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Ghana has such a good record now in good governance, the protection of human rights and organising honest elections. Its central election commission—few other African countries have this—is outside and immune
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from political influence, which is so damning and dangerous to countries seeking to democratise. As has been said, defeated Governments rarely like going into opposition, and I welcome the fact that there is a small society of African ex-Presidents who go around Africa promoting democracy and do so as examples of politicians who lost elections—I hope that the number of individuals involved will grow.

Becoming the Prime Minister or the President of an African country often required their spending a spell in the slammer, as a guest of His Majesty’s Government, followed by political office. That seemed to be as vital on an African politician’s CV as Eton, Cambridge and the Guards would be on that of a budding Tory MP. Nkrumah followed that remarkable path, being escorted out of prison and taken to the Parliament building to become, in essence, the Prime Minister on the same day. I would love to see the reverse taking place in some countries—whereby people would go from being President to going to jail.

Ghana has become a beacon of those countries that seek to become more democratic. A number of things have to be done within Africa to create and sustain democracy. There needs to be a political culture that is receptive to democracy; a strong civil society, including a strong trade union movement; free and fair elections; a strong Parliament—a wonderful report was published on DFID’s behalf that said, “We have spent too little time supporting Parliaments and we have to spend more time doing so because it is one way of securing accountability”—support for NGOs; and an independent electoral commission.

A lot of great work is being done in Africa on observing elections. If someone were to ask me which NGOs are the best in the world at dealing with elections, I would answer that at least two of them are in Africa—in Ghana and Kenya. I hope that we can build on that, so that organisations such as the Southern African Development Community, the Economic Community of West African States and other NGOs bring about democracy progressively.

I mentioned the Economist Intelligence Unit, which uses a sophisticated methodology to rank countries. Those in first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth place are the insufferably honest Scandinavian countries. The UK just about makes it to 21st place—thankfully France is in 24th place. The only African democracy in the list of the top 30 is Mauritius. The EIU has a second category of “flawed democracies”, which includes most of the eastern European countries, as well as South Africa, Cape Verde, Botswana and Namibia; I believe that six of the 30-odd countries in that category are in Africa. The next category is that of “hybrid regimes”, where one finds a clutch of African countries. Unfortunately, in the final category, that of “authoritarian regimes”, one finds Mauritania, Egypt, Morocco, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Angola, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire—I shall give this list to Hansard—Swaziland, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Sudan, Zimbabwe and a bunch of 10 others thereafter, as I said.

Surely there is an enormous problem to be dealt with by Africans themselves and by those who have the interests of African people very much in their minds. About half the worst tyrants in the world come from
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Africa, and there is a great deal to show that. I argue strongly that the UK is doing a great deal to help. I promised the Minister that I would mention elections; I wish that the FCO would seriously fund elections in the OSC area, because it is going to do much less than it had previously. It is important, too, that election observations by NGOs, the Carter Center and the European Union are all to speed, because election observation is crucial to ensuring the quality of democracy, about which all of us here are concerned.

7.30 pm

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): As all the hon. Members who have spoken have said, Africa is a big subject. I do not intend to try to give a tour d’horizon. My Committee has just returned from Kenya and Tanzania, so I might most usefully give the House an update on those two countries. There are several reports that look back over the last 20 or 25 years and show that many countries in Africa have received increased aid and enjoyed rising economic growth and the further development of their economies, especially through minerals, but poverty has continued and in many cases increased. That is a huge dilemma and anxiety for all of us, and we need to try to find some explanations and remedies.

Governance and corruption have been a part of that pattern, but as we have discovered over the past couple of years, and indeed in the last few weeks, the exploitation of the mineral resources of Africa has been done in a way that few countries in other areas would tolerate. Many of the mining companies appear to say to African countries, “You have huge resources here, how much will you pay us to take them away?” As a result, countries such as Zambia are getting a minute return, compared with the profits that are being made by the mining companies. The local communities in the area being exploited get virtually no benefit at all, and that clearly needs to change.

