Transatlantic Taskforce Challenges G8 Leaders
On July 6-7, as part of GMF's on-going disemmination of the Transatlantic Taskforce on Development, I had the privilege of engaging with over 100 business and policy leaders from Africa at the Commonwealth Business Council's G8 Africa Business Forum in London. In my remarks to the group, I urged G8 leaders and their counterparts in other nations to refocus on energizing the private sector in Africa to become the primary source of economic growth and poverty alleviation for the continent. Nonetheless, it is likely that G8 leaders will once again fall short on fulfilling promises on development for the poor. Kofi Annan, Mark Malloch-Brown, Mark Moody Stuart, Paul Collier and many others have contributed fresh thinking on how business can help fight poverty in a new report in collaboration with Business Action for Africa.
In February 2009 the German Marshall Fund launched the Transatlantic Taskforce on Development, which I co-chaired with the Swedish Minister for International Development Gunilla Carlsson. It consisted of government, multilateral agency, private sector, and NGO leaders from both sides of the Atlantic. While developing countries were not represented on the Taskforce, we believe that a transatlantic review specifically focused on donor country performance was merited and is critical to helping bring about greater development policy coherence. Notwithstanding our focus on donor countries, we recognize that successful development can only be achieved when it rises from developing country leaders and their own civil society. The Africa Business Forum offered a unique opportunity to reach out to others in the developing world to explore cooperative solutions. It was reassuring to find that many Taskforce findings were consistent with African perspectives conveyed at the Forum including recommendations to support small and medium sized enterprises in their quest to gain access to capital, to push for the completion of the Doha Developing Round of trade negotiations or at a minimum, urge the industrialized countries to grant duty-free and quote-free access in their own markets to the world's poorest countries. We must redouble our efforts if we are to reach these goals, especially in the context of the economic downturn. There was a striking candor on the part of African business and political leaders attending the conference. They expressed doubts about the value of aid because of its unpredicability, and they questioned the intentions of donors given how widely their trade policies diverge from their stated development objectives for Africa. The current problems in US and European financial markets have turned traditional development assumptions like the Washington Consensus on their head. Some like Dr. Akin Adesina, vice president for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa are calling for a new"African Consensus" that's focused on agriculture production, innovation and growth.
Practical efforts aimed at developing seed systems, soil health, adequate water supplies and market access to facilitate vibrant networks of agri-producers, suppliers and distributors are required. It's ironic that Africans remain supportive of trade and investment while the rest of the world grows more protectionist, defying G20 and G8 pledges in Washington, London, and Italy to uphold the global trading system. GMF has been collaborating with Global Trade Alert, an independent initiative investigating suspicious state measures taken during the crisis and making this information public. Africa and the West both need a vibrant business sector to prosper. We all require good governance that spurs innovation but limits excesses within a national context and identity. Policy reform is required on all sides. But we must proceed with an eye toward international cooperation that tempers the kind of national impulses and self-interests that can only exacerbate tensions in the international system. The Taskforce is not an end in itself but part of a process that will continue to engage rich and poor alike toward that end.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.