Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Rwanda and one size fits all development

I was pleased to see President Kagame respond to his critics in the international media via a strong article in the FT last week. It is important that we pay vigilant attention to Human Rights issues across the globe, but President Kagame makes an important point that there is no ‘one size fits all’ path to development and democracy.

Given Rwanda’s recent history, we should praise the country’s success on the path to competitive democracy and continue working with the country to help them strengthen it.

President Kagame also argued that Africa must take responsibility for its own future, that Africa must devise its own solutions to its problems and that partners that work with Africa in this way will benefit. Africa Forging its own path is important for the future of the continent and President Kagame is an important advocate of this.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Africa the next BRIC

Sub Saharan Africa can be the next BRIC; from 2000 to 2010 Sub Sahara grew at a faster rate, in nominal dollars terms, than both India and China and is predicted by the IMF to grow at a faster rate than Brazil between 2010 – 2015.

Sub Sahara has much going for it and conditions are improving constantly. Between 2002 and 2008 the continent achieved a growth rate of 5.2% a year on average, and only dropped a single percentage point since the global economic crisis – still a higher rate than the developed world is expected to achieve.

Africa’s population had grown to 820 million in 2008, and the percentage that can be considered ‘middle class’ has grown astronomically since the 1990s. Africa is now both ready to take its place as a market of consumers for global products and as an attractive investment destination for global business looking for new opportunities. I would suggest Commonwealth countries to potential investors as they make up 17 of the top 20 places to do business in Africa, according to the IFC.

To achieve this jump, to become the 5th BRIC, Africa needs to deal with a number of persistent issues such as the infrastructure and power deficit, increasing access and the quality of Education and enhancing business competitiveness, these will have to be achieved along with progress on democratization and good governance. To succeed on both economic development and good governance simultaneously African will need more strong and dynamic leaders. Rwanda and President Kagame are a case in point; it is unfortunate to see the international media running negative stories about one of Africa’s best success stories.

Paul Kagame has been one of the most ambitious and successful African leaders in fighting poverty and driving growth in his country. This year the IFC named Rwanda the best business reformer in the World, likewise Paul Kagame is recognised by many western leaders as one of Africa’s Best, Tony Blair described him as ‘visionary’ a sentiment I agree with.

While there are concerns about the current election in the Rwanda, we must not forget the impact that Kagame has made on the development of his country. Democracy is hugely important but it will not be achieved without economic development, democracy on empty stomachs will not succeed –this needs to be more widely recognised.

While raising the issue of Human rights, we should be supporting leaders like Paul Kagame that are driving progress in their countries and the continent. Africa is also making progress on democratisation, Kenya’s recent peaceful referendum that aimed the settle the country’s political disputed is a good example. These stories and there like should be the ones that the international media focus on as Africa strives to become a BRIC. A more balanced approached to reporting on the continent, that helps encourage Africans, will benefit us all in the end.

Friday, 6 August 2010

David Cameron in India

David Cameron's visit to India last week could well turn out to be one of the most important diplomatic trips of his time in number 10.

The commitment by both Governments to transform the nation’s relationship over the coming years is most welcome. Both leaders agreed that the India-UK relationship has great room for growth, in the political, cultural, security and economic realms that would be of benefit to both countries.

I am particularly pleased to see the commitment to significantly increase trade and investment between the 2 countries. I have long been calling for the level of interaction between the countries private sectors to be raised and am delighted that the UK-India CEO’s Forum is being set up under the Peter Sands of Standard Chartered and Rattan Tata of Tata Group (both CBC members of long standing) to provide the private sector perspective on strengthening the economic relationship. I look forward to working with the Forum in the future.

Hon Kamal Nath, India’s Minister for Road Transport speaking earlier this year at our India Infrastructure Forum (IIF) said the next 10 years will be India’s Infrastructure Decade. The opportunities offered by this are enormous, tackling India’s infrastructure deficit will require cooperation between the Indian government and the national and international private sector, and the UKs business should be leaders in this. To help push this Lord Adonis, the then UK Secretary of State for Transport, initiated a MoU between the Indian Government and the UK at the IIF to work together on road development, a process that was continued during the Prime Minister’s visit last week.

It is great to see the New British Prime Minister taking such an interest in strengthening the Bi-lateral relationship between the 2 countries, in a report we produced in 2008, and are currently in the process of updating, we found that the UK was India’s most significant investor, a trend we hope continues.

And finally I was delighted to see the strong commitment made by both Prime Ministers during their meeting to work together to ‘strengthen the Commonwealth’ as an important global body.