Exceptions to the rule have been quoted. Botswana, which the Committee has visited, has managed to secure a deal with De Beers that has ensured that the gains from its diamond resources are shared 50:50. De Beers was not very keen on the idea at the time, but now travels the world calling it a model partnership. To listen to De Beers, people would think that it had pioneered that model, instead of having had to negotiate it.

The right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) mentioned Ghana and the discovery of oil. Most of us are hopeful that the democratic strength of Ghana will be able to handle that, but the Ghanaians have had the wisdom to invite Norway to advise them on how best to develop their oil and gas reserves. I hope that will be done in ways that will generate revenue for the Government and real wealth for the people, which has to be the ultimate objective.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there are other countries in which those who extract minerals have reached reasonably fair and helpful arrangements with the Governments in question? I refer particularly to Namibia, where in respect of both uranium and diamonds—it is a big producer of the latter—the companies involved have made positive and helpful arrangements with the Government.


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Malcolm Bruce: I am happy to acknowledge that, but Botswana pioneered the arrangements and Namibia has wisely followed suit.

The purpose of our visit to Kenya and Tanzania was to consider the impact of climate change and the ability to secure sustainable development in the changing circumstances of climate change and the difficult financial situation. In visiting Kenya, we were also mindful of the political tension that has compromised its development. Indeed, we visited an internally displaced persons’ camp between Nairobi and Lake Naivasha, where we asked people what had happened. The initial, rather bland response was that it was a failure of political leadership and the politicians were responsible. But we pressed them and asked, “Who actually drove you out of your homes and burnt your businesses and killed members of your family?” Then they said that it was the brothers and sisters with whom they were living, and that was shocking. The people had resettled in the IDP camp, bought the land and were turning it into a township. We asked them what they wanted, and they said, “We are all Kikuyu in this camp, but that is not what we want. We want to be back living with our brothers and sisters if we can find the reconciliation.” Even at that basic level there is hope and an aspiration to find solutions, although the worry is that the political leadership to deliver results is lacking in that country.

In the region we visited, we saw some very positive things that demonstrate that, even in countries with difficulties, there is real potential for development. For example, because we were looking at sustainable development, we visited Lake Naivasha to see the flower farms there. We spent a day at Oserian, where we saw what is a world-class operation by any standards. Indeed, the questions that we had to ask about sustainability and viability were answered in the presentation before we had the chance to ask them. Although the company has 7,000 hectares of land, it uses only 250 to grow flowers. It uses hydroponic systems to minimise water and fertiliser use. It uses real pest management, thus reducing the use of pesticides by 50 per cent. over the last three years. It also uses geothermal energy to dry the greenhouses to prevent fungal infection.

As a result, the company can make the competitive point that the carbon footprint of its flowers, which anyone can buy in a supermarket here, is one sixth of that of similar flowers produced in the Netherlands. For those who suggest that we should not buy flowers or indeed vegetables from Kenya, the simple message is that the opposite is the case. The Kenyan flowers are low-carbon by comparison with European production. The company, one of a number strewn around the lake, is also profitable and employs 5,600 people, paying even the newest employee double the minimum wage and offering bonuses and overtime and providing education, health and housing for its work force. It is a model employer by any standards. If there were enough of a variety of such operations, we would see the beginnings of real development and how a country could move towards the middle-income status that everyone wants it to aspire to. It would certainly lift more people out of poverty.

The problem is that much of Kenya is arid, or very arid, and poses challenges of simple basic survival. It is in receipt of more than $500 million of food aid, and 2.5 million people require emergency food relief. We
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were told by one Minister that he was sure that enough rain was falling on Kenya to meet all the country’s water requirements, but the infrastructure investment necessary to capture that water and distribute it to the entire country was beyond the Government’s resources. Indeed, the hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas) would say that if the Kenyans were given the money and the engineers to do it themselves, it would constitute development, as well as reduce pressure on scarce resources.

