July 6, 2005 | WebMemo on International Organizations

The G-8 Summit: Advancing U.S. Leadership on Africa

World leaders are gathering this week for the Group of Eight (G-8) summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, hosted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.[1] The meeting will be dominated by discussion of poverty in Africa and how best to alleviate it. Foreign aid, debt forgiveness, and trade liberalization will be high on the political agenda, in addition to the issue of climate change. There are likely to be considerable tensions behind the scenes, including between Washington and London, and immense pressure placed upon the United States to sign on to a huge increase in development assistance by Western nations, as well as a package of measures aimed at reducing global warming. President George W. Bush should not assent to either scheme.


There is little doubt that this will be a highly contentious summit, set against the backdrop of continuing transatlantic tensions over the Iraq war and a fractious divide over the future of Europe among the EU's big three, Great Britain, France and Germany. There is also little doubt that French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder will do their best to make the summit as uncomfortable as possible for their British host and will attempt to play off the UK against its most trusted ally, the United States. Indeed a highly public spat between the British and the Americans-a visible crack in the special relationship-will cause considerable delight in Paris and Berlin.


For President Bush, this appears a very difficult trip. The President will have to strike a delicate balance between supporting the British Prime Minister and advancing clearly defined U.S. interests. It should be possible, however, for the President to do both. Despite clear differences on the issues of foreign aid and climate change, the G-8 summit should be an opportunity for Anglo-U.S. cooperation, rather than division, on the world stage.


President Bush must resist efforts to tie the U.S. to an artificially set figure on foreign aid spending as a percentage of GDP.The U.S. is already the world's biggest international donor, providing $19 billion in official development assistance in 2004, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).[2] The President should also oppose any declaration that commits the U.S. to supporting the principles of the Kyoto Protocol.


The President should though work closely with his British counterpart on debt forgiveness, trade liberalization, and economic and political reform in Africa, while insisting that any deal on debt be offered only to fully democratic governments that guarantee political and economic rights for their citizens.


The U.S. and the UK should form a powerful alliance at Gleneagles calling for the abolition of artificial trade barriers by Western nations. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair should jointly call for the scrapping of Europe's £33 billion ($60 billion) per year Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the biggest barrier to free trade in the world and a vast welfare system for uncompetitive European farmers. French farmers alone receive a staggering £7 billion a year in CAP payments, 21 percent of the total.[3] At the same time, the U.S. must pledge to end its own (albeit far smaller) system of agricultural subsidies.


The United States and Great Britain should advance a vision for Africa that emphasizes political and economic reform on the continent, as well as open access to European and American markets, and which condemns those African governments that tyrannize their own populations. The Anglo-American communiqué must deliver a clear message: only Africa's leaders themselves can deliver their own people from poverty.


The solution to Africa's myriad woes lies not in spending more government money, all too often misused on the ground, but in advancing good governance, economic and political freedom, and open trade. The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which ties U.S. aid to all the above, should be the role model for future international development assistance.


President Bush Should Not Sign On to the 'Marshall Plan' for Africa

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, has called for "a modern Marshall Plan for the developing world-a new deal between the richest countries and the poorest countries."[4] The centerpiece of his proposal is a doubling of development aid from Western nations, combined with a complete write-off of multilateral and bilateral debt owed by the world's poorest countries. Brown has proposed the creation of an International Finance Facility, to be funded by borrowing on the capital markets. The European Union has already signed on to the call from Brown and the United Nations for developed countries to contribute 0.7 percent of their GDP to foreign aid.


Brown's goal of eradicating poverty in Africa is admirable, but it is unfortunately undermined by counter-productive and naïve policies. British and EU policy on foreign aid is likely to perpetuate a culture of dependency in the continent, which will impede rather than accelerate the positive changes needed to haul Africa into the 21st century. Significantly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned last week that increased levels of foreign aid will not boost economic growth in Africa.[5]


There is no guarantee that Western aid will be used properly by Third World countries. All too often, foreign aid has enriched political elites in Africa and Asia, while failing to benefit ordinary people. A perfect example has been that of Africa's most populous country, Nigeria, whose rulers for 40 years squandered the wealth of an oil rich nation that possesses vast natural resources. Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, set up in 2002, recently revealed that the country's previous rulers misused or stole £220 billion ($400 billion) in the period between independence from Britain in 1960 and 1999, when the country returned to civilian rule.[6]


Gordon Brown's plan for Africa has hardly received a ringing endorsement from the British public that he expects to pay the bill for his grandiose scheme. A large majority of Britons, according to a recent YouGov survey, believe that foreign aid is likely to be wasted by African governments. Fully 83 percent of British voters do not have confidence that "money will be spent wisely rather than being wasted or finding its way into the pockets of criminals and corrupt governments." Just under 80 percent of those surveyed believe that corrupt and incompetent African governments "have contributed most to Africa's problems."[7]


Advancing Economic and Political Freedom in Africa

Africa's problems cannot be solved simply by spending more money on development assistance, and President Bush should not hesitate to convey the message that the United States will not support a huge increase in foreign aid.At the G-8 summit, President Bush should argue that the specter of poverty in the African continent can best be challenged through open trade, increased foreign direct investment (FDI), and sustained political pressure on African governments to liberalize their economies and advance economic and political reform. The greatest gift the West can give to Africa and the developing world is not yet another short-term handout measured in dollars, pounds, or euros, but the seeds of liberty and freedom and a long-term commitment to holding African leaders to account for corruption, misrule, and human rights abuses.


Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy of the Shelby and Kathryn Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

[1] The G-8 is comprised of the world's seven leading industrial nations (United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Italy, Canada, and France), plus Russia. The summit takes place from July 6 to 8.

[2]OECD, Net Official Development Assistance in 2004, at /static/reportimages/CDE410E0CCD2A011AD364834D8358D8D.pdf.


[3] For further detail, see Toby Helm and George Jones, "Farm Subsidies Keep Africa in Poverty, Says Brown," The Daily Telegraph, June 30, 2005, at http://sport.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?

[4]Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, speech to the National Gallery of Scotland, January 6, 2005, at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/newsroom_and_speeches/

[5] Andrew Balls, "Aid Will Not Lift Growth in Africa, Warns IMF," Financial Times, June 30, 2005, at http://news.ft.com/cms/s/

[6] See David Blair, "£220 Billion Stolen by Nigeria's Corrupt Rulers," The Daily Telegraph, June 25, 2005, at http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?

[7]See Rachel Sylvester and Andrew Sparrow, "Vast Majority Think African Aid is Wasted," The Daily Telegraph, June 4, 2005, at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?

About the Author

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D. Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom