia, the phrase was "Aziko ndaba". Those words are a tribute to the African people, who spend their lives saying, "No worries, no problems." Those words have been consigned to a Disney film now, because I doubt that anybody in Africa any longer says "Aziko ndaba".

5.34 pm

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this important debate. Although time is running short, I should like to relate the experiences that I gained when I served in the military forces in a number of war zones to the subjects covered today. Debt write-off, investment and improved trade will certainly help a number of countries, but many of the countries that I visited have been at war for 50 years, and we need to go back to the heart of the problem, which was caused when those countries were created in the first place or, indeed, when Europe entered Africa and decided to carve up the continent.
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We forget that between the 12th and the 16th centuries, which are often considered to be Africa's most historic centuries, kingdoms were created and democracies existed, even if in basic form, and there was certainly a hierarchy of power and a basic form of government. I appreciate that we are more familiar with the slave trade and so on, how the economy changed and how African empires were eroded.

My view is that the Berlin conference changed the lines on the map, as European states laid claim to the continent with little regard to historical borders or boundaries or the religious groupings and varying customs and languages that already existed. The world wars blurred those lines as well. In some instances, there is a fundamental case for reviewing the borders so that they better represent the geographical areas that unite separate religions, traditions and manageable democracies. As foreign pressures were lifted in the 1960s, when those countries became independent, all the community and regional identities were allowed to grow once again but they were contained or split by the borders that were left behind by Europe.

If we look at other examples around the world, we see something similar. In Afghanistan—it is difficult to see where this will take us—there are Pashtuns, Tajiks and the Uzbeks, all with different identities but confined by one country, yet there is perhaps reason to give them a certain degree of autonomy. Yugoslavia and Bosnia are other examples—as, indeed, is Iraq, with the Kurds, Sunnis and Shi'ites. Czechoslovakia is perhaps the best example of how a country can divide itself into more manageable democracies.

It is worth considering what is the definition of a country and the fact that the extent to which countries are manageable depends on their size, terrain, religions, ethnic groupings, population and the balance of local, regional and national powers. Africa is no different, and I am concerned about those areas that have been engaged in civil war for 50 years. Ethnic tension and religious conflict has not altered simply because of the confines of the boundaries that have been left behind by European powers. Chad, Congo and Sudan are examples of such countries.

I certainly believe that we need to reconsider the borders in Africa itself. Are they appropriate; or do they need review? I am not saying that any western power should walk in there, but I was very much part of the Dayton peace accord, which gave the countries involved the opportunity to sit down and address their concerns, look at the ethnic groupings and then come up with something that would work for them, and what I am suggesting is that that should be an option in addition to the extra aid that we are proposing and the cut in debts and increased trade that is being offered.

I have heard nothing about that suggestion, and it would be interesting to find out whether the G8 would consider it—after all, it was Europe that went into Africa in the first place and drew the original borders with little regard to what was already there—otherwise I am concerned that we will have a similar debate next time Britain has the presidency of the G8 in five years' time.

5.39 pm

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