We visited a desert area in the north of Kenya. Indeed, we drove for an hour across pure desert with not a blade of vegetation of any kind. We found a very small arable farming project in a location with underground springs. The very simplest support was giving local farmers, who had found the land for themselves, the basics needed to fence it against predators and cultivate it by hand, as well as simple advice on the most appropriate crops for that environment. From being a bit of abandoned desert, it had become a village of several hundred people, preparing the ground for harvesting and looking forward to being able to feed themselves and to provide the town on the other side of the desert with food. Very little money was needed to provide that basic assistance. Indeed, the question was why the Government there could not pick up such projects and apply them.

An agency called Solidarité, a French NGO funded by DFID, was delivering that work and, in other parts of the area, was providing sand dams to capture water, as well as high quality latrines, which had DFID stamped all over them. That is not usually the sort of branding that DFID enjoys, but Ministers will be pleased to learn that DFID latrines are the pride of northern Kenya.

The other issue was how it was possible to improve livestock management for pastoral people living in very challenging areas. Indeed, quite a lot of advice was being given by international institutions. I remember attending the Prime Minister’s food summit at Downing street, where many of our researchers complained that our capacity had been effectively demolished in the past 10 or 15 years. I lamented the fact that institutions in my area, such as the Rowett research institute, the Macaulay institute and the Scottish Agricultural College, were disappearing. An international agency based in Nairobi made the point, “We know that. We have recruited many of the researchers ourselves. If you don’t want them, the rest of the world can use them.” It seems sad that we have had to lose them in that way.

Mr. Tom Clarke: Given that the right hon. Gentleman was one of the principal supporters, I am glad to say, of the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006, will he share with the House his views on whether the report, and the response from his Committee, have been debated in the way that he would have wished?

Malcolm Bruce: The honest answer is no. One can never get enough information or enough clarity, but I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the existence of the provision, as the fact that we have an annual debate and an annual report is appreciated. I hope that he will take my answer not as a suggestion that the Act is ineffective, but as a statement that we need even more information to have a clearer understanding, as other hon. Members have said. Of course, that information is not always easy to find and it is easy simply to say,
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“Why can’t we get an answer to the question?” Nevertheless, the more we ask the questions, the more confidence our taxpayers and the recipient countries’ populations can have that the aid is going where it needs to go. The Act was entirely right but we could do with more detailed reporting.

The Committee moved on from Kenya to Tanzania, and it is worth pointing out that real parliamentary reform is taking place in Tanzania, which is effectively still a one-party state with a very limited Opposition. Nevertheless, following the British example—the Westminster model—the chairman of the public accounts committee there is in opposition; he is a party of one, but he is not from the governing party. In partnership with two other committee chairs, he has dramatically reformed Parliament so that there are regular Prime Minister’s questions and regular committee accounts and reports. They have opened up a much more transparent, dynamic Parliament and have reported all that in a book, a copy of which I was given by the chairman of the public accounts committee—it was autographed by him—called “A Parliament with Teeth”, which really has started to make a difference in Tanzania—

Sir Nicholas Winterton: Thanks to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

Malcolm Bruce: Indeed, that is exactly right in terms of the publication. I acknowledge that entirely as the hon. Gentleman is a member of the CPA executive.

Interestingly, in Tanzania we were looking at different aspects of development. They do not normally fall within the area of things that we would expect our Department for International Development directly to support, but because it is the Department for International Development, it is important to know where the dynamic growth in an economy comes from. There are still roles for education and training to enable the private sector to flourish.

We were looking at the tourism industry in Tanzania and at the Tanzania National Parks association—TANAPA. The immediate information that we received was that tourism was down one third over the past six months. Many of the tourism companies we met were laying people off or making them redundant and that the revenue to the national parks had diminished, which meant that the animal conservation mechanisms were under threat. Of course the benefits, some of which accrue to the local people, were diminished too. It is estimated that about 20 per cent. of the tourist spend goes to the local community, which is not as bad as it sounds given that half the money is spent before people even arrive in the country. Obviously, however, more pro-poor tourism would be desirable.

Again, that raises a longer-term point. Tourism is down right now because people are reining back their expenditure. Some people, including Members of this House, have said that people should not go on long-haul holidays. We need to think very carefully when we make such decisions. Many developing countries rely on tourism for significant potential employment and development. If we stop going to them, we make it virtually impossible for them to lift their economies in that significant sector. It is important that we are aware of the consequences
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of what we are doing, because tourism generates revenue for Government, jobs for local people and the opportunity to invest and develop.

We also looked at the fact that a high proportion of the timber extracted from the coastal forests, in particular, and from forests across Tanzania, is illegally extracted and that most of it is being shipped to China. That reinforces the point that I made at the beginning of my speech. That activity is unsustainable and most of it gives no revenue to the Government and virtually no benefit to the local communities. The WWF was working with some local communities to try to tackle those programmes, as well as to tackle illegal fishing that uses dynamite, and to try to ensure that a system was in place to prevent the illegal exploitation of resources, to give the Government access to revenue and to give people a share of the resources in their communities. At the end of the day, the problem is that in a huge area of territory where there is no inspection, no follow-up and no enforcement, people find ways to exploit the area in a way that gives no benefit to 99.9 per cent. of the people in the country. It seems to me that we could help to prevent that by training people and providing resources to deliver that training.

In Tanzania, we give a considerable amount of our contribution in direct budget support, which is a controversial matter. It is very difficult to audit every penny but it would be fair to say that the method bears fruit inasmuch as the proportion of the Tanzanian budget that comes from overseas development aid has diminished year on year over the last several years as Tanzanian revenues have risen. That seems to show that the mechanism is working. Indeed, the Government say that their objective is to take the amount of aid that supports their budget down to below 25 per cent. over the next two to three years. That is a remarkable achievement. At the same time—the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) is not here—the International Monetary Fund suggested that it was prepared to allow the Tanzanian Government, who have low debt and reasonably good management, to stimulate the economy by 2 to 3 per cent. I hope that I have made the point that that is all very well, but if we do not buy their products or send our tourists there, they will need more than that simply to offset what they have lost from the financial downturn.

That brings me to my final rounding-off point. We are considering the impact of climate change and of poverty in developing countries, and there is a conference of the parties summit in Copenhagen in December. It seems to me that we have to ensure a recognition that the effects of climate change have been caused by the development of the G20—by us—while the impact is greatest on the poorest of the G77. In those circumstances, they cannot be expected to respond to that impact without help.

We also have to be careful that the aid and development budget is not subsumed by the climate change budget, which does not reduce poverty. That is the real tension. The president of the World Bank has suggested that all stimulus packages should have a top-slice that goes towards climate change. I was worried to hear Javier Solana’s response, at a Conference of Foreign Affairs Committee Chairs—COFACC—meeting at which I had the opportunity to question him, to my question about why the European Union’s proposal was that its
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contribution to developing countries for adaptation to climate changes should be a third. Not surprisingly, the developing countries think that contribution should be 100 per cent. They say, “We did not cause it, we are suffering from it, you should pay.” That is a reasonable proposition to my mind. Mr. Solana’s answer was, “Well, that is just a negotiating position—an opening position for a bargain.” The bargain implies that poor countries will have to pay for the climate change damage that we have done to them. The question for the Minister to answer is whether we as a country or as a Government would accept that that is reasonable. There is no justification for compromising poverty reduction measures with climate change measures. Those aims need to be separated and delivered. When one can deliver the other, that is fine, but one should not be delivered at the expense of the other.

My final concern is about the effect of the exchange rate on the cost of the budget. I have very little time left, but perhaps the Minister could let me know in writing rather than with a direct answer. The House needs to know what the real effect of the exchange rate will be on the purchasing power of aid and development. Specifically, we make our contribution to the European Union in euros but the statement in the report is in sterling. That implies that some £300 million to £400 million will not be available for development at the end of the year. It is important that we know. The Government are not in any way compromising their commitment on development, but they have some challenges to meet, and the House needs to know how best to meet them and what the priority decisions involved would necessitate. I hope that the Minister will be able to answer, if not now, in writing.